Date icon18 April 2019

Access control reader technology - digital fingerprint image


Access control readers are the digital gatekeepers of a security system. There are many forms of reader technology, each which either admit or restrict physical access to a space based on a different form of identification.

Here’s a run down of the most prominent types of access control reader technology, and the kind of organisations and use cases that benefit most from them.

What are the main types of access control reader?

Access reader technology varies in terms of how robust it is; not every organisation will need enterprise-grade security. Different groups of people come with varying security risk too, staff members and students often need more flexible access to a building than a visitor, for example.

Networked security systems may incorporate different types of access readers at different entry and exit points, and readers can combine more than one mode of reader technology for two (or more) factor authentication.

Fingerprint readers

A type of biometric reader, fingerprint readers take a rapid scan of a person’s fingerprint, compare it to a library of verified scanned print images on the system, and admit access if there is a match. Today’s access control fingerprint readers are capable of capturing an accurate print through dirt, dust or oil on the skin, and even through latex gloves. More on fingerprint access control.

MIFARE readers

Originally designed to enable instant cash-free contactless payments for public transport networks, MIFARE access readers work by scanning MIFARE cards fitted with short-range RadioFrequency Identification (RFID) microchips. This primary functionality makes them highly secure; data stored on MIFARE cards is encrypted until the card and the reader mutually authenticate each other.

Like iButtons, MIFARE cards can also be programmed to record and store data beyond its capacity as an access control ID.

Proximity readers         

Proximity access readers can successfully scan proximity cards even when they aren’t placed in direct contact with them, they just need to be held close by. Strictly speaking, a MIFARE access reader is a type of proximity reader but, unlike MIFARE, proximity cards contain no memory and cannot be programmed as a ‘smart card’.

Barcode readers

Barcode slot readers are fixed in place and require card holders to pull their cards through the slot in order to scan the card’s barcode. The barcode reader passes infra-red light over the barcode and measures the amount of light reflected back in order to match an ID.

What situations suit which type of reader?

When it comes to choosing a type of access control reader technology, the level of security need should be top priority. While all access control systems are designed to restrict access to those without the proper identification, some are more rigorous yet less adaptable than others.

Biometric access control is a good example. As it’s based on a form of identification that cannot be replicated, biometric access control, such as fingerprint, eye or facial recognition, will create a more secure environment than a type of access control with an ID that can be copied, lost or stolen. For the same reason, fingerprint access control is also well-suited to businesses that need to digitally-monitor their employee’s time and attendance on site. Yet, for organisations with high personnel throughput, due to lots of visitors or changing staff members, proximity access control readers may be more convenient.   

Today’s security systems can include more than one type of access control technology to allow for differing levels of security need. For example, a form of proximity access control could be used to regulate people entering and exiting a main building and to track time and attendance, while a restricted or high security area within the same building may be protected by fingerprint access control.

Access control readers enable your business to manage its own security

Alongside the forms of ID that power them, access control readers automatically enforce the parameters of your business’s security set up, enabling your team to get on with more pressing tasks. Contact us to find out more about our access control readers and how they can benefit your organisation.  



Access control reader blog author Lynden Jones

Lynden joined Touchstar ATC (formally Feedback Data) in a sales role for Access Control in 2010.  Prior to joining the company, Lynden held both Production and Account Manager roles, gaining wide technical and commercial experience within the electronics market.  

In 2013 Lynden was promoted to Sales Director and in 2017 he took overall responsibility of the business as Managing Director. As well as running Touchstar ATC, Lynden still remains extremely active in the sales and key account management aspects of the business. When not involved in the business, Lynden is a keen performance car enthusiast.