In our rapidly advancing digital age, security is one of the main concerns for individuals and organisations alike. Whether it’s safeguarding sensitive data or protecting physical premises, having robust access control technology is essential.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricate world of access control technology, and break down any complex concepts into digestible explanations.

Single-family homes may feature individual smart locks, offering flexibility in access control. If used on with a driveway gate, this is a great way to add style and function.

Let’s dive in!

What is Access Control?

Access control, in its essence, refers to the practice of limiting access to a physical space or digital resource to authorised users only.

This practice ensures that the right individuals have the appropriate access permissions while preventing unauthorised entry.

Access control technology acts as the guardian that regulates who can enter a building, room, or digital system and what actions they can perform once inside.

To learn more about access control technology, it’s crucial to grasp the fundamental terminology and core elements that underpin this field.

Core Elements to Access Control

Access control is built upon four core elements, each playing a pivotal role in defining how it operates:


Subjects are the actors or users who require access to resources. They can be individuals or groups, such as maintenance staff or Airbnb renters.


Objects represent the resources that subjects aim to access. These resources can be digital, like files, or physical, like rooms.


Operations define the actions that subjects can perform on objects. These actions can range from downloading digital files to physically opening doors.

Reference Monitor

The reference monitor serves as the repository of policies and rules that dictate who is allowed to perform specific actions and when they can do so. It plays a central role in access control.

Types of Access Controls

Access control systems are generally categorised into three main types, each serving different security needs:

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

DAC is the most basic type of access control, where the resource owner has complete control over who can access it. Owners can grant or revoke access as they see fit, making it suitable for less restrictive environments.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

MAC is designed for high-security environments, such as government agencies and military installations. Access is determined by predefined rules, not individual users, based on security clearances.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC assigns users to specific roles, each with a set of permissions. For example, managers may have access to certain resources that regular employees do not. RBAC enhances organisational security by granting permissions based on job roles.

Credentials Types and Verification

Before granting access, individuals must present credentials to prove their identity and authorisation.

Access control employs various types of credentials and verification processes, including:

Key-based access

This traditional method involves using physical keys to unlock doors, making it familiar but less secure.

Badge and fob-based access

Badges, fobs, or ID cards with magnetic stripes or RFID chips are issued to authorised individuals. Scanning these credentials grants access.

Mobile-based access

Credentials are loaded onto a user’s mobile device and presented via Bluetooth or NFC to gain access.

Biometric-based access

Biometric traits like fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, or voice recognition are used for verification, ensuring a high level of security.

PIN-based access

Personal identification numbers (PINs) entered into a keypad grant access to authorised users.

Physical token-based access

Coins or tokens are used as payment for access to places like public restrooms or subways.

Human-verification-based access

A human, either in person or remotely, checks credentials manually, which is common in scenarios like security guard verification or intercom use.

These credential types come with their own pros and cons, making them suitable for different use cases. For instance, while physical keys are economical, they can be cumbersome and pose security risks if lost or duplicated without permission.

Types of Access Systems

Access control systems come in various forms, tailored to different needs and scenarios. Let’s explore the primary types of access systems:

Individual Smart Locks

These systems control access to a single door, accepting credentials such as PIN codes, physical keys, fobs, or mobile keys. If the credential is known and valid, access is granted.

Access Control Systems (ACS)

Common in larger buildings, ACS can control hundreds of doors. Users present credentials to a reader, and the central controller verifies the credentials, unlocking the door if valid.


Found outside apartments and some offices, intercoms allow visitors to communicate with residents who can grant access if desired.


Gates are typically used in parking structures or gated communities. A reader near the gate determines whether to open it based on presented credentials.

These categories often interweave, with larger complexes combining ACS, intercoms, and gates. Single-family homes may feature individual smart locks, offering flexibility in access control.

Access Control Hardware Components

To delve deeper into access control technology, we must understand the essential hardware components that make it function seamlessly.

These components include:


Doors come in various materials like steel, wood, or glass, with factors like price and security influencing the choice. Door locks and strikes secure access points.


Installed at access points, readers authenticate credentials such as cards, faces, or mobile phones, forwarding the information to a control panel.


Similar to readers, keypads enable users to input credentials for access. They are often used in low-security scenarios.


These devices pull together all access control hardware components, serving as the brains of the system.


Servers hold user databases and retrieve data from panels to verify access permissions.


Many access control systems rely on cabling to transport data, even though wireless systems are becoming more prevalent.

Power Supply

Access control systems often require dedicated power supplies to ensure their continuous operation.

What Are the Benefits of Access Control Systems?

Now that we have a solid understanding of access control technology let’s explore the numerous benefits it offers:

Higher Safety and Peace of Mind

Access control ensures the safety of people, assets, and data. It keeps unauthorised individuals out of protected areas, making spaces safer for employees, clients, and visitors. Logical access controls protect digital assets, reducing the risk of data breaches.


Implementing access control systems fosters a sense of security among building owners and property managers. Overall, tenants and employees feel safer and more secure, creating welcoming environments.

Compliance with Laws

In some industries, regulations require the installation of access control systems, whether by licensed locksmiths or security specialists.

For example, financial institutions, healthcare providers, and utilities must meet specific security standards. Access control helps organisations comply with these requirements, avoiding legal issues and penalties.


Access control technology has evolved significantly over the last decade, and it now offers a wide range of options to meet the diverse security needs of individuals and organisations.

By embracing these advanced features–whether you’re a homeowner or an IT manager–you can enhance security, protect valuable assets, and ensure peace of mind in an increasingly digital world.