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How Does Anti Passback Work? (Simple Guide)

James McKellar August 4, 2021 7 min read

You have probably encountered one of these systems without knowing you have, as they are fairly common within the world of security, with a lot of companies utilising anti passback technology. 

The name anti passback pretty much summarises what it does, and it is a fairly popular feature in a lot of types of access control. Think of anti passback technology as an add-on that can be attached to a lot of different types of access control systems and not a form of access control on its own.

Today, we are going to be looking at anti passback as a whole, how it works, its features, the benefits and more. By the end of this article you should have a good understanding of the technology.

To summarise, the article will look at the below:

  • Anti Passback Basics
  • Features of Anti Passback
  • How to Work Anti Passback
  • Anti Passback Benefits 
  • Industries That Can Use Anti Passback
  • Anti Passback Summary

What is Anti Passback?

Anti passback is a form of access control system that does not let the same cardholder return through the system twice in a short period of time. This is to avoid card misuse or sharing, meaning that multiple people will be able to access secure areas without the proper credentials.

Typically, for an anti passback system to work correctly, you need to have entry access points and exit ones. This allows for the access control system to manage the flow a lot easier. 

There are a lot of different forms of access control used with anti passback from Proximity Access Control to Biometric Access Control, and everything in between.

There is some room for error, as you may accidentally scan your card or miss your entry window and then be locked out of the system, which will mean you need to be granted access manually. 

Some anti passback systems have a time out, so you can re-try your card after ‘X’ amount of time has passed. 


Key Components of Anti Passback

User Credentials

For an anti passback system to work, you will need to supply your users with a tag, this is their information on a small carry-able object. Think of an ID card or Key Fob, which stores the user’s data and permissions.


The initial point of contact for the user, the entrance will grant access when the credential is placed on the scanner. Once the tag is read and accepted there is typically a count down allowing the user to enter, and a ‘cooldown’ period where they cannot re-enter outside of this window.


The exit does not always need the credential to be swiped or read, it can sometimes be opened using a button or motion sensor. It varies from system to system, but it is recommended to be a different place to the entrance to allow data to be separate.

Reader / Scanner

As with the other elements of an anti passback system, this will differ depending on your core access control system. Effectively it does the same thing, the reader or scanner will collect the information from the user’s tag and grant or deny them access.

Access Control System

This is the management software for your anti passback system. This will control who has access, when credentials have been used, the ability to manually grant someone access and more.

Security Staff (Back End)

You will need to have someone overseeing the anti passback technology, as there can sometimes be hiccups and people trying to re-enter. This is often just someone making a mistake, but can be a sign of foul play.


This is where certain users can access. If you only have one area controlled by an access control system, then you are likely to give everyone the same permissions. If there are highly sensitive areas or secure locations, then you can limit who can access them with reduced permissions.


How Does Anti Passback Work?

To keep it simple, anti passback systems work by not allowing the same credential through the access point twice within a short period of time.

This can have drawbacks in certain instances. For example, if you need to go back out to get something from your car, you are unable to re-enter until the timer has counted down or without being granted manual access.

Each system is slightly different, but as they all have near-identical base steps, let us look at how an anti passback system works.

Step by Step - Using Anti Passback Technology 


Step 1 - Install Your Anti Passback Technology

As we have mentioned, anti passback is part of a wider access control system, so will be installed as part of that technology. You will need both an entry and an exit to fully utilise the system.


Step 2 - Issue Credentials 

Next, you will need to set permissions for each person who needs access to your locations. Each person will get a form of unique identifier which will be linked to their permissions and level of access. This could be anything from an ID badge to a Key Fob, to Biometrics.


Step 3 - Users Tap or Scan In

Once they have their credentials, your users can tap or scan into the entrance using a reader. These are typically short-range so will work by proximity or tap technology. Think of this as similar to a Contactless payment card.


Step 4 - Time Window Starts

Once the tag has been scanned, there normally is a window of time for the user to enter, once this time has expired they will be unable to re-enter. This then starts the cooldown, which is a customisable amount of time they cannot scan their credential on this entrance again.


Step 5 - Manual Re-Entry Required

If the same user wants to get back into the entrance outside of this window or tries re-entry, they will be denied. Anti passback systems are often paired with security staff who can be on hand (or telecom) to manually grant access. 


Step 6 - Tap to Exit 

The final, and sometimes optional step, is tap to exit. This means that you have effectively left the system, and could check back in. This comes in handy if you need to leave again within a short period of time, such as going back to your car because you have forgotten something.


What are the Benefits of Anti Passback?

Operational Benefits

Credentials Can Be Paused 

To keep your locations secure around the clock you can control who has access to the system and when. Obviously, we have alluded to the fact you can limit multiple entries within a window of time, but you can actually pause the tag entirely.

To put this into context, if someone does not work on the weekends, you would not allow them entry on a Saturday or Sunday, or only allow them to enter within ‘X’ minutes of their shifts.


Check Out to Check In

One of the operational benefits of an anti passback system is that you can set it so a user has to check out before they can be granted entry again. They will need to tap their credential on the exit gate or door before they can re-enter the area.

This can limit, if not eliminate two people trying to use the same credential or ID. In addition to not being able to use the tag twice in a short period of time without manual intervention. 

General Benefits

Simple to Use

Having a system that has little to no learning curve is great from both an implementation standpoint and a user standpoint. Anti passback is built-in to an access control system, so only needs a short explanation of not re-using the tag and tapping to exit.

To ensure better technology adoption, businesses need to choose systems that benefit the user, or at the very least are designed with them in mind. This is why anti passback is so successful across all industries it is deployed in.


Keeps Locations Secure 

Finding ways to reduce and sometimes even eliminate external and internal threats at points of ingress and egress is at the crux of security. Utilising anti passback technology does exactly this and more. 

Being able to customise your anti passback system gives even more security and control over your locations and who is entering them and when.


What Industries Can Benefit From an Anti Passback?

It is not hard to find an industry that would benefit from implementing anti passback technology within their access control system. With this being said, there are definitely industries that would benefit more from this technology being installed. 

Let us have a brief look at some examples of industries for anti passback technology.

  • Airports and Transport Hubs
  • Retail
  • Industrial 
  • Freeports and Storage Facilities
  • Stock Rooms 
  • Warehouses
  • Prisons
  • Hospitals  
  • Pharmaceuticals 
  • Medical Facilities 
  • Highly Secure Areas
  • Logistics 
  • Theme Parks 

To speak in plain terms, anywhere can use anti passback technology, but it works better for businesses that want to control and limit how often people gain access to a certain area. Highly secure locations would benefit from this the most and maintain flow control.


The Anti Passback Industry

As we see more and more companies and industries embrace and utilise Access Control technology, we will inevitably see more anti passback systems come into place too. 

The two have a positive correlation and come hand in hand for a lot of businesses. Although not every access control setup needs anti passback, every anti passback needs access control, so their fates are ultimately linked. 

As we shift away from the traditional lock and key methods and move towards keyless entry systems, we will see more and more reliance on technology such as anti passback to ensure our security.

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It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

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James McKellar

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