Posts Tagged ‘ RFID Card’



What is an Access Control Smart Card?

Written By:
Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Smart card

Smart cards are generally a plastic card that has an embedded microchip and possibly a micro-processor. These chips can store data or process data. The data is usually associated with information and a value and transact with the card’s processor if it has one. Systems that can greatly benefit from smart card technology are inventory management, people management, time card and attendance, access control, and health care. Really anywhere you want to monitor and or limit access to an area you can see the value in smart cards.

Smart cards have been around for decades in many types of applications. Two applications that seem to have been around forever would be ATM/credit cards and calling cards. In the phone cards the magnetic strip made the card a “smart” card. It stored information such as showing how many minutes you had on the card per a calling zone or country code. If you called outside of the country you activated the card in, you typically got fewer minutes as it costs more to call different countries.   ATM/credit cards carry considerably more information in their magnetic stripe. Going down the road to 1999, people found you could get devices to read peoples card at range. For example if I had the right device I could read your card while in your pocket. Then clone your card and start spending your money. I know because it actually happened to me.  Basically using the reader the criminals could make dummy cards of my original.

Newer smart card technology works off of layers of materials. These cards are made of pressed or laminated polyester or PVC. Inside of the basic smart card is a small chip with a copper wire coming off of it wrapped into many windings.  This card is set to a certain frequency. Your card reader picks it up as a specific number value. This value corresponds to a column in a database. This typically lets an individual gain access to a restricted area or areas. The database has to have the card added to allow access to these restricted areas.  This type of card, sometimes referred to as RFID passive smart card, has no information of value stored on it. They have a number printed on the back of them and that is the value you must enter into your database that controls the access. The range on this card is 10 centimeters. Most people end up tapping the card to the reader.

Memory smart cards have the ability to store and delete and that is it. Institutions that have implemented this force wide are the military.  These cards shine for soldier record keeping. Before a soldier had to carry paper records between duties stations as they were moved about the world. This was open to many issues from loss to tampering with. Most soldiers have two files. The first is your 201 file that tracks where you have been and what you have done in your career with the military. The other file is their medical record.  The 201 file is important to limit access to as external threats may use them to try to impersonate personnel to gain access to restricted areas, or set themselves up for early promotions. The medical file is extremely important as it has your medical history contained. Past surgery’s and health issues that doctors need to know now. Instead of waiting for the paper file to show up, now with a swipe of a card all information can be realized.  Memory cards can be fitted with different storage sizes depending on your needs. As cards of this type are straight memory cards your reader would need to be configured to read it. Readers are not smart in that they have an auto detect feature to determine card type and protocols needed to read the card.

Micro-processor cards in the family of smart cards are engineered for high security encryption protocols and counter measures. Smart cards of this type are designed to allocate memory into separate sectors for storage for files assigned to a specific function or application. Built inside of the card are the microprocessor and a battery.  The CPU operates similar to a standard PC processor in the sense it does have an operating system with capabilities that permits different and multiple functions. The ability to run different applications and types of data gives the card versatility the early cards just did not physically allow for. With the ability of these cards to have applications on them other types of security encryption can be used further prevent tampering and cloning of cards.  The technology allows secure identification of the individuals and allows updates of information with card replacement. This can lower programming costs and enable re-usability as updates and changes come out. Similar to a PC when updating the operating system. You download new information install it and configure it, you would not just run out and buy another computer. The card does have to have power in many cases. A small battery will be installed inside of the card.  Some card manufactures designed the card for the battery to be replaced others do not. Buyers beware on which card you get as this can turn out to be a hidden cost on an already expensive system.

There are many configuration options for the chips for cards in this category. Cards with smart chips can support cryptography public key infrastructure to Java, so they are very versatile.

The form factor on these cards varies. The card most people have seen is about the size of a standard credit card but considerably thicker. That style accommodates both RFID and smart cards.  Another style with several variants is the key fobs. They can be the size of a key fob for a car, some smaller than others. All can be smart but few if any allow for battery replacement.  Another newer style is a sticker the size of a nickel and about 2 mm thick. That is great for sticking to a cell phone or other device you have all the time.

Access control cards come in many shapes and size with many different features. Always make sure to read and ask questions before purchasing yours.

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The Benefits of an Access Control System in a Business Environment

Written By:
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
Access Control In a Business

In today’s business environment, many companies have realized the benefits of having an Access Control System in place at their office buildings, industrial parks, and other facilities. However, there are still many companies that wish to rely on the old fashioned lock and key system. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of a properly installed and configured Access Control System.

The most obvious benefit is no longer making copies of keys and worrying about who has a copy of your keys. Beyond that obvious benefit, comes the ability to restrict a person’s entry by time of day, day of week, or even permanently revoke their rights on a specific date; as you may wish to do with an outside contractor who has a definitive last day that they should be entering a facility.

You can also implement an enterprise wide system that will allow specific users access to only one door and allow others access to as many doors as you have in the system. All while using something as simple as a RFID card, finger print, pass code, or other form of identification. This would allow you to issue a credential to the CEO of the company that opens all of the doors in all of the facilities of your enterprise while issuing the exact same type of card to a Janitor who is only allowed entry at 1 door during pre-set hours and days of the week.

Taking it a step further, you can require multi-factor authentication. That is to say you may require a user to present a card, enter a code, and provide a thumb print in order to gain access to the more sensitive areas of a facility. You can mix up the number and types of authentication required based on the persons role, the sensitivity of the area, or other business standards.

Moving well beyond simple allow/deny entry methodology, an Access Control system can be integrated with payroll departments to confirm that an employee arrives on time, and can provide alerts to appropriate managers and human resources if an employee fails to show up at an expected time. This could help in quickly allocating resources to fill in for missing personnel rather than wondering if someone is in the building or not.

A well designed access control system can also be either directly integrated with a CCTV surveillance system or used stand alone with basic time look-up based on events. For example, if you’re concerned that someone is presenting someone else’s credentials to gain access to an area they are not meant to be in, you can easily look-up who presented the credential. Furthermore, you can take immediate action in restricting the misused credentials to avoid any unauthorized access until disciplinary action can be taken.

Access Control Systems can, and should be integrated with any Fire alarm panel. This will provide faster egress in the event of a fire by allowing otherwise locked doors to be used as a point of exit in the event of a fire. No one needs to fumble with keys or worry about which doors are locked. A system can be configured to accept an input directly from the fire alarm system to the access control system to trigger unlocks of all doors.

In extremely secure environments, you can also design access control to provide an audit trail that would allow you to quickly and accurately determine which users entered which areas of a facility and the path they took to get there. This will also provide you with a detailed idea of who may have been present at the time of an incident. For example, if an employee slipped and fell but claimed no one saw it, you would immediately know who might have been in the area as a witness to the event.

There are a wide variety of types of credentials available to authenticate a person for access control. Some are as simple as a pin code; some are more invasive requiring finger prints, facial scans, or even an image of the veins in a wrist or hand. The most common method currently deployed in commercial applications is the card reader. This has been deemed “secure enough” for most applications. However, it can be greatly augmented with the use of another factor of credential such as a pin code. Many people are willing to “loan” their card to a trusted friend, but most are unwilling to also provide their entry code.

You can take security even further by integrating your access control system with your burglar alarm panel. It is not common that you would want the Access Control System to notify law enforcement. Usually a denied credential or mis-typed pin would not be cause for an alarm. However, there are situations that would be appropriate. You may for example, configure a “duress” code that all employees are given. In the event they are forced against their will, they could enter the “duress” code and trigger a silent alarm. They could then present the legitimate code to gain entry, with the knowledge that the appropriate law enforcement department has been notified.

You can also say goodbye to costly locksmiths. While it’s true that the initial installation of an Access Control System is significantly higher than that of a standard lock and key system. The “lost my key” syndrome is easily resolved with a simple phone call to the administrator of the system. If configured: the administrator may even be able to unlock the door to a building from anywhere in the world. Combine that ability with a well-designed CCTV system and they can also verify who they’re granting access to before they release the lock. Issuing a new credential is trivial in costs with the average RFID card being around $1 USD.

In conclusion, a properly configured, well integrated access control system can save a business time, money, and lost man hours. It can also provide an extra level of security and safety features that greatly enhance traditional building level security and safety systems.

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