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Elevator access control plays a significant role in a facility’s comprehensive security strategy. Investing in an elevator access control system can significantly strengthen security, as crimes can take place in and around the elevator lobby, as well as in the elevator itself. This makes it vital to take the necessary steps to ensure that elevators are kept secure for the safety of tenants and employees, and to protect the property. 

What is elevator access control?

Elevator access control consists of both hardware and software that regulate who can call or enter an elevator in a building.

When should a business consider adding access control for elevators in their buildings? Elevator access control is most necessary when there are multiple tenants, or a specific elevator floor within a business that houses sensitive information. Elevators can be prime areas for crime in both office and residential buildings, which can leave tenants, as well as the property at risk. Implementing an access control system with a door access control reader can help prevent both people and the property from becoming victims of vandalism, theft, or physical harm. Here are some ways access control for elevators can benefit property owners: 

Enhance on-site security

Access control for elevators will help to prevent unwanted visitors from accessing certain floors or areas within a property. To optimize security on-site, elevator access should be incorporated into a comprehensive security management system, along with video security cameras and physical security guards.

Improve tenant or employee safety 

Elevators that aren’t secure can be a safety risk for tenants. In commercial buildings, it’s important to keep unauthorized visitors from entering areas or restricted floors that hold confidential information; while in residential properties, elevator access control systems can stop non-residents from entering the building. This is crucial when it comes to protecting more vulnerable residents like children. It’s worth noting that integrating elevator access control into a property’s overall security system can attract potential residents who might prioritize security when looking for a place to live, as well as commercial tenants who want to ensure their intellectual property or business assets remain secure.

Deter crime and provide audit trails

Elevator access control systems act as a physical deterrent for criminals and offenders. Not only does controlled access help to act as an immediate barrier for unauthorized visitors attempting entry, but access control fobs and cards can store so much information on where a user goes within a building. They contain information that can be used to help catch offenders when a crime takes place. 

Provide flexible access options

The type and level of elevator access control can be shaped around each user’s specific requirements. For example, access to specific zones can be easily granted or denied based on credentials and schedules. 

For example, some business owners might want to introduce a flexible access control system to manage access to different floors at different times. In this case, regular access might be permitted during standard business hours, but building managers may need to restrict access for specific floors outside of working hours. Employees with different permissions levels can be granted access at different times. Staff with more senior positions or in certain departments might have 24/7 access to all levels in the elevator security system, while other employees or teams have more restricted access.

Different types of elevator access control credentials

There are different types of elevator access control systems. Typically, the system involves authenticating a person’s credentials before allowing access to specific floors. The common elevator access credentials include:

Mobile credentials

Mobile credentials are a touchless access control solution, making them one of the most convenient methods to access elevators and the best way to future-proof a building. The smartphone-based elevator control communicates with an app on a user’s phone to verify credentials before granting them access to an elevator. A user is typically allowed access to the floors they have authorization to go to, while access to other floors are restricted.

With mobile credentials, there is no need to issue and program physical badges or key fobs. This method of access control is particularly convenient, as users are more likely to lose or lend out key cards and fobs rather than their smartphones. Aside from being easy to use, mobile credentials provide strengthened security. When lost badges or key cards get in the hands of unauthorized users, it presents a set of security risks, and mobile credentials can eliminate these concerns. 

Elevator card reader or fob

One of the most popular elevator access control systems involves a physical card or fob. A user will typically swipe or tap their elevator fob or card at a reader by the elevator or inside the elevator cab to gain access to a specific floor in a building. 

Elevator fobs or access cards use RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, to capture and transmit data through electromagnetic waves. RFID tags are installed in the user’s card or fob that contains that individual’s credential information. When placed near a compatible reader, the card or fob will transmit the required information to unlock that door. 

Elevator RFID access control cards or fobs that use RFID are more secure than more traditional security methods, as they are difficult to replicate. However, these elevator access devices are also easy to misplace, and people will sometimes lend their credentials to a coworker or visitor. 

Security keypad and PIN codes

Security keypads require users to enter a specific passcode or PIN to grant them access to the elevator controls. An elevator keypad eliminates the need to issue physical key cards or fobs to users. However, the downside to this system is the easily shareable PIN codes, which might pose an additional security risk when given to unauthorized individuals. Another disadvantage of this type of security system is the length of time it takes for every single person to enter individual PINs. This can lead to potential blocks in traffic flow in busy buildings. 

Elevator access control management

There are factors to keep in mind when choosing a management platform to ensure that operators can seamlessly manage elevator access and prevent incidents. Some common factors include how people will receive access credentials, how often access permissions change, how visitors can access the floors they need and the type of visitor credentials issued. 

Addressing these concerns might require a customized solution. However, there are features in access control management software that can make overall processes more seamless, such as the ability to issue and revoke access instantly, set schedules, adjust permissions remotely and log activities to flag potential incidents. The ability to oversee security in a single interface is also highly sought-after for its convenience. 

When it comes to ease of use, there are several benefits to cloud-based access management software that can make processes more efficient, as well as strengthen security. Having software in the cloud offers security teams remote access to all data and controls without having to be physically on-site. Additionally, cloud systems support instant alert features, enabling security teams to respond to security breaches the moment they occur. 

Access control for different types of elevators

There is a wide variety of elevators, and understanding the different types can help operators determine the level of security they will require. Generally, there are three main types of elevators:

Single elevator access control

Single elevators feature one carriage that is operated by a traditional call button. These types of elevators are usually found in smaller buildings with fewer floors and tenants, such as small apartment buildings and offices with only a handful of levels.

Single elevator access control systems are one of the easiest to manage, since there are fewer daily users. A single elevator security system will usually have a reader installed inside the cab, requiring users to authenticate prior to being able to press a button for their floor. They can be integrated with cloud-based management software, giving operators the chance to determine who can call the elevator, and set schedules for operation. For example, office buildings might restrict access after-hours and on the weekends.

Elevator banks

Unlike single elevators, elevator banks contain multiple carriages that can move people up and down at the same time. This type of elevator is often used when there are more floors within a building, and many people using them at the same time. With more people on-site, the ability to integrate a more complex access control management system is crucial to manage the flow of traffic and ensure people’s safety. 

Having more than one elevator can often increase security concerns. When multiple people travel at the same time, it is more difficult to monitor who is entering an elevator and verify each person’s authorization. For this reason, it’s essential for buildings with multiple elevators to have a comprehensive strategy to guarantee maximum security, particularly for restricted floors that house sensitive data or high-value merchandise. 

Floor-specific elevator security systems let operators determine who has access to individual floors in the building. For example, if an organization occupies floors 18 and 19 in a building, their employees’ credentials will be programmed in the elevator access control system to only allow them to choose those two floors once they are inside the elevator. 

In high-rise buildings, there may be multiple elevator banks that only stop on certain floors. This helps improve the speed and efficiency of the elevator access system, and also helps operators monitor the number of people accessing each set of floors.

Smart elevators

Smart elevators are typically found in newer buildings, generally with 10 or more floors. Rather than the traditional call button, which sees users calling the elevator by pressing up or down, users are asked to enter the floor they wish to go to on a digital touchscreen. These types of elevators use a destination control center (DCS) to centralize the call function and optimize where elevators are stopping. 

With destination dispatch smart elevators, a user scans their credential at an elevator card reader before boarding. Some smart elevators are able to accommodate multiple stops on different floors, as long as the credentials have been authorized. The benefit of this type of elevator security system is that it is more difficult for tailgaters and unauthorized individuals to access the building. Even if they do board an elevator without a credential, they can only get off at the floor with the others in the cab.

Elevator control configuration

There are four main types of elevator control configurations that should be considered when exploring access control for elevators. 

  1. The first is a private elevator with general access to any floor that requires a credential to call the elevator. Once inside a private elevator, users are able to access any floor within a building.
  2. Public elevators with private access to select floors allow people to call the elevator to the lobby, but require credentials, such as an elevator fob or card, to access certain floors once inside the cab. 
  3. Some elevators are a combination of both private and public elevators. In this case, elevator fobs or card readers are installed in both the lobby and inside the elevator.
  4. Another type of elevator control configuration is the more modern systems with zoned or destination-controlled elevators, which automatically select the designated floors once a user has scanned their credentials. Destination dispatch elevators typically do not have buttons for individual floors inside the cabs.

What to consider when installing an elevator access control or security system

If you decide that elevator security systems are a good fit for your property, there are many choices available. Here are some factors to keep in mind when installing elevator access control:

  • Choose an elevator access control system that is convenient to navigate. Authorized users should be able to easily call the elevator, and get to their floors without hassle or issue. 
  • Elevator access control systems should be able to accommodate all your users. For a future proof system, invest in elevator card readers that can also support other credential types, such as mobile apps, so that you don’t need to replace your elevator access control system a few years down the road. 
  • Invest in a system with intuitive and flexible management software. A cloud-based system enables operators to manage and monitor elevator access conveniently, with remote functionality and the ability to view access activity 24/7
  • Make sure any necessary training is carried out if you install a new smart elevator security system in your building, and inform users of potential vulnerabilities or incidents to report, such as elevator tailgating.
  • For comprehensive security alongside your elevator access control, consider combining multiple forms of access control in areas near where elevators are located, such as the lobby. This includes installing video security cameras and turnstiles, and stationing security guards in the area.
  • Make sure access control for elevators is interoperable with other security systems. Fully-integrated elevator security systems can act based on triggers from other systems, such as when a fire alarm is activated. An integrated security system can automatically lock down the elevators and send alerts to security personnel.

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