Are You Using the Correct Card Readers in Your Access Control System?

Or more importantly, are your cards or fobs the right technology for today? In the last 15 years there have been a number of innovations in credential technology that have created a far more secure information transfer between card and reader than the days of magnetic stripe access control cards. The move away from magnetic stripe cards and readers was driven in the marketplace more by the convenience of contactless proximity technology than the desire for a more secure information transfer. Proximity cards and readers have become the dominant technology installed for at least the last 5 to 10 years. Unfortunately they are no more secure than the magnetic stripe.

Smart cards began to appear in the marketplace in the early two thousands initially as a contact card meaning the card had to be inserted into a reader for it to be used. Smart cards contain a microprocessor that can be loaded during printing after printing or from the manufacturer itself. It provides a much more secure information transfer from card to reader and they are now available in contactless form as well. Manufacturers are producing generation three or greater of smart card technology, making them more robust in their information carrying capacity and better securing the information on the card as well as during transfer to the reader. Because there is more information on smart cards and encryption is used, the read time for a smart card versus a traditional proximity card tends to be slightly longer than the instantaneous proximity card read.

Smart cards are now priced in line with traditional proximity cards. So why have we not seeing a faster adaptation of smart cards by end-users? We are seeing it, but it takes time and is costly in large systems. The actual card user though, gains no tangible benefit as when the move from magnetic stripe to prox; driven by the convenience of not aligning and sliding a magnetic card through a slot.

Organizations should be taking the steps now to prepare for smart cards in the future. All organizations should be strategically planning to remove traditional prox technology from their access control systems due to the extraordinary ease with which prox cards can be cloned; completely undetected by the system when used. If you have a smaller system or you are deploying a brand-new system you should be deploying smart cards and readers system wide. If you are a larger system and wish to migrate in a controlled manner, all new readers that you are installing moving forward with adds and changes to your system should be multiformat readers capable of reading the traditional prox technology and the smart card technology. The costs for multiformat readers are not very much more than traditional prox readers.

Mobile credentials are now in use as well and many multiformat readers available today can be upgraded to read smart phone credentials in the future. Smart end-users should plan now so that the next access control project they do is preparing them for the future move to smart card technology.