Intrusion detection devices alone do not make up an effective security system. Security systems must have a controlling method acting as the traffic cop to manage and disseminate what the devices detect.

In its most basic form, the security system contains a security system control panel, which houses the electronics to monitor and supervise the electronic intrusion detection devices, an alphanumeric keypad used to arm or disarm the control panel and provide status of the system, and a telephone dialer to contact the authorities.


The control panel is software driven by the use of a factory programmed computer chip known as firmware. The firmware contains all of the information the control panel needs for the user to develop operating parameters using the alphanumeric keypad. An example of required information includes: type of intrusion detection devices installed, detection zone definitions, time schedule for when the devices should monitor for intrusion, entry exit delay, supervision to tell when a device is tampered with, user arm/disarm pass codes and the authorities’ telephone numbers. These basic features are most commonly used in all security systems and do not require use of a dedicated computer to manage the information.

More sophisticated access control systems have a feature set to monitor and control alarms at the access control computer. Until recently the systems lacked the ability to arm/disarm the alarm zones at the protected space. Typically alarm zones were either time scheduled to automatically arm/disarm, or an authorized user would manually perform the function at the access control computer. Due to the recent demand by users for increased security measures, access control manufacturers have been integrating the characteristics of the standalone security systems into their access control systems. The use of arm/disarm alphanumeric keypads is a standard in the access control system’s security monitoring and control feature set.

Protected Space

Keypads may also control user access to a protected space. The use of keypads in combination with a card reader add an additional level of security by requiring the user to present an access card to the card reader and then enter a valid personal identification number into the keypad in order to be granted access by the access control system. There are several different varieties of keypads available from numerous manufacturers. Keypads are available with either an LCD alphanumeric display or a basic LED indicator display. Alphanumeric display keypads are more sophisticated than the LED models due to the firmware and application programming requirements of the access control system.

Some access control systems now use keypads to not only grant access to a protected space but also to separately arm or disarm an intrusion device or group of intrusion devices. This feature has become an invaluable tool for adding an additional layer of protection to a security-sensitive area. Arming and disarming intrusion devices can be achieved a couple of different ways. Either by the entry card reader and/or keypad, or a separate keypad installed inside the protected space. When an access controlled door is unnecessary or impractical the space can be protected by the arm/disarm keypad. Therefore a protected space can still be monitored for alarms by the access control computer, yet additionally allow access via the arm/disarm keypad located inside the protected space without requiring user intervention at the card access computer.

These features have made it easier for the administrator of the access control system to manage intrusion devices not associated with an access-controlled door. From the access control computer, the administrator can easily perform many tasks, including receiving real-time status of the protected area and force arming a protected area that is unoccupied. Given that the personal identification numbers are an integrated element in the access control system user database it is convenient for the system administrator to manage and track each user’s PIN at any associated keypad. With these added features available in a standard access control system, the end user has the additional tools necessary for the protection of critical assets.