Different facilities face different security challenges. But one dilemma many companies, educational institutions, government organizations and public entities have in common is how to marry their varied data systems, access control and support functions using a single badge or card. When the facility director decides to take on this challenge, the card's access control technology must be one of his or her key considerations. The potential ancillary functions of each technology could also play a role.
Bar coding on badges affords staff the ability to associate the badge holder with items he or she possesses. Just about anything that a bar code can be attached to thus becomes fair game for accounting issues. Bar codes can provide a unique link to the on-duty security officer as well. Wand-type bar code readers have become handy in verified security patrols. Facilities are outfitted with bar codes located along the patrol routes. The patrolling officer first reads his or her own badge's bar code, then uses the wand to read the location bar code, thus ensuring security rounds are being correctly performed. The information from the wand can then be downloaded to a software program.
Magnetic stripe on the badge allows more applications to be used to augment visual identification and bar code inventory issues. Magstripes provide low to medium security, depending on how they are configured. Magstripe affords the ability to engage any internal database that uses the magnetic stripeÃ¢â‚¬â€whether it's access control or notÃ¢â‚¬â€as long as the information is encoded on the same track within the stripe. The latest magstripe readers can read any combination of the three tracks if necessary.
Adding proximity features to the single card creates an additional level of convenience and security. Proximity card technology is based upon radio frequency identification. The reader reads the card as it comes near the antenna. Antennas are the conduits between the prox chip and the transceiver, which interfaces with the application being used. The reader then emits radio waves, and depending upon its power output and the radio frequency used, the readable distance from the reader is variable from an inch to hundreds of feet.
When a proximity badge passes through the electromagnetic zone, it detects the reader's activation signal. The reader then decodes the data encoded in the badge's chip, and the information is sent to the server for processing. Using a PIN in conjunction with a magstripe or proximity badge allows for additional authentication in case the badge is lost or stolen. Some software also allows a record to be maintained of those badges attempting and failing to gain access at the reader. You are keeping a record not only of those programmed to be given access, but also of those who tried and were not allowed access.
The next progression of card access uses applications resident on integrated circuit chips within the card itself. The card can then act as a microprocessor by allowing an immense amount of information to be accessed, processed and stored on- or off-line. Some types of smart cards have recently become cost efficient in comparison with proximity cards on the market. Currently, cost efficiency is measured by the number of applications the card is intended to support, but chip parity is making smart cards overall a more cost-effective solution for the future. According to Jim Coleman, president of Operational Security Systems in Atlanta, GA, the trend in badge access control is moving from the proximity/magstripe configuration toward smart card implementation.
Smart cards can store hundreds of times more data than a standard card with a magnetic stripe. Contact smart cards transfer information or applications through the module that connects with either a terminal or a card reader. Contactless smart cards, similar in design to the proximity card, use a transmitting antenna to communicate with a receiving antenna to transfer information.