Ask the Expert

Ensuring only the right people enter and exit a facility is the core principle of access control. It is extremely important that only approved people have entry authorization. Access control can be managed in different ways, but one of the most popular and effective methods is with identification cards. A multitude of different ID cards is available. How can you use them for your next security installation?

ISSUE:What are some ID card choices?

SOLUTION: The most common form of access card is probably in your wallet right now: the magnetic stripe card. Found on the back of credit cards and most driver’s licenses, these black magnetic stripes contain information. Once swiped through a reader, the information taken from the card allows the user to complete a transaction or enter a building.

Newer forms of magnetic stripe cards, dubbed “smart cards,” have small chips that can store more information. Smart cards are more functional and secure than other alternatives and can include biometric data to offer an even higher level of security.

ISSUE: What are the latest advances in smart-card technology?

SOLUTION: Newer versions of smart cards enable contactless technology, which means that the card does not need to be passed through a reader. RFID technology only requires the user be close to a reader for the card to be used.

Implementing an access card system within your security apparatus is made even easier by products that allow cards to be made on-site. Schools and businesses can take a picture of an employee or student and feed the image into the printing software. The card printing machines will then produce a working version of the organization’s identification card to use.

Some universities have extended their use of ID cards with smart-card technology and may require students to swipe their cards before gaining access to buildings such as the library or dining facility. Further functions enable tracking of student meals through the ID card; parents can even create an account to deposit money into, which the students can access through their campus ID smart cards. They also can access other bank accounts, such as personal checking or savings, effectively making the campus ID card an ATM or debit card.

ISSUE: What factors should businesses consider when implementing an ID program?

SOLUTION: Businesses can use any variation of the ID card to ensure only approved personnel enter a building. Functions also can allow either full or restricted access to a facility—you can define admission only to certain areas or grant admission only at certain times. The control can even be extended to immediately invalidate a terminated employee’s card or to approve access for temporary employees or vendors requiring longterm access to the facility. Of increasing importance today is the ability to centrally and completely disable an employee or student ID when their permission to use the campus has been removed. Organizations that use these cards also may have the ability to track information on a user’s location, habits and interests.

ID cards are an essential tool for access control and secure organizations. It is now easier than ever to implement ID cards in a security system. Talk to a security integrator about the benefits and start making money by implementing the technology as soon as possible.

READER QUESTION: I operate a small manufacturing facility.We have a need to strengthen security in one sensitive area and are considering adding a biometric device. But a fingerprint reader will not work, as our employees often have their hands full with heavy parts. That might also make it difficult to use a retinal scanner. Do voice or other biometrics work reliably, and are they affordable?

SOLUTION: Mr. “Hands-full” probably would be best served by using a smart card or at least a proximity card that does not require anything additional. If high security is really necessary, a retinal scan device or even a voice recognition system may be useful. But these systems are in the higher price bracket and require more intimate contact, which many people object to. In a shop environment, it is possible these devices could be affected by dirt and high noise level.

Another solution could be to use a combination of prox card and video recognition system, especially if video is going to be deployed anyway. The card reading can call up an anticipated profile in the video system and do a facial recognition test, comparing the template to the live image of the presenter. The integrated access control/video system then decides whether to grant access based on how close the presenter is to the template on file. Facial recognition technology is still evolving but currently has good accuracy, is fast, is reasonably priced when added to a video system and is definitely user friendly. Once installed, accuracy can be raised by tightening the acceptable parameters of the facial recognition software. A secondary advantage is the ability to record on video all valid and invalid entry attempts.

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