Weighing the Contactless Cost

If an access control system can combine convenience with a high level of integrity it will be popular with end users, many of whose employees may view security as nothing more than an unavoidable obstacle in their daily working lives. But for any access...


Contactless-based technology provides a secure means of establishing control over access and egress and achieves this without causing unnecessary delays. Add to this the lack of downtime, which may be incurred by other technologies through replacing readers and cards, and the minimal cost differential can become a non-issue.

So, when looking at the cost of contactless systems compared with swipe card-based systems, there are two main points to be addressed: the initial outlay for the system and the ongoing costs.

Not long ago a contactless reader's cost was approximately double that of a standard magnetic swipe card reader, whereas now there is little to choose between them. The reasons are that contactless readers have no moving parts, are usually more durable, and benefit more than swipe card systems from economies of scale. With no moving parts there is less chance of the readers malfunctioning, so they offer a solution with a long life cycle. This translates into financial savings to the extent that the initial outlay for both swipe card and contactless systems is on par. Contactless smart cards cost do between two and three times what swipe cards do. However, this differential is tempered by the fact that a contactless smart card has a much longer life span and is less likely to be damaged.

This is not to suggest that contactless smart cards are ahead of swipe cards in all respects. Swipe cards may offer a more feasible solution at sites where the workforce is largely transient. However, in many applications the additional security and cost efficiency offered by a low-maintenance contactless smart card system may prove more attractive.

Stephen Neff is vice president of sales and marketing for LEGIC Identsystems Ltd.