Elevator Access Control Examined

By: Brian Rhodes, Published on May 06, 2013

Doors are certainly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about electronic access control. However, EAC can also be very valuable for controlling elevators. Keeping unauthorized riders out of elevator cars or off certain floors is a significant security benefit. In this note we examine this, breaking down the two main methods of control, how to integrate access control for each, plus how to deal with the key risk of tailgating.

Two Methods

Securing control of an elevator system has two options depending upon the desired level of control. Determining which method is best depends on which of the following two is more important:

  • Unauthorized access to specific floors, or
  • Unauthorized use of the elevator?

For example, if keeping people from 'nuisance calling' the elevator or to prohibit anyone except credentialed personnel from using the lift, controlling the call buttonsis often the best solution. However, if administrating access to specific floors is required, then the car must be equipped with a controller that interfaces access levels with the elevator's mechanical systems.

The two methods vary broadly in cost of equipment and integration; points we examine in the following sections:

Interrupt the Call Buttons: Of the two options, this level of integration is simpler and inexpensive, but only provides "all floors, or nothing" control. This involves wiring the power of the call button keypad to be switched on according to credential reads of an adjacent reader. In order to activate the call buttons to request a car, the controller closes relay contacts between the call button's power supply and keypad. Only a card granted access to the elevator is eligible to use the elevator, but once the elevator arrives, the user is able to key access to any floor the elevator normally has access to; potentially all floors in a building.

The biggest advantage afforded by this method is how inexpensive and quickly it can be installed. The process of integrating call button power to a controller often requires an external relay of some type, but otherwise it schematically installs and performs like access through any other opening, except with outputs routing power to buttons rather than door locks.

The second method is more challenging.

Controller Onboard: This method requires deeper integration, specialized equipment, and higher configuration costs, but results in a greater degree of control to specific floors rather than the car itself. Take this manufacturer's example schematic below:

Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

With this type of integration, the position of the car relative to a floor is fed back into the controller, typically installed on the cab itself, or connected to the cab via the travelling 'control cable' networking the car to its mechanical control system. Users are configured access to specific floors; for example, a rider may be able to call an elevator from 'Floor 1' and only be able to ascend to 'Floor 3' based on access rights, bypassing 'Floor 2' altogether.

This method requires interfacing the access control system with the elevator control system, and may require coordination with the elevator company's service technicians.

Traveling Cable: Another complicating feature of onboard control is networking components like readers and controllers to the 'head end'. Mounting the controller onboard the car is not often required, but is done to mitigate the need of running expensive, maintenance hungry elevator cables to connect components. As we noted in our "Elevator Surveillance Tutorial", networking devices in a moving car is prone to a host of cabling issues complicated by the notorious difficulty in coordinating work with Elevator Service Technicans.

Tailgating Risk

Regardless of the method chosen, access control is endangered by 'tailgating', that is, an unauthorized person passing through a controlled opening before it is closed and relocked after a valid credential read. In the case of either elevator control options above, an unauthorized person can both enter a car before the doors close, or exit into a restricted floor when someone else leaves.

Elevator safety interlock controls always incorporate some manner of keeping doors from automatically closing and potentially crushing or moving before occupants are completely onboard. One characteristic of these controls are the slow closing speed of the opening, a variable that cannot be addressed by the EAC system. Because of the life/safety risk, ensuring access control can only be achieved via limiting occupants in a car to a single passenger or expanding access controls to doors beyond the elevators.

Because of the tailgating risk, some end-users question the security value of access controlling elevators. Rather, the strongest benefit of controlling elevators comes in the form of restricting use, leading to increased car availability for VIPs and lowering the occurrence of vagrancy inside elevator cabs.

Comments (8) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Access Control Job Walk Guide on May 22, 2019
Significant money can be saved and problems avoided with an access control job walk if you know what to look for and what to ask. By inviting...
LifeSafety Power NetLink Vulnerabilities And Problematic Response on May 20, 2019
'Power supplies' are not devices that many think about when considering vulnerabilities but as more and more devices go 'online', the risks for...
Facial Recognition Systems Fail Simple Liveness Detection Test on May 17, 2019
Facial recognition is being widely promoted as a solution to physical access control but we were able to simply spoof 3 systems because they had no...
Maglock Selection Guide on May 16, 2019
One of the most misunderstood yet valuable pieces of electrified hardware is the maglock. Few locks are stronger, but myths and confusion surround...
Milestone XProtect 2019 R1 Tested on May 15, 2019
For the past few years, Milestone has released quarterly software updates XProtect VMS platform. What is new and how much impact do the updates...
Access Control Request to Exit (RTE) Tutorial on May 13, 2019
For access controlled doors, especially those with maglocks, 'Request to Exit', or 'RTE' devices are required to override electrified locks to...
Mining Company Security Manager Interview on May 10, 2019
First Quantum Minerals Limited (FQML) is a global enterprise with offices on 4 continents and operations in 7 countries with exploratory operations...
10 Facial Recognition Providers Review (Secutech) on May 09, 2019
Adding to our 19 Facial Recognition Providers Profiled report from ISC West, IPVM focused on facial recognition technology for our Day 2 coverage...
Proxy Access Control Tested on May 09, 2019
Silicon Valley Access Startup Proxy raised $13.6 Million in May 2019, focusing on mobile physical access control. Beyond the fund raising, Proxy...
Restaurant Security Manager Interview on May 06, 2019
Wright’s Gourmet House in Tampa, Florida has been around for over 50 years. During most of that time, there were no security measures in place. Now...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Kidnapping Victim Rescued With Video From Ring Doorbell Camera on May 24, 2019
A kidnapping victim was rescued within 24 hours, with the police crediting video from a Ring Doorbell camera as key to solving the case. A girl was...
NJ Law Requires Apprenticeship For Public Works Integrators on May 24, 2019
Few integrators do a formal apprenticeship program. However, now a NJ law is requiring any integrator on public works projects (such as state...
Security / Privacy Journalist Sam Pfeifle Interview on May 24, 2019
Sam Pfeifle is best known as the outspoken former Editor of Security Systems News. After that, he was publications director at the International...
Verkada Video Quality Problems Tested on May 23, 2019
Verkada suffers from numerous video quality problems, not found in commercial IP cameras, new IPVM testing of Verkada vs Axis and Hikvision...
Average Frame Rate Video Surveillance 2019 on May 23, 2019
What is the average frame rated used in video surveillance systems? In IPVM's 2011 statistics, the average was 6-8fps increasing to ~10fps in...
Dahua USA Celebrates 5 Years of Errors on May 22, 2019
Dahua USA is, in their own words, 'celebrating' 5 years in North America or as trade magazine SSN declared: Dahua Technology finds success in...
Access Control Job Walk Guide on May 22, 2019
Significant money can be saved and problems avoided with an access control job walk if you know what to look for and what to ask. By inviting...
ASCMA / Monitronics Declares Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Plan on May 22, 2019
Monitronics is entering into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company, also called Ascent Capital Group Inc., aka ASCMA, aka Brinks Home Security,...
US Considers Sanctions Against Hikvision and Dahua on May 22, 2019
The US government is considering blacklisting "up to 5" PRC surveillance firms, including Hikvision and Dahua, Bloomberg reported, with human...
Axis ~$150 Outdoor Camera Tested on May 21, 2019
Axis has released the latest in their Companion camera line, the outdoor Companion Dome Mini LE, a 1080p integrated IR model aiming to compete with...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact