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Elevators are an essential part of a building’s infrastructure, allowing people to get around quickly and safely. However, elevators are often an afterthought when it comes to security, when they should be a key part of your businesses’ security plan. 

An intruder could easily gain access to any floor in a building if the elevator isn’t secure. In other words, elevator access control and security systems are essential to maximize a building’s security as it ensures secure and safe access for authorized users.

What is elevator access control?

Elevator access control systems are designed to provide heightened security by restricting unauthorized use of the elevator. An automated system requires users to authenticate themselves before being allowed access to the elevator. This authentication process can take the form of a key card, fingerprint scan, PIN code entry or other biometric identification.

Once a user has been authenticated, the elevator security system works with the access control system to monitor and log the usage of the elevators. This allows for a secure audit trail of who is using the elevator, when they are using it and where they are going. The system can be used to detect potential security issues and help prevent unauthorized access or misuse of the elevators.

Benefits of access control in elevator security systems

Elevator access control systems are designed to provide a range of benefits, including:

  • Improved security: An elevator control system provides an additional layer of security to the building, ensuring that only authorized users can access the elevators and specific floors. This helps to protect the building from potential intrusions and other security breaches.
  • Improved safety: The ability to log and monitor elevator usage means the system can detect potential safety issues, such as an elevator getting stuck or malfunctioning. These prompt alerts will result in quicker response and repair times. 
  • Increased efficiency: The elevator access control system can track elevator usage for optimal scheduling and more efficient use of the elevators. Not only will this save on energy usage, but it can also reduce waiting times and lines during peak hours.
  • Better visitor management: Using key cards and other authentication methods allows for a more efficient way to manage visitors, including the ability to easily monitor visitor access and control who uses the elevators.
  • Increased cost-efficiency: Using an automated access control system can help reduce overhead costs associated with guarding restricted floors. For example, elevator floor access control systems can help reduce maintenance and repair costs by preventing unauthorized use and potential damage.

How does access control security for elevators work?

Elevator access control systems are usually integrated into an existing building security system. They use an authentication system to identify authorized users and control access to the elevator. This is usually done through a network of magnetic locks or other interlocking mechanisms that can be opened and closed remotely. The locks are controlled by a computer system that is programmed to allow access only to verified users and can also block access if necessary.

The system is also designed to monitor and log elevator usage, allowing for a secure and accurate audit trail. It can be used to detect any elevator security issues and prevent unauthorized access.

Types of elevator access control in security systems

Access control can be categorized based on several factors, including:

Number of elevators

The number of elevators in a building determines what type of access control system is necessary. Elevator access control systems based on quantity include:

Single elevator access control systems 

As the name implies, these systems control only one elevator, making them ideal for smaller buildings. Access can be granted with a card, keypad code or biometric scan and varies based on the level of elevator security required. With this type of elevator control system, hours of operation can be set so that the elevator is in use only during certain times of the day. They also allow you to restrict access from specific floors or disable the elevator during emergencies.

Multiple elevator access control systems 

A multi-elevator access control system is necessary for larger buildings with elevator banks. While having multiple elevators improves efficiency in terms of traffic flow, it also increases the risk of unauthorized access. 

Multi-elevator access control systems are designed to control and monitor multiple elevators simultaneously. This type of system requires sophisticated authentication methods to ensure that only authorized users are allowed access. The system can also be used to assign different levels of access to different floors or areas within the building. This allows for greater levels of security and flexibility when managing elevator usage.

Elevator usage

Depending on elevator usage and access pattern requirements, elevator access control systems can be categorized as:

Public elevator with private access to specific floors

A public elevator with private access to specific floors refers to an elevator the general public can use, but with restrictions. Only authorized users can access particular floors. Some form of credential verification is typically required to access restricted floors, such as an elevator fob, key card or PIN code. This type of system is often used in larger buildings, such as hospitals or corporate offices where public access is necessary, but private areas must remain secure.

Private elevator with full access

Unlike public elevators, private elevators are only accessible to authorized users. Only people with the appropriate credentials can call the elevator. To verify user credentials, the system typically has a reader instead of a call button in the lobby, and authorized users can access all floors of the building.

Private elevator with selective access

This type of system is a hybrid between public and private systems. The elevator is not accessible to the general public but only to people with the proper credentials. Access can be limited to certain floors of the building while others remain unrestricted. This type of system is often used in multi-level buildings where access to certain floors needs to be restricted for security reasons. One example would be a multi-tenant office building with open amenities, such as a cafeteria or gym, that any authorized employee can use. Passengers will need the right credentials to call the elevator. When they get into the elevator, their credentials are verified again to allow them access to the desired floor.

Destination control system (DCS)

A destination control system (DCS), also known as destination dispatch elevator access control, is a type of elevator access control that utilizes destination codes to control elevator traffic. Users typically enter their desired floor number into the DCS terminal before entering the elevator. Then, the DCS sends instructions to the elevator’s computer on where it should go. This system helps avoid overcrowding on particular floors and allows for more efficient traffic flow.


Besides the type of system, access control is also divided based on the kind of authorization used. The most common types of authorization used in elevator access control are:

Elevator fob access

This type of authorization requires users to have a coded elevator fob to access the elevator. The elevator fob works with a reader to grant access, which can use various technologies, such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Bluetooth or Near Field Communication (NFC). Fobs can also be programmed to grant access to particular floors, making them an ideal solution for multi-level buildings.

Elevator card reader access

As the name implies, users need a key card or ID badge to access the elevator. This type of authorization is often used in large buildings where there is a need for higher levels of security and control over who has access to different parts of the building. Each authorized user will have a special access card they can swipe on the reader to gain access. Depending on the setup, this type of system can allow full access to all floors or be programmed to restrict access to specific floors. This means the elevator card reader might be installed in the lobby, the elevator or both.

Elevator biometric access control

Biometric access control systems use fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans and other biometric data to identify and authenticate users. It is a highly secure system that is very challenging to bypass. While these systems can be more expensive than other types of access control, they provide a higher level of security. Elevator biometric access control is frequently used in buildings that house sensitive data or equipment and require a high degree of security.

PIN access

This type of authorization requires users to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) into the control panel to gain access. A PIN access control elevator system can be combined with other authorization types, such as elevator RFID access control or biometric readers.

Touchless elevators

Touchless elevators rely on mobile device apps to control access. Users can download the app, register their credentials and then use it to call the elevator or gain access to certain floors. Touchless access control for elevators is commonly used for destination dispatch systems. However, the elevator has no physical controls, so users must have their devices with them at all times to use the elevator.

How to choose the right type of elevator access control system

With so many different types of elevator access control systems available, it is important to choose one that fits your unique needs. Some factors to consider include:

Level of security required

One of the key factors when choosing an elevator access control system is the level of security the building requires. It’s crucial to pick a system that matches the level of security you need and is compliant with industry regulations. A high-security building may require a more sophisticated elevator access system with multiple layers of authentication, such as biometrics or card readers. On the other hand, a residential building may only need a simple key card system.

Number of elevators

The number of elevators in your building will determine the type of system you need. A basic access control system may be sufficient if you only have one elevator. If you have more than five elevators, a sophisticated system that can handle multiple levels of security is recommended.

Access complexity

If the building has multiple floors and different access levels based on roles, a more complex access control system is necessary. Make sure the system you choose can accommodate the level of complexity you need.

Traffic pattern

The traffic pattern in your building will also influence the type of system you need. If your building has many visitors or the elevators are frequently used, you may need an access control system that can handle high volumes of usage. If it’s primarily used by employees, a simpler, more cost-effective system might be suitable.

Cost and installation

Access control for elevators can vary widely in terms of cost and installation requirements. Some systems may require professional installation, while others are relatively easy to set up without expert help. Look for an access control system that fits your budget without compromising security. 

Integration with other security systems

If you already have an existing security system, you’ll want to ensure it is compatible with your elevator access control system. Choose an elevator access control system with an open architecture to ensure easy integrations with systems like card readers, biometric scanners or elevator security cameras.

Easy maintenance

Because maintenance can be a costly and time-consuming process, it’s essential to choose an elevator access control system that is easy to maintain. Consider the type of maintenance the system needs and whether you have the necessary resources or personnel to do it.

For example, elevator access control systems that utilize cloud-based technology tend to be easier to maintain. Usually, these types of systems are updated automatically, eliminating the need for in-house maintenance. Furthermore, they can be accessed remotely, so, if an issue does occur, technicians can often resolve it quickly without having to be on-site. In addition, when determining integrations like video security, considering analog vs. digital cameras.

Common problems with elevator access control security and how to solve them

Access control for elevators can be vulnerable to security breaches, so it’s crucial to stay ahead of potential issues. Common problems with elevator access control include:

Tailgating and hitchhiking

Tailgating and hitchhiking occur when unauthorized people gain access to the elevator by following an authorized person who opens the elevator doors without realizing that the hitchhiker” is not supposed to be there. The best way to prevent tailgating and hitchhiking on elevators is to install a secondary security measure, such as a turnstile. Placed between the lobby and elevator door, the turnstile ensures anyone entering the elevator has already been properly authorized.


An elevator surfer is someone who wants access to a restricted floor that cannot be reached without some form of authentication. This person will get inside an elevator and wait for someone else with access to the desired floor to board.

In most cases, the other passengers won’t realize the unauthorized person’s attempt to gain access to a specific floor with someone else’s authorization. If the building has a lot of traffic, the elevator surfer can blend in easily. One way to prevent elevator surfing is by installing access control systems on each restricted floor. Even if the intruder makes it onto the right floor, they must go through another layer of security to gain access.


Piggybacking involves an unauthorized person taking advantage of a person with universal access, such as a janitor or a manager, to gain access to restricted floors. The unauthorized person will wait for the authorized person to unlock the elevator and take advantage of any moment of inattention to slip in unnoticed. They’ll then quickly press the button for the restricted floor.

The best way to prevent piggybacking is to require users to verify their credentials when calling the elevator and when choosing their floor. Furthermore, ensure that the elevator accepts only a single button push per each user authentication.

Fire service mode issues

Fire service mode allows the elevator to be used as an emergency exit in case of a fire. This usually means that all the security features are disabled so anyone can access the elevator. While this is a necessary function in emergencies, it also leaves the building vulnerable to unauthorized access. Although activating fire service mode also calls the fire and police departments, an intruder could still get in without being noticed.

One way to prevent this type of breach is to ensure that security staff, office managers and other relevant personnel are alerted when fire service mode is activated. This allows operators to investigate the situation as soon as possible and prevent unauthorized access.

Final thoughts

Elevator security is an essential aspect of security for any building. The right access control for elevators will provide a secure and convenient way to manage who can gain access to the rest of your building. With a wide range of options available, from simple key cards to more sophisticated biometric systems, there’s an elevator access control system that can meet the security needs of any building.

Carefully consider the level of security required, the number of elevators, access complexity, traffic patterns, cost and installation requirements, compatibility with existing security such as corner mount cameras or compliant ONVIF security cameras and ease of maintenance when choosing the best elevator access control system for your building. Doing so will help ensure you get the most secure solution for your needs.

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