HID Rethinks the Card Business

Sept. 25, 2007
Virtual credential movement paints a picture of the possible future for access control hardware

Earlier this summer, as part of the SIW Radio podcast program we do, Privaris CEO John Petze was on the line to talk about a unique key fob that merges a number of different "card" communication technologies with a biometric fingerprint scanner. The fact is that we all are more and more likely to carry additional cards; there's the prox card to your building, maybe one to a membership facility, a card issued by the IT department for network access, possibly another card for a remote office. While that multitude of cards may not be common for the average employee, Privaris saw the potential for merging a number of cards onto a single device.

Fast forward to ASIS International 2007 Seminars and Exhibits, which is occurring as I type in Las Vegas, Nevada. Privaris has been announced as a technology partner with big-time identity, card and access control reader company HID Global, manufacturer of the almost ubiquitous cards and readers used in corporate access control.

What's unique is that two employees of HID Global are telling me how excited they are about a new development, one that puts the "card" inside Privaris fob. Their technology involves a "master card" of sorts loaded with what would be the normal card data information (the card's identifying number, for example). This loaded card, known as the idBank, is really a host of sorts, designed to move the kind of information used by HID access control designs onto third-party devices like the one from Privaris. The future, says Daniel Bailin, director of product management for this "virtual credential" movement in HID, may not always involve the card. The "card" could become a Blackberry, or the common cell phone or a device like the one from Privaris.

That's a shift for the industry, says Bailin, "because often we use the words credential and token as if they are interchangeable," but Bailin says that kind of mindset is not quite right, but occurs because for so long the token (a physical card) was the place that a credential (information that provides some sort of user verification/identification) lived. Now with new devices coming available that can serve as the token to host a credential, the credential is truly separated.

That's where the new technology/service that HID Global is unveiling at this show comes in. The HID idBank service is designed to solve that problem, providing the credential info data in a protected unit that has to be virtually unlocked by the user. Apparently, says Bailin, getting a credential onto an alternative type of token (like a Privaris fob) isn't such an easy process as it might sound, because the process can involve issues regarding the chain of trust.

"That's not such a problem in a corporate facility where all of the card issuance process stays inside the building," said Bailin, "but if we start to put these credentials (stored on the idBank) on a FedEx truck to send to the user or to their supplier to add to their tokens, then it's a different story."

Without getting into the exact technology, the idBank solves this; helping move the credentials onto any compatible physical format the user is choosing to use.

So, does this mean HID is getting out of the card business, as one person in our industry asked me? No, it's nothing that dramatic. It seems the company is fast recognizing that a plastic prox or iClass card may be one way to carry our access control tools, but with changing times and changing user needs, the card may not always be the most preferred method. HID, with this Privaris partnership and the move into this HID idBank service, seems to grasp that you just might rather carry your Crackberry, Nokia or Privaris fob than your Indala Prox card...and they see no reason as to why that should limit their business.

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