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Current and Future Applications of I D Access Cards

Sep 8, 2008
Smart cards, access cards or what are commonly known as ID cards (identification cards) are used for a wide variety of reasons. Originally used simply for door access, or even access through turnstiles, access cards are now typically connected to a computer and therefore much more can be done with them - this is why they are now often called smart cards.

One application of a smart identification card, or smart access card is to monitor attendance at a place of work. In the old days, paper punch cards were used to clock-in and clock-out again, including at lunch and mid-morning breaks. With the advent of smart cards, this is now done electronically. Complicated systems will relay the user's time of arrival to the back office computers and this can even be used to work out monthly payments and so on. Computerised smart card systems can therefore be used to analyse staff attendance and even flexi time completely automatically.

Another use of smart cards is in the control of access to restricted areas. Rooms that used to be controlled by a simple key system are now often controlled with a smart card. This card is typically swiped through a reader, or held against a sensing point, before the door will open. Even higher security can be achieved with an access code combined with the smart card. The security achieved with this dual approach is much higher than a simple key system because even if the smart card is stolen or duplicated (just like a key could be in the past) access still cannot be achieved.

Another addition that is often made along with smart access cards is the application of a CCTV system, or closed circuit television systems. With the advent of digital hard disc recording, a trigger from an access point can activate the recorder for a pre-determined length of time. A timestamped record of the access is the ultimate in high security because there is definitive proof of the person who entered a restricted area. Because of the high availability of digital hard disc storage, many hundreds of hours of recordings can be kept at a very low cost of ownership.

The advent of radio technology such as radio frequency identification (RFID) has yet again revolutionised the application of access cards. These days it is not even necessary to remove an access card from your wallet to do what would once have required a key. The radio technology means that a passive access card (that is, one without a battery) can be used to uniquely identify the owner, and the features such as the granting of access or time keeping functionality can be done without the user even lifting a finger. Add to this an automatic door opening system and the world of the future has arrived!

So, where is the world of smart card technology heading next? It is of course not possible to second guess what the developers are going to come up with next, but it is fair to say that the use of radio technologies will only increase in the future. Already, RFID technology is used in the passports of many countries. Car manufacturers are sure to be close behind in an attempt to improve the security aspects of their cars, and of course to gain an edge on their competitors. It is possible to assume that very soon a car will be able to use radio technology or contact-less smart cards to unlock the doors, possibly also with an automatic door opening mechanism, and that if you sit in the drivers seat it will automatically start up the engine ready for you to drive away.

The days of mechanical swipe cards are now well and truly passed, and modern technologies continue to advance in the field of access cards.
About the Author
Finley is a copy writer and web designer who works for 'The Cardnetwork' (http://www.thecardnetwork.co.uk), the best known manufacturer of ID Cards,
ID card printers and card supplies in the UK.
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