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The Big Expansion in the Use of I D Access Cards

Sep 8, 2008
As with all useful technologies, the explosion of ID cards has been dramatic in recent years. Everywhere from football grounds to hospitals and schools, colleges and universities and even individual houses now have their doors controlled by an access system

As can be expected, the wide variety of techniques used to provide an access card, or identification card has also greatly grown of the past few years. Ranging from simple photo ID cards, through bar coded cards and magnetic strip cards all the way up to contact-less radio ID cards, and every combination inbetween, identification technology has become big business.

In the old days, staff members would be issued with a photographic card with their name and position on it, and if they needed access to an area, they would be issued with a key for that door. Keys are good because they rarely break, and they are simple to replace if they become damaged or another one is needed. Unfortunately this is the main reason why keys are vunerable - anyone can make a copy and then your security is breached. If a master key is stolen or lost, the cost can be incredibly high - do you risk leaving the locks as they are, or does every door need to be re-keyed and then each staff member issued with a new key... the long term costs of a key only system can be very high.

A key only system has an additional limitation - there is no way to keep a record of entry times. This means that a criminal can enter the building at any time and leave again unnoticed. Few businesses and facilities cannot afford this to happen.

Door access can also be restricted with a key pad access system. This method can be stand-alone, where each secure door has its own access code, or they can be linked back to a main controller. Upgrading doors with a keypad access system is simple, and can be very effective. Each authorised user must learn and remember the access codes, and this sometimes provides a temptation for secure doors to be propped open, thus over riding the security. Users must also be careful to preven unauthorised users from seeing their code, or the lock becomes useless.

Bar code and magnetic code access cards have some of the characteristics of keys - they can be lost, but they are more secure in that it is difficult for the average person to create a copy of the card. If the system is linked to a central controller, then the times of access can be monitored, and an advanced system will spot if the same card is used in two places within a very short period of time which would not be normally possible.

Just like keys, bar code and magnetic code access cards can be lost. This is actually a common occurrence with access cards, because staff are constantly getting the cards in and out of their pockets. It is all too easy to leave the card lying around or for it to fall out of their pockets. However, combined with a keycode access system, card and code systems provide a very high level of security.

More recently, non-contact technologies, using RFID for example, have become available for use. These cards fo not wear out because they are read from a distance. It is now possible to gain access to a door without even taking the security card out of your pocket. This is ideal for areas which used to suffer from doors being left open because of the "hassle" of the old security systems.

Doors will always need to be secured, and a non contact access card seems to be the best option at the moment given the costs of technology and ease of use on a daily basis.
About the Author
Finley is a writer and security analyst who represents 'The Cardnetwork' (http://www.thecardnetwork.co.uk), the most popular producer of ID Cards,
ID card printers and supplies in Great Britain.
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