Unlock the possibilities of QR codes in access control

Derek Wang

In the last year and a half, QR codes* have become increasingly prominent for usage across different industries where low-touch solutions are even more sought after. Within access control systems, QR codes are often used as a credential for temporary and time-limited access to manage entry for visitors, employees, or deliveries. While traditional plastic cards are still in use, these often are lost or shared between visitors making it difficult to control who is getting access to your premises. In contrast, using QR codes as credentials can be a more secure and efficient way to control access to the business.

QR codes in access control systems

A QR code, which stands for quick response code, is a type of two-dimensional barcode that stores data that can be read and processed by a machine. Given its ability to store more data than a standard one-dimensional barcode, as well as its flexibility, QR codes are a good option for usage as credentials in an access control system in which the QR code scanner becomes the reader.

Managing a QR code as a credential in an access control system is quite straightforward compared with the traditional card. The system can quickly and easily generate a unique QR code for a cardholder which can be set to allow access for a limited time period and number of uses, and entry to specific doors or areas of the building; just like a traditional card access system.

Once the QR code has been generated, it can be emailed directly to the recipient (or cardholder) for them to display on their phone or print out if required. This can then be presented to the QR code reader, which scans it and forwards the data to the access control system to confirm the access rights. In some cases, a camera or video intercom at the door doubles as the QR code reader, thereby serving multiple functions.

Enhanced security – Dynamic QR code

A traditional QR code is static, which cannot be changed or updated once created and distributed – this also means it is easy to copy, making it not ideal for high-security demands. In these cases, having a dynamic QR code is ideal. That way the QR code can be updated and changed even after being created and distributed, while at the same time keeping all the aforementioned benefits of a QR code-based access control solution.

Dynamic QR code-based solutions remove the security risk of credential copy, since a screen copy, photo copy, or even a video recording of the dynamic QR code will not work. Combining it with a multi-factor authentication solution, such as a PIN, will further increase the security level of the QR code-based access control solution.

Why QR codes for access control?

In addition to the security benefits, there are a number of reasons why organizations would choose QR codes over traditional plastic cards for access control:


Thanks to the virtualized credential option, a QR code is a very cost-effective access control solution compared with the traditional physical card or key fob based access control solution. It not only reduces the costs of purchasing, handling, printing, distributing and disposing of physical credentials but also saves the cost of installation since you can utilize existing video intercoms or cameras. The organization can simply install a QR code scanning application which requires fewer components, making the whole solution easy to manage and maintain – ultimately reducing the total ownership cost.

Efficient and convenient

Using a QR code as the credential can be very helpful for improving the efficiency of managing access control systems. A QR code can be generated, distributed, updated and revoked in a matter of seconds, and it can be done remotely from anywhere that allows for a highly efficient system management solution.

It is also very convenient to use, suiting the priorities of the mobile-first workforce.

In a typical situation, an external visitor receives a QR code on their mobile phone, which grants them entry into a facility or parking area without having to stop at the front desk. Another typical scenario is the management of late deliveries when there is no staff present. The supplier, with the QR code already on their mobile device, can simply display it in front of a video intercom or camera to gain access to specific areas at a facility.


A QR code effectively provides a virtual card, removing any requirement of plastic cards or key fobs, or even printed paper, thereby having a positive impact on the environment and carbon emissions.

How QR codes helped a smart building in Germany with access control

A digital start-up center in Germany faced the challenge of having people with varying access rights. The building, located on a university campus, contained coworking areas that could be used 24/7 by registered individual users, including students and entrepreneurs, and also had offices rented out to start-ups. This set-up created unique requirements to provide open accessibility to the building, but also to ensure the security of offices and materials at all times.

A solution with QR codes provided the needed flexibility of changing visitors and varying arrival times. A co-worker could, for example, rent a day pass online, which would include a temporary QR code that granted access to the booked space in the building but no further. The arrival time could be adjusted remotely if necessary. Regular visitors like students could be set up to only get access during the opening times of the university, while entrepreneurs would have unlimited access to the building (and key cards for doors and elevators indoors).

The QR codes also allowed security operators to track who entered the start-up center at what time. A feature that provided an overview of the number of visitors and could be useful in case of an alarm to trace back who was on the ground. Network surveillance cameras on-site added the possibility to identify individuals on video if needed.

Combined forces: Enhance QR code access control with network audio and analytics

Overall, QR codes help to improve access management in different applications. Turning access control into a contactless and convenient task adds more efficiency, removes friction and contributes to a more sustainable approach – with reduced costs for maintaining cards and other physical solutions.

Combining QR codes with an intercom isn’t the only way to enhance access control. For a vehicle access system, adding network speakers can be useful to inform the driver that the access is denied, or that the QR code has expired. An alert can be triggered if necessary. If cameras are integrated into the system, a denied access or an alarm caused by a door that was forced open could also trigger the recording of the entrance, capturing relevant video evidence. As contactless solutions grow in popularity, the options to extend solutions are numerous and will only increase in the future. Organizations should look to incorporate QR codes into their security systems to reap the many benefits of enhanced access control.

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*QR Code is a registered trademark of Denso Wave, inc.