Your key questions answered about wireless access control

A robust access control system is vital for building safety. It should also provide users with a seamless entry experience. Regardless of your sector or how big or small your business or building is, wireless electronic access control solutions are a great choice to replace or complement low-security, non-networked solutions and wired electronic access control solutions.

Adding wireless access control to your building is the easiest and cheapest way to improve your access control. The key is to choose the right system for your building to enhance your existing infrastructure and building security. Thanks to wireless access control being easy to use, sophisticated, and easily customisable, entry systems are now an integral part of physical access security, providing owners, employees, and tenants with peace of mind.

What is wireless access control?

Wireless access control systems verify a user's unique credential and allow access to a door using wireless electronic locks and readers.

Clearly, there is no wiring connecting wireless systems' components, which communicate with each other as the system is connected to a wireless router. Thanks to either locally installed or cloud-based software, system administrators can establish permissions and manage communications. However, there are many benefits of the cloud-based software, as administrators can have remote access from anywhere in the world using any device.

Where can wireless access control be installed?

Wireless access control systems can be installed in most places, including offices, apartment blocks, commercial properties, educational facilities, and gyms. 

Wherever you install a wireless access control system, one of their most attractive features is that they end the need to buy and install wiring for your entire system. And, as they are connected to the internet, installation costs are vastly reduced. 

Wireless access control systems comprise five main parts:

  • Electronic and magnetic locks
  • Access control panel
  • Wireless access control reader that verifies credentials
  • Software to manage the system
  • Access credentials, including smartphones, fobs, and key cards

How does wireless access control work?

Wireless electronic locks are internet of things (IoT) devices connected to a wireless access point or router, replacing traditional key locks. The locks and devices comprising the whole system can communicate with each other over WiFi if they have the correct permissions. 

This system can be controlled via an app, allowing a manager to establish the conditions that enable users to access doors. The app can be installed on anyone's mobile device to control the system's operations. If desired by the administrator, the whole wireless access system can function in standalone, integrated, and offline modes

To use the manual access method, users can insert pre-programmed fobs into the wireless reader, which acknowledges the data in the fob and communicates with the principal application for authentication. If successful, the wireless door lock opens as it has been wirelessly granted permission from the main application.

However, wireless door locks can use more than just fobs as the data input credential—codes, images, fingerprints and other biometrics

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What are the different wireless access control systems?

While there are many different types of wireless access control systems, there are three stand-out methods:

1. Mobile-based access control

Authorised users must download a mobile-based access control systems app to access restricted doors. Tenants and occupants of buildings can use a smartphone-based access control system to enter using NFC (near field communication technology). However, they can only access the doors to which the administrator previously gave them access permissions.

2. IoT-based access control

Any device connected to the Internet of Things can use IoT-based access control: locks, lock access controllers, and RFID readers. These are collectively known as intelligent door locking systems, as the devices can communicate with one another and other internet-connected devices. As long as you have the proper authorisation credentials to access and administer an IoT access control system, you can access it from anywhere around the globe.

3. Cloud-based access control

Data is often stored locally on servers located in a secure room. However, in the modern digital era, access permits can be stored and managed in the cloud. Therefore, managing access settings can be done remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. 

Additionally, cloud-based access control systems permit seamless integrations with systems that may be run in parallel, such as building, facilities, or property management systems. This means that when someone leaves or a new person arrives, this will be immediately reflected in the access control system.

What are the benefits of wireless access control?

Wireless access control systems offer various benefits relating to improved security, seamless user experience, and greater control. Here are the top five benefits:

1. Allow mobile access

Most people have a smartphone, so allowing people to access places (where they live and work) is efficient. Mobile access solutions are easily integrated into access control.

2. Make very secure solutions

Traditional keys can be lent, lost, or stolen. But wireless access control can only be activated with a specific credential—a smartphone, keycard, or key fob—which are pre-programmed with the correct permissions. This allows administrators to grant specific people access to particular areas and withdraw these permissions whenever necessary. 

3. Offer a variety of options

Wireless access control works with intelligent WiFi and real-time technology such as wireless locks.

4. Easily customisable

Administrators have complete control over wireless access control systems; they can change permissions remotely at any time. Also, visitors or contractors can be given access for a specific time—improving the security of the building. 

5. Easy and cheap to upgrade legacy systems

Any traditional key-and-lock system can be quickly and cheaply upgraded and retrofitted with a wireless access control system.

How does access control work to open doors?

To enter a building, different systems use various methods of checking whether a user should be granted access. However, they all review a user’s credentials to resolve this issue. 

A user could use their smartphone, a key fob, or biometrics as their credential, but if the information on this credential matches the information in the database, they will be given access.

To exit a building, many access control systems also have request-to-exit (REX) buttons that can be used inside the building. A user generally only needs to press a button or activate an infrared sensor to leave without having to scan their identification. When the attached sensor detects that the door is closed, the door lock is automatically relocked after being released for a predetermined period (usually around 30 seconds). 

What’s the best access control system for your building?

The benefits abound—increased security, modernisation, remote access—but which solution is right for you?

There is no one correct answer; the best solution should be bespoke for your business or building. A professional security advisor will be able to evaluate your case and offer the best solution at the right price. The solution should integrate with any other system your building uses and can be complemented with additional features, including video intercoms. 

Access Control

Darren Gibbons
Written by Darren Gibbons

Darren is a security systems, life safety and fire protection specialist and Managing Director of Ace Fire & Security.