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Access Control – Frequently Asked Questions

What is access control and how can it improve security?

Managing employee and visitor access rights at single or multiple locations can become a complex task with many moving parts. But with safety and security on the line, you can’t afford to have a weak link or any gaps in your system.

But how can you ensure that you meet your security targets while also achieving the flexibility to deal with new locations, new requirements and new technology? TouchStar’s Lynden Jones reviews some of the most frequently asked questions to provide an overview of how access control works and how TouchStar’s end-to-end management service can help users implement the right solution.

How would you describe access control?

LJ: At its core access control is a method of electronically limiting entry to certain locations in order to improve security and better manage employee and visitor access at single or multiple sites.

However, access control has developed beyond this traditional security viewpoint. For example, modern systems increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs by enabling integration with a large variety of workforce products and solutions.

How does access control work?

LJ: To gain access to a restricted area, users will have to present their credentials - usually in the form of an access card - to identify themselves and enter a building or room.

It’s often a simple solution, but it performs the vital task of safely controlling entry to sensitive locations. When you consider the requirement of manufacturing facilities, commercial buildings, schools, educational campuses, leisure stadiums, amusement parks, retail shopping outlets and many more, the role of access control becomes critical.

For more information on how TouchStar can help with your access control, please click here.

What else can an access control system do apart from control a door?

LJ: Access points are certainly not limited to doors. Turnstiles, barriers and even traffic lights can be included. Anywhere where access could be electronically controlled can benefit from being included in an access control solution.

TouchStar can supply a range of turnstiles, gates and barriers to meet various requirements to design, size and level of security. For example, TouchStar pedestrian control systems include models for indoor and outdoor application, high throughput rate, bi-directional passage control, LED directional indication and status lights and key override control for emergency situations.

What is biometric access control?

LJ: Biometric access control is a developing technology that relies on human characteristics like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition to work alongside or replace traditional means of access.

The advantages of biometrics are pushing the technology forward rapidly. For example, with cards, codes or PINs you can never be completely certain of who has access to the card or who uses the code to gain entry. With biometrics you can be certain that only the intended user is given access, resulting in reduced loss and increased accountability.

You can find out more about biometric access control here.

Can existing cards be used on a new system?

LJ: With existing cards it often depends on who owns the system. This is because access cards can have either an open or closed protocol, which can limit accessibility. At TouchStar we specialise in open protocol because it gives our customers the power to buy their own cards. We can supply cards, but we don’t want our users to be forced to choose them purely because they are locked to our system.

In most situations there is no need to change or reissue your existing employee ID badges for workforce access. Our system is designed to let employees use the same badges for identification, time & attendance, access control, and other applications.

If you’d like to find out if your existing cards are compatible with our readers, contact us for advice.

Does everything already in place need replacing?

LJ: No. Anything on or around the access point can usually be kept in place. The main changes will be in the software and the controller. Some locks may need to be changed to comply with the latest BSEN standards which can be looked at separately.

Can an access control card be used for other applications?

LJ: Yes, access cards can be used for other functions. The most common choice is to include the ability for the access control card to hold cash electronically for users. But other options are available, such as using access cards to operate warehouse vehicles like forklift trucks.

If you have a question about another application, please contact us for advice.

What happens if an access card is lost or stolen?

LJ: The most important thing is that the card holder reports the card lost. Once this has happened, the card can be rendered useless by having access revoked in the central database. The access control system will also be able to tell if and where the card has been used to attempt to gain access since it had been lost.

Can access cards be used at more than one location?

LJ: Yes, they can. This is something that we are often asked at TouchStar. Many organisations work across several sites and this can lead to the unnecessary accumulation of access cards given to staff, who then have the job of carrying around a handful of cards. But with some smart planning it is possible to have multiple locations on one access card.

This also cuts down on admin and removes confusion around card scanning, as when multiple cards are kept in one wallet and touched to access point it can confuse the system and slow down access. Again, a single card solves this problem.

Can I create temporary/guest passes?

LJ: Yes, with TouchStar’s solution it’s possible to create temporary passes and attach limits, so for example the pass will expire after a certain amount of time or on certain date, and only allow access to specific areas.

Can cards be personalised?

LJ: Yes, cards are usually personalised with a photo of the user so that they double up as an ID badge. Visitors can also be assigned numbered badges to ensure they are visible and have the correct access for the right amount of time.

Can I manage/edit an access card’s details/privileges remotely? And will changes be instant?

LJ: Yes, with the right software and network connection it’s possible to manage access remotely. If all parameters of the access control system are stored on a centrally managed database, they can be accessed from any computer – as long as it’s connected to the network.

No matter what size of organisation, TouchStar’s Microtrak software puts the power of control in the hands of the user with clear, simple to use screens that provide an intuitive understanding of the application.

If you have specific requests, please contact us for more information.

Can I create regular usage reports?

LJ: Yes, reports can be autogenerated and delivered at regular intervals.

What about article 8 of the Human Rights Act?

LJ: If you’re planning to use CCTV in conjunction with an access control system, you need to be aware of your responsibilities under the Human Rights Act 1998, and more specifically Article 8 – A right to privacy.

You can find out more about Article 8 here or contact us for advice.

If you’re unsure if Article 8 applies to you, you can take an online self-assessment and register your CCTV solution with the ICO here.