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28 Feb, 2022

Understanding Elevator Access Control and Its Numerous Applications


What is Elevator Access Control?

Elevator Access Control (EAC) is another latest addition to modern security technology that has been developed for limiting the entry/access of an individual. In simple terms, elevator access control works like a virtual liftman that manages access of the lift’s passengers, makes sure that strangers do not get on the lift without authenticating their identity, and keeps a record of who used the lift on which floor.

The elevator is such an area where a lot of human traffic gets exposed on a daily basis. This of course challenges the security mechanism of this facility. Looking at the current situation amidst the Covid-19 scenario, we can say that a wider application of lift access control systems is the need of the hour. Lift or elevator access control greatly helps in restricting unnecessary exposure of a person to contamination, minimizes person-to-person exposure as well, and thus enforces and maintains the protocol of social distancing. In this article, we will learn more about how EAC accomplishes all of this.

How Does EAC Take Security Beyond the Traditional Concepts?

  1. Elevator access control promotes total privacy and helps to maintain restrictions over confidential areas/floors thereby protecting them from unauthorized visitors.
  2. Elevator access control upgrades security protocols by granting floor-wise access to authorized people and also lends a level of sophistication.
  3. Real-time monitoring of the lift’s users and visitor activity is possible due to EAC.
  4. For private spaces such as residential buildings, EAC does away with the possibility of intruders as only the house owners have access to their floors.

Furthermore, if adopted properly, elevator access control helps in reducing the cost of manpower, offering a solution that expands and meets future needs.

Currently, we are living in a world that is progressing leaps and bounds in terms of technology. The risk of personal space being attacked is at stake and to avoid such attacks and maintain a dignified workspace as well as personal living space, adopting elevator access control systems is highly recommended.

How Do Lift Access Systems Work?

Lifts are available everywhere: government as well as private offices, malls, residential buildings, hospitals, educational institutions, etc. They can be easily accessible to everyone from the building’s residents or occupants to regular visitors to complete strangers who enter the premises. Out of all the aforementioned identities, there’s a high chance that the last one can prove to be a security threat as it is unknown. To overcome this problem at a basic level, elevator access control is required.

EAC is different from other typical access control systems as they not only restrict entry to non-authorized individuals but also automatically determine which floor/department the user should go to. Normal access control systems keep a record of users who have requested access at a particular access point, but EAC systems also track the destination of the user and ensure no person without the right credentials is allowed access anywhere near the wrong floor.

For better clarity, let’s understand the components needed for an elevator access control system to function:

  • A credential reader in the elevator car – this can be a card reader or a biometric identifier.
  • A controller in the elevator control room – this will control all the commands to and from the elevator thereby controlling access permissions.
  • An access control software – It should be easy to install, simple to configure, and user-friendly to operate.

Based on the access control credential, the access control system determines which floors can be accessible. For example, in an office, all of the sales team on the 3rd floor can get to their own floor, but they won’t be able to get to the 5th floor’s IT department, or they would need to request access to their company head’s floor. The levels with common amenities, such as the cafeteria or the lounge, will be open to all employees, and sometimes even visitors. The access control software will contain all data regarding access permissions and security levels. The software, alongside the controller, can also work to provide time-based access i.e., certain floors can be open to all employees between 3.00 pm to 5.00 pm, or even day-based access where certain floors can be accessed only on certain days of the week.

Common Vulnerabilities of Elevator Access Control

Elevator access control systems can be tricked if not installed properly, or if certain important parameters have been ignored during installation and setup.

Sharing rides

Suppose a passenger in the lift has forgotten to use his access card / biometric signature to press the button to his floor, but someone else did that. In this case, both of them will be able to get down on their floor but the record of the person who didn’t use his access will not be available.

To prevent this from happening, each floor should also be equipped with access control devices where the user will have to request access again. Therefore, a person who hasn’t recorded his/her access in the lift’s access system will be denied entry at his/her floor, even though he/she has the right credentials.

This practice is also known as piggybacking where a person knowingly doesn’t use his access in the lift and relies on others. In the case of a person with malicious intents, not having access control devices at every floor’s entrance will prove to be dangerous for an organization, as a user can simply wait for a person with multi-floor access to use their card/biometrics in the lift, and then quickly press the button to the floor he/she wants to visit without authorization.

An additional layer of security to prevent this would be to set strict restrictions on access in the elevator car and picking the destination floor. Each floor choice can be limited to just one card swipe or one biometric authentication.

Furthermore, elevator access control systems can be integrated with video surveillance to keep a 24/7 check on activity inside and outside the elevator.

Emergency situations

In the event of an emergency, like fire, there would be widespread panic among everyone and access control regulations are usually forgotten, or can be an obstruction against escaping if they are very strictly imposed.

To prevent this, the lift’s access control mechanism can be integrated with the fire alarm system. As per the protocols defined, the ordinary access rules will be revoked when the alarm is triggered and mass movement of the building’s occupants can be enabled without any hindrance.

What Are the Various EAC Frameworks?

While all elevators perform the same function of moving people up and down a building, the type of elevator used depends on the size of the building, the number of people that require elevator access, and the level of security in the facility. Let’s understand the differences between them.

Single Elevator Access Control

This sort of elevator access control is only for one elevator. A single elevator access control system, which is common in smaller buildings with fewer floors and fewer daily users, can nevertheless provide adequate security. Installing an RFID door lock reader, for example, will require users to have a valid credential in order to activate the elevator controls. Single elevator access control systems in offices may additionally offer the option to programme the elevator to become unusable during off-peak hours or on weekends.

Elevator Banks Security Systems

The term ‘elevator banks’ basically means having multiple elevator cars in one building to carry more people at the same time. These are more common in larger buildings with more floors and occupants. While having numerous lifts is more convenient, it also increases the danger of a security breach. More monitoring and stricter elevator access control are needed here to ensure that only authorised people can use the elevators as human traffic in such premises will also be higher. In multi-tenant buildings where only certain individuals require access to specific floors, floor-by-floor access rights can help keep elevators more secure.

Smart elevator and destination dispatch elevator security

Smart elevators, as the name suggests, are intuitive elevator systems that are much more efficient than other types of lifts. These are installed in high-rise buildings with more than 10-12 floors, like in big office buildings in corporate parks, five-star hotels, large multi-speciality hospitals, etc. Smart elevators rely on a centralized destination control system (DCS), in which the passengers type the floor they need to go to while calling the lift, for e.g, the 5th floor. Out of the many elevator cars operating in the building, only the one that is designated to go to the 5th floor will open for the user. There will be no push buttons inside the elevator. This kind of lift will have fewer stops on fewer floors, and will control crowding as well, making it the fastest out of all. However, this framework is more expensive as compared to the other lift systems.

To decide what type of elevator access control is applicable for you, you need to understand the kind of elevator system that your building has. Based on that and the level of control you wish to exercise, you can choose from various access control systems like:

  • Elevator security keypad and PIN readers
  • Elevator card readers
  • Elevator biometric readers
  • Elevator security cameras
  • Elevator control panels

Even the best elevator access control systems can be breached if the offender is truly hell bent on doing that. It is therefore recommended to always install more than one method of access control, plus frame security protocols keeping all the methods in mind to limit unauthorized access to the maximum extent.

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