The real strength of the smart card is its ability to suit individual needs in diverse applications. Encryption allows the data to be securely transferred through wired or wireless systems and networks. Smart cards used in the health industry can assure both doctor and patient that the integrity of personal information will not be compromised. Health facilities can enhance security even further by adding other identifying characteristics such as biometrics. Individual patient information is embedded in the card itself, thus reducing the amount of paperwork and record keeping. Smart cards also enable worldwide applications such as secure logon.
A Growing Trend
Jim Cregge, president of 4K Security Services Inc. in Alpharetta, GA, says more companies are moving toward an identity management protocol that enables end users to manage all their information and data from a one-card solution.
"Many companies are using a combination proximity card and smart card as a transition step, on the path to an eventual one card solution for identity management, access control, personnel identification and other ancillary applications. Companies are concerned about the exposure they may have about data penetration, especially in the log in/log out phase of data access," said Cregge, who is presently working to integrate all the systems of one large, well-known company into a one-card solution.
The ability to work with the company's information technology department in preparation for the transition from a prox card solution to a smart card solution is critical to the change. "At shift change time one day, you can change out the old cards with the new smart cards, reprogram the databases to accept the new card number and you're on your way to a fully integrated identification management system that is efficient, manageable, and will allow future expansion and the ability to add applications," Cregge said.
In the university setting, cards can be used for class registration, buying food, laundry services and banking functions. Charges can be made through the card and sent to the parent's home for payment or accounting. A set dollar amount can be created in a student's account, and if the student approaches the limit, he or she is prompted to add money. A single card acts securely to access information and make everyday transactions more convenient.
When Mirant Corporation recognized a glaring need to implement an efficient and effective single-card solution, the company's director of corporate security and facilities, Frank Cirillo, quickly formulated a matrix of the card applications currently in use. "At the time, Mirant had seven or eight different badges and access cards running the gamut from access control, visual identification and inventory control to database access. The first thing I did," said Cirillo, "was to get all the players together, all the people who defined the needs of the corporation, to include the vendor, and developed a matrix of every card and what function they were performing. Over the years, instead of looking at integrating the functions and needs into a single card, each department opted to use tunnel vision and not look at the values associated with an integrated system and controlled their individual access procedures. We came up with a solution very quickly."
The solution was a Sensormatic access control system that used Software House's C-CURE 800 software and HID Prox Corporate 1000 cards. Only three people were authorized to order new cards from the manufacturer. Limiting the number of people who could authorize additional card purchases eliminated the unauthorized procurement of cards that could be used to grant access to all the systems in place.
Cirillo reduced the types of badges to two: employee and contractor. Employees were given 24/7 access to all general areas, and specific location access could be added based upon need. Contractors were given access only during normal business hours, but could also add additional access times based on need. Mirant has 27 locations in the United States, but all card access privileges are granted by the office in Atlanta. Offices in the Philippines, Bahamas and Jamaica use stand-alone systems but are the same in configuration so that all employee badges can access any facility in the corporation.
"The biggest benefit that came out of the effort was getting us out of carrying the seven or eight cards around all day and night to just do your job. A big waste of time and additional costs to maintain different systems was eliminated," Cirillo added.