A PACS (Physical access control) is a mechanical form and can be thought of physical access to a room with a key and type of access control system used as an electronic security counter-measure. PACS can be used to control employee and visitor access to a facility and within controlled interior areas. Within the federal government, compliant PACS solutions are made up of three distinct components, which are the: (1) Infrastructure, (2) Certificate Validation System and (3) Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Card Readers.

The PACS Infrastructure is made up of many compatible and interoperable software and hardware components that may include the software application and server (head-end), database, panels, door controllers, and a workstation. The PACS Infrastructure typically interoperates with Card Management System or Credential Management System (CMS) Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Video Management Systems (VMS), and Visitor Management Systems.

The line is often unclear whether or not an element can be considered a physical access or a logical access control. When physical access is controlled by software, the smart card chip on an access card and an electric lock grants access through software (see checklist: An Agenda for Action for Evaluating Authentication and Access Control Software Products), which should be considered a logical access control. That being said, incorporating biometrics adds another layer to gain entry into a room. This is considered a physical access control. Identity authentication is based on a person’s physical characteristics. The most common physical access controls are used at hospitals, police stations, government offices, data centers, and any area that contains sensitive equipment and/or data.

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