It’s Time to Show Your Customers the Benefits of Smart Card Access Control

Find out how to effectively match the correct single access control card to customers needing to secure campuses and other areas.

OPENING a door with anything other than a metal key was once unimaginable, but electronic “keys” are fast becoming the standard in commercial facilities of all types. Although much of Asia and Europe have already adopted contactless smart technologies as the new standard for security, transportation and identity management systems, its adoption in the United States has been hampered somewhat by misconceptions regarding its capabilities as well as privacy issues. However, as end users become familiar with the unprecedented combination of security and convenience offered by these products, industry experts are projecting the trend of using credentials for multiple transactions will continue to accelerate, gaining even more traction in the next three to five years. Educational and healthcare campuses are particularly attractive markets for this solution.

The growing popularity of smart cards has resulted in an unprecedented number of options, which can have the unfortunate side effect of making clients feel overwhelmed by the selection process. As a result, it’s more important than ever for security integrators and consultants to function as trusted advisors who can help their clients successfully navigate the difficult process of finding the right products for their specific needs.

Many people try to select credentials by leading with the technology. Instead, they should be finding out about the user, the applications and the culture. The right technology will follow once those things are understood. Erik Larsen, Allegion

Your expertise can play a critical role in helping customers understand the many factors that they need to consider, including facility age, credential management platform and protocols, budget and long-term security strategy. However, it’s important to remember that anyone can sell products, but if you want to build the trust necessary to cultivate long-term clients, your primary goal should always be to provide the best solutions for their needs.

The Contact vs. Contactless Decision
Smart cards are typically credit card-sized, plastic credentials containing a microprocessor chip that serves the dual functions of communication and extensive data storage. Although it is packaged in the form of a card, it operates like a PC in that it can store data, manipulate data and perform functions like mathematical equations.

In the same way that keys unlock various rooms in a building, smart cards normally contain application fields/sectors secured by special, application-specific security keys. These sectors can contain information for various applications – such as access control, cashless vending, mass transit and payment systems – securely separated from one another by security keys.


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Smart card credentials can be contact or contactless. Contact cards are similar in operation to mag-stripe cards in that they must be swiped or inserted into a reader to be read. They are recognizable by the gold chip visible on the outside of the card (which must make contact with the reader). If you recently received a new credit or ATM card, you probably noticed one of these chips on the face of it.

Contactless smart cards utilize RFID technology, which may appear identical in operation to a proximity card to the average user. However, contactless smart cards have 100 times the information storage capacity, work on a different electromagnetic wave frequency and have far greater data security than a traditional proximity card. Although most new applications of smart cards appear to be heading toward contactless smart technology, contact smart cards are still the standard for logical (computer) access and other applications, such as payment systems.

Contactless smart cards utilize RFID technology, which may appear identical in operation to a proximity card to the average user. However, they are very different.

6 Key Questions to Consider
In any given facility there are multiple openings to secure, and multiple people who need access. Helping your clients understand their credential options and what credential works best will be an important part of planning and implementing their access control solution. Issues to review and consider include:

  1. Are they choosing a networked system where issuing and managing card credentials makes sense?
  2. Do they need to integrate cashless vending with their credential system?
  3. Will they be integrating time and attendance into their access control system?
  4. Are the locks being accessed in an interior or exterior location where weather may be a concern?
  5. How deeply will they want to monitor each user’s access and movement within the facility?
  6. Does everyone have the same level of security clearance or is there a need for multiple security/access levels?

“Typically security, technology and usability are the key priorities,” says Erik Larsen, national account manager – electronic integrators for Allegion. “The goal is to balance priorities for each organization.” But he points out that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to access control and security. The key is to achieve a balance. “Many people try to select credentials by leading with the technology. Instead, they should be finding out about the user, the applications and the culture. The right technology will follow once those things are understood.”

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