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How Much Does an Airport Access Control System Cost?

Airports must walk a fine line between providing powerful security and creating an environment that feels welcoming, looks attractive, allows passengers and visitors to pass through easily, and maintains safety standards. This balancing act often presents a challenge, but today's airport access control systems offer a variety of advanced technologies that address the facility's security needs. What's more, these systems collect a variety of data that administrators can audit, review, and even use in planning.

Types of Access Control Systems

Airport access control systems are categorized based on the method used to grant admittance. When choosing a system, you want one with features designed for airports and that includes a way to identify the user.

Keypad systems are the most popular option due to their lower cost and ease of use. They are exactly what they sound like, using a keypad to restrict and grant access. However, these systems offer the lowest level of security, since sharing codes is so easy, as is losing a code, since so many users write down their code or enter it into a phone. Another challenge is that the employee takes their code with them upon termination of employment. You can't collect a code the way you would a security badge or card.

Card reader systems offer much greater security. You can program them for multiple access points, including control towers, gates, and remote buildings. Card readers validate access via an internal database, and you can even couple the reader with a keypad for a second layer of security. An LCD screen displays messages, such as warnings that the card is about to expire or reasons that access was denied. If a card is lost or an employee terminates, canceling access takes only moments. It also takes only moments to enter changes to authorization.

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Biometric systems offer the greatest level of security and include iris, fingerprint, and voice scanners. However, they come with a much higher price tag than other access systems. What's more, the numerous access points at an airport make biometric access control systems impractical.

How Much Does an Access Control System Cost?

With so many variables, arriving at an accurate estimate without knowing your particular requirements is impossible. However, the following estimates should aid you in budgeting and comparing proposals.

  • Pricing varies by the number of access points and users. On average, a keypad or card-based system costs between $1,500 and $2,500 for one door, fully installed.
  • Prices drop as you add doors, to around $1,600 per door. System security panels typically handle between one and 16 doors.
  • Install prices do not include cards. Blank cards average around $5, printable cards cost around $8, and key fob cards cost around $9.
  • A standalone keypad lock and keypad access point starts at around $400.
  • Biometric systems include the biometric technology, network, and electronic locks. Systems start at around $10,000 and go up significantly from there.

Additional hardware, such as ID printers and door alarms, raises your costs. However, the system's cost should include support – whether online or via telephone – and maintenance. Typically, this only includes the first 12 months after your purchase, but most vendors offer extended warranties as well. Look carefully at the support and don't focus solely on price when comparing access control systems.

Additional Considerations when Buying an Access Control System

Before signing any contracts, consider the following:

  • Backup: Is there a backup system for accessing an area? What happens if someone loses a badge or forgets a code? Keypad backup isn’t necessarily secure, since keys are easily lost or duplicated.
  • Door preferences: Latch handles, door knobs, lever handles, panic bars, and double-sided doors are all optional considerations.
  • Durability: Consider the traffic an access point receives each day, not just the number of users, to help determine the actual use you expect the point to receive.
  • Easy to use: You want an intuitive system.
  • Scalability: Do you expect to see changes in staff size or the number of authorized users? Does the system grow easily with you?
  • Technology: What kind of network access does the system require? Does your facility have reliable networking and power supplies to ensure the system works reliably?

When comparing quotes, look closely at the proposal. You need to be sure you're making an accurate comparison. If one quote includes technical support and another doesn't, that isn't an accurate comparison. Ask each vendor for a detailed explanation of the costs listed, including hardware and installation.

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Author: Ashley Smith


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