Converting Corporate Data Into a Single-Badge Solution

As companies expand through financial growth, acquisitions and mergers, they often add facilities in other locations to enhance their market position. Because our business environment is expanding beyond the United States into the global market, new...

To minimize the cost of changing to the standardized protocol, the team may opt to use multiple badge protocols on the existing access control system. The protocols may be defined in software allowing two or more badge protocols to exist at the same time. This eliminates a total conversion to a new badge for every employee at those sites. Some manufacturers of access control systems do not allow software changes that add different protocols. In these cases multiple protocols must be handled in firmware. Firmware changes require an EPROM chip to be programmed and placed in the field equipment. One potential problem with incorporating multiple protocols in the same access control system is different protocols can only be used if they have different bit lengths. For example, it is not possible to have two protocols for a 37-bit proximity badge.

Multiple protocols must be handled in the access control system. The technology in the badge is limited as far as the number of protocols. For example, Wiegand and proximity cards only hold one number. Magstripe cards can hold up to three numbers, one on each track—but the problem is, the new company standard should specify the track to be used. The readers of magnetic stripe badges must also be set to read a certain track. Smart cards could have multiple protocols, but allowing both protocols to be used at the same time would require a substantial and expensive programming effort.

Using an existing technology and a standardized protocol would minimize the transition costs for the sites that already use either the standard technology or the standard protocol. Employees at these sites who travel to other sites that have a different protocol, but utilize the same technology can gain access, assuming the system can handle multiple protocols. If they travel to sites with a different technology, they must still carry multiple badges.

The sites that already have the desired technology and will incorporate the desired protocol will experience little conversion cost impact. The badges can be replaced on some basis other than a total site rebadge. For example, the badges could be replaced when old badges no longer work or are lost. Another approach is to stagger the employees' rebadging times—changing the badge on the employee's hire date, for example. This approach would allow all badges to be replaced within a year.

At those sites that do not already utilize the desired badge technology and protocol, new badges must be manufactured, access control systems modified or changed out, and the access control database loaded with new credential numbers to accept the new badge standard. This effort requires funding and time. Employees traveling from these sites must also carry multiple badges to gain access to sites that haven't yet made the transition.

It will take quite some time to transition the company to the standardized technology and protocol unless a tremendous amount of money is spent.

Creating the Roadmap

The technology and protocol have been chosen, as well as the method to implement them. The team should now evaluate each site listed on the spreadsheet and calculate the costs to convert them to the standard. They may need outside technical support to make this calculation. Each manufacturer's system will differ in configuration. Often it is necessary to work through a dealer that sells the equipment to make any changes to the hardware or software. The dealer in turn would interface with the manufacturer to make the needed changes.

Once that information has been gathered and placed on the spreadsheet, the team can develop a roadmap that includes costs, a plan to convert every site to the new standard, a timetable to complete the conversion, and badging cost during transition. The team should present the roadmap to upper management, explaining the issues that will arise at the site level.

One issue that must be addressed to upper management is the fact that when employees have access to other sites, controls must be in place to address the level of access the visiting employee should be given. The only reasonable way to address these issues is to give each site total control of its own access control system. General access for an employee should be automatically approved for any company site. However, to gain access to restricted readers, the visiting employee must go to the badge room and the credential number in their badge must be loaded into the database. General access should be automatically given and restricted access would require a sponsor such as a local manager, in the same way a local employee would be sponsored.