The Evolution of Access Control: From Clocking Machines to Fingerprint Scanning

The need for access control has always been around. Centuries ago it was as simple as a guard or guards at a gate that would either allow you to enter or not.

Over the years as companies have started to evolve, they started to use guards in the same way to allow access to employees or those visiting the company. As more and more companies started popping up, the need for higher efficiency became more important. One of the easiest ways to cut costs was through cutting overhead costs and that meant as little human intervention as possible. The less wages there was to pay, the healthier the company’s bottom line

The first clocking machines

When clocking machines were invented it revolutionized the world of both access control and time and attendance monitoring.

The principle was very simple:

  • An employee would get to work and punch their work card in the clocking machine
  • When the same employee left, they would punch their work card again

The cards that were used for the clocking machines would record the time of the day a person would arrive at work and also when they left. If someone didn’t punch their card, they would get into trouble and possibly lose some of their wages.

It also became much easier to monitor people when they were arriving at work as a single person could watch whether or not a card was being punched. If the person didn’t punch their card, they would not be allowed to enter right away.

The problem with these clocking machines is that they were easy to bypass. A problem commonly experienced by companies was “buddy clocking”. Employees would punch a friend’s card along with theirs and it would look like an employee was in attendance when they weren’t.

This has been exploited for years and resulted in millions of dollars of losses in terms of man hours.

It was time for a change…

The next step in access control: access cards

Computers and electronics started opening new doors for many industries (no pun intended). Companies started issuing access cards to employees and to visitors that have been vetted to allow controlled access to certain parts of a business.

This improved security dramatically across the board and cut out a lot of the inefficiencies experienced with clocking machines. Once again the biggest winners were the companies’ bottom lines as productivity and efficiency improved.

It became much more difficult for employees or unwanted guests to gain access to the business if they didn’t have a working access card.

The biggest problems with access cards is however that they can be lost (and possibly fall into the wrong hands) and there is still a cost associated with physically getting the cards and coding the cards.

Apart from that it was definitely a huge step in the right direction, but the best was yet to come!

The best there is: biometrics

Before going on a rant about why it is the best, we would like to first point out what it is. Biometrics is the science associated with any physical attribute of a person. This can include the uniqueness of a face, a body, a fingerprint or even a retina.

Making us of this technology to manage access control and also to record time and attendance for performance management purposes, has been the biggest step yet in the industry.

Forward thinking companies have started to use these physically unique attributes for access control through fingerprint scanners, retinal scanners and facial recognition cameras.

These attributes are 100% unique to each person in the world and impossible to copy. It is also very difficult to lose.

In conclusion: Why is it so important

The application of biometrics as a tool for access control is not only limited to companies, but is also being implemented in many countries as part of their border control.

It has also been used successfully in voting in general elections in some places.

Any technology that results in the world being a more efficient one is worth having. Companies continually strive to improve their profitability through efficiency and this is one of the key steps to ensure that time is managed effectively and that businesses are safe and secure.