Access Control Lingo: A Glossary of Terms

Whether you’re working in property management or the vacation rental industry, you may have engaged in a conversation recently about access control. If you found some of this access control lingo confusing, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, RemoteLock has compiled an essential glossary of terms. Read on to ensure you can “talk the talk” and understand it all.

Access Control

A method of managing access points and door lock types on a given property. Such a system often involves software designed specifically to communicate with smart locks and/or hardwired doors to allow or prohibit entry at property doors.

NOTE: Access control can sometimes be used when referring to managing access to software or other company assets by remote workers. To differentiate from this type of access, some may use “physical access control” when referring to methods of managing the access of employees, guests, residents or others at a physical location.  

ACS (Access Control System)

Historically, this term refers to a door system that’s hardwired into your property’s power supply, requiring its own panel and wiring to operate. Such a wired system is a very secure, reliable solution for heavy-traffic doors that need a constant source of power versus batteries, which would need replacing too often.

NOTE: Today, an access control system refers to a comprehensive solution that can manage both smart locks and wired doors. 

Algorithmic PIN Code

A series of numbers (a PIN) generated via software by an algorithm, which is also embedded in a smart lock’s physical hardware. Because the PIN sits locally on the hardware, validation occurs without the need for a wireless connection. Once entered into a keypad, the PIN code unlocks the lock.


A wireless technology that allows the exchange of data between different devices. Bluetooth uses short wavelength radio waves to transmit information and generally only works within a limited distance for the devices to stay connected.

Cloud-Based Access Control

Software that allows users to remotely control and manage doors and gates via an internet-connected device like a smart lock or wired door. 


A virtual key that allows access in keyless entry systems. Access credentials include PIN codes, RFID cards and key fobs, or a variety of mobile credentials. 


To design software, a computer, etc., so that it can still be used in the future, even as technology evolves. For example, RemoteLock’s platform is designed with an open API and Lock Connector, allowing new software integrations as well as door lock types to be easily added. So, users can feel confident that their access control solution won’t be outdated when something new and shiny comes out down the road. 

Hardwired or Wired Door

A door system that’s hardwired into your property’s power supply, requiring its own panel and wiring to operate.

NOTE: In the past, wired doors were considered the totality of an access control system, which is not the case today with modern access control solutions. 

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is the process of connecting objects and devices to the internet to enable them to “talk” to each other while being managed and monitored. Smart locks and access control software work via IoT. 

Key Fob

A small access credential or virtual key that users often attach to their key rings or credential lanyards. A key fob or fob is embedded with access permissions and, once within range, allows access to doors, elevators, parking garages, etc., on keyless entry systems.  

Keyless Entry

A method of gaining access to buildings via an access credential without the need for a mechanical key. Smart locks and hardwired doors accept the credentials to allow entry. 


No, not the stuff that makes up our physical world. We’re talking about the newest wireless technology developed through a collaboration created by the Connectivity Standards Alliance. Matter is a unified IP-based connectivity protocol that’s royalty-free and enables communications among a wide range of smart devices.

Mobile Credential

A type of access credential. Also known as smartphone access, a mobile credential acts as a virtual key through one of several types of technologies loaded onto a mobile phone to grant access to doors, elevators, parking garages, etc.

Near Field Communication (NFC)

A proximity-based wireless communication standard. Unlike Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, however, NFC interaction is limited to an extremely short range. 

PIN Code

A type of access credential. Also called a PIN, this code is entered into a keypad on a lock to grant access to doors, elevators, parking garages, etc.


A small part of a wider digital transformation, proptech is a collective term used to define the application of technology to real estate in order to raise revenue, drive efficiency, enable better service or power transactions.

Proximity Card

Widely referred to by several names, including RFID, prox or key card, this access credential comes in card form. Like a key fob, a prox card is embedded with access permissions and, once within range, allows access to different door lock types, including elevators, parking garages, etc., on keyless entry systems. Most prox cards operate on a lower frequency (125 kHz), are unencrypted and have a limited range.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)

A technology that embeds digital access permissions into a card or key fob, which are captured by a reader via radio waves.

Remote Access

The ability to control and manage access points remotely from software designed for this purpose via the internet on a laptop or smartphone. With remote access a user can easily issue remote door lock and unlock commands, create access schedules for users and more.

NOTE: Remote access can also refer to the ability for an authorized person to access a computer or network from a geographical distance through a network connection.  

Scalable Access

The ability of hardware or software to continue to function well when it is changed in size or volume in order to meet user needs. In the access control world, systems that work well for a few door lock types may  not necessarily be designed to operate efficiently when door volume increases significantly. 

Self-Expiring Access Code

A PIN code that is generated from access control software with set beginning and end times and/or dates. For example, with RemoteLock, you can design an access schedule for a maintenance crew with a code that only works from 8 a.m. to noon on a certain day. 

Smart Card

Like an RFID or prox card but with expanded functionality. Smart cards have rewritable, larger memory, so the data stored on it can be changed. For example, it could unlock an office door and then be used to log into a computer. Smart cards use a higher frequency (13.56 MHz) and are generally more secure than RFID cards due to higher levels of encryption, but also have a limited range. 

Smart Lock

An electromechanical lock designed to lock and unlock a door when it receives instructions from an authorized device using a wireless protocol and a cryptographic key to execute the authorization process. It’s also commonly called  a Wi-Fi remote lock, referring to one of the most popular wireless protocols used.

Technology Stack

A technology stack is made up of the infrastructure, data, services and programming languages that power a software application. For example, property management companies turn to proptech providers to find and create a tech stack that suits their needs and optimizes property operations.

Universal Access Control

An access control solution is universal if it 1.) is cloud-based, 2.) offers a wide variety of hardware choices, 3.) controls all doors, including hardwired ones, elevators and parking garages, 4.) easily integrates with existing property management software, and 5.) aggregates the many technologies of your customized system on one easy-to-use platform that’s both scalable and future proof. See RemoteLock


A wireless technology used to connect computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices like smart locks to the internet. Wi-Fi is the radio signal sent from a wireless router to a nearby device, which translates the signal into usable data.


A wireless mesh network technology similar to, but not as prevalent as, Z-Wave due to its shorter range.


A wireless technology. Z-Wave technology requires a gateway (usually a hub) to connect to your Wi-Fi network. It runs on very low power and works on a completely different radio frequency that doesn’t interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. Z-Wave is known as a mesh technology as each device or point in the network acts as a repeater and passes the signal on to another device. The more Z-Wave products you have, the more you strengthen the network. That’s why it’s popular as a smart-home technology, powering lights, sensors, thermostats, etc.

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Molly Worth

Senior Writer

Molly Worth is RemoteLock’s senior writer and editor, and is enthusiastic about making tech topics relatable and enjoyable. Prior to joining RemoteLock, she worked at several Denver ad agencies, and was instrumental in creating and fine-tuning brand voices for both national and local clients. Infused with her belief in the power of technology to simplify everyday living, Molly’s writing helps highlight the human benefit of technology for novices, experts, and everyone in-between.