- Looking to save money on your next order of access cards? Are you replacing cards frequently due to loss or breakage? Contact us today to find out what solutions are available to improve your bottom line.
- Visible ID offers many different brands of access control cards. Not sure which one is right for you? Contact us for more information.
- With many new options for prox cards on the market, how can you be sure you are getting a quality product? Contact us and we can explain what your options are.
- Did you know you can personalize your prox cards by printing information right onto the card? There are even ways to personalize a card and reuse it, further reducing your costs. Contact us for more information.
There are a wide variety of contact and contactless smart cards currently in use. The terms “Smart Chip Card, IC Card, and Smart Card” all refer to the same type of card. Smart cards have a chip embedded in them which can be programmed. Smart cards can store over 100 times more information than a magnetic stripe and they can be reprogrammed to add, delete or rearrange data.
There are a variety of printers on the market that can print on these kinds of smart cards. Encoding or programming the electronic devices on these cards is typically accomplished by an external encoding or programming device, but contactless smart card encoders integrated into the card printer are becoming increasingly available.
Access Control Basics
Access control systems restrict or permit entrance to a secure area, based upon credentials which a person wishing to gain entry must present. There are three general types of credentials which commonly describe progressive levels of security for access control. They are:
- something a person has, such as a key, debit card, access badge or passcard;
- something a person knows, e.g. a PIN, security code, or password; and,
- something they are, typically a biometric input, e.g. fingerprint, facial recognition, iris recognition, retinal scan, voice, or hand geometry.
Historically, being in possession of a simple key was sufficient to gain access to many areas. For example, home security was originally considered effective simply by using the locks on the front door. As security risks became more common, people began to install home alarm systems which required a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to be entered when gaining access to the home. This is a basic example of a two-factor home security system. In a very simple sense, your family recognizing you as a family member is a basic example (although not a particularly safe one if it is an intruder) of the third level of credential. Automated access control systems which incorporate all three types of credential as a requirement are considered most secure.
Access badges (or digital keys) use various technologies to identify the holder of the badge to an access control system. The most common technologies are barcodes, magnetic stripe, proximity, RFID or and smart cards. The access badge contains a number that is read by a card reader attached to a computer system that makes the access control decision based on information about the credential. If the card information is included in the approved access control list, the system unlocks the controlled entry point. The transaction is stored in the system for later retrieval so that reports can be generated that record who gained entry and when and where.
Since biometrics refers to various methods for uniquely recognizing humans based upon one or more intrinsic physical or behavioral traits, they satisfy the requirements of the third type: something a person is. A human characteristic can be analyzed for suitability for biometric analysis in terms of the following parameters:
- Universality – each person should have the characteristic.
- Uniqueness – is how well the biometric separates individuals from another
- Permanence – measures how well a biometric resists aging.
- Collectability – ease of acquisition for measurement.
- Performance – accuracy, speed, and robustness of technology used.
- Acceptability – degree of approval of a technology.
- Circumvention – difficulty to use a substitute.
A biometric system can compare the trait in conjunction with other credentials, or independent of other credentials. If used alone, the system attempts to identify individuals by relying on a comparison of the captured biometric template with records in a database and then retrieves the closest match from the pre-registered data. However, for stronger security, biometrics lends itself well for verification of an individual’s identity when used in conjunction with a smart card, username or ID number. The biometric template is captured and then compared against the stored values for the registered user in the database. If the system does not find a sufficiently close match, the user is not authenticated.
Proximity cards (or Prox Cards) is the generic name for contactless integrated circuit devices used primarily for security access control applications or payment systems. They are similar to contactless smart cards, but are passive, read only devices. Proximity cards contain embedded RFID antenna and can nominally be read from distances up to 10″. There are a number of proximity technology cards available, depending on your hardware, supplier, and specifications.
Prox cards do not require contact with the card reader which allows very quick and convenient authentication that often allows the user to leave the card in their wallet, pocket, or purse. The price of these cards is increasingly economical, and available from suppliers like Visible ID.
Smart Card Advantages
Smart Cards for Access Control
Smart cards have improved the security and convenience many transactions by providing tamper-proof storage of user and account identity. Smart card systems have proven to be more reliable than other machine-readable cards, such as cards with magnetic stripes and barcodes. Smart cards also provide vital components of system security for the exchange of data throughout virtually any type of network. They protect against a full range of security threats, from careless storage of user passwords to sophisticated system hacks. The costs to manage password resets for an organization or enterprise are very high, thus making smart cards a cost-effective solution in these environments.
Contactless smart card technology is well-suited for access control applications. It provides higher levels of security than traditional access control technologies and the platform from which additional applications can be implemented on the same credential. There are products available on the market today that provide an affordable migration path to smart card technology while protecting customer investments in existing infrastructures.