SALES & MARKETING – The Merits of Selling ID Badging
When it comes to access control systems, Wiegand, biometrics, proximity, mag strip, smart card, anti-passback, scheduling, fail safe, fail secure are just a few of the many terms both system resellers and end users hear every day in the news and trades. Aren’t we missing something here; is this all that access control provides?
What about after the system has been installed and the security dealer is looking for new sources of revenue, and the end user is looking to control operating expenses? What is this missing element?
The word we are looking for here is badging. Badging is a key application area of access control, which surprisingly is often misunderstood by system dealers and corporate security directors alike. Badging is basically defined as any technology that deals with the creation or use of security cards or badges.
Badging technologies — which include cards, readers, printers, and card accessories — can be very challenging for dealers and users in that they are the one system element that is in constant daily contact with system users. Though the unit cost of badges is low, the overall cost can be higher than expected. The proper selection of various badging technologies can lead to a more economical and happier operation for everyone.
Taking a Look Inside 7 Types of Badging Technologies
Following are close-up explanations of the seven main types of technologies behind most of the ID badging systems currently on the market.
Bar Code — This is considered a lower level badge technology. However, in many applications it is the technology of choice due to its very low cost.
Bar code is a proven and reliable technology as long as it is applied properly with the correct equipment and accessories. A good example of poor product selection is the difficult time everyone has having their show cards scanned at trade shows.
Bar-code technology is often mixed with other technologies on a security card to give it extra versatility. A higher level of security can be achieved through the process of embedding the bar-code pattern in the cards’ laminated layers and/or using different light filters to make what appears to be a blank spot on the card actually a bar-code pattern.
Recently, 2-D bar-code technologies have begun appearing on badges in increasing numbers due to the amount of information that can be cryptically encoded in the rectangular 2-D bar-code pattern. Manufacturers such as Datastrip and its 2Dsuperscript technology can take a 3-inch X 0.7-inch area on a card and hold as much as 4MB of information. This is ideal for storing multiple biometrics, photographs and pages of text. Bar-coded cards are often used either with a laser-scanning wand or a swipe-type reader with the average life at around 16 to 30 months. Reader lenses will require some cleaning maintenance.
Barium Ferrite — Cards that use this technology have small pieces of magnetized metal embedded in the card. The polarity and locations in the card are used for coding and encryption. These cards can have a high level of security.
Certain manufacturers, such as Secura Key, have taken many of the early maintenance and wear problems of barium ferrite readers and cards and created a newer patented technology called the touch card. This allows for an open-face type reader where the card can simply be placed near or against the reader face. This allows for low maintenance and longer-than-normal card life compared to earlier versions.
Magnetic Strip — This is still by far the most popular access card technology worldwide. Since it is used on everything from credit cards to your driver’s license, it is a technology that many users are familiar with, adding to its popularity. Card data is usually found on two out of three tracks on the magnetic tape. Today’s badge printers can encode and print their cards in the same process.
Most mag-strip cards use a swiping action, thereby increasing wear on both the card and reader. This technology is recommended for low to moderate security levels. Typical applications would include membership in clubs, parking lots and turnstiles. They can also be used with existing time and attendance or financial cards.
Bartizan Data Systems makes a compact reader system that will read and extract mag-strip data from driver’s license cards. This gives an idea of the versatility of such a commonly used identification technology. Visitor mag-strip technology, like the Bartizan IDDective, can assist front-desk security in getting information on who is visiting a facility.
Wiegand — This technology uses an embedded small array of encrypted polarized wires so when the card is swiped through a reader, it creates a specific sequence of data to identify the user of the card. Wiegand technology was the leading high-security technology before the cost of proximity cards dropped.
The Wiegand market has been under pressure from both better magnetic strip technology and considerable price reductions in proximity technology. It is still considered to be a very high security form of card technology.
Infrared — This technology is still used in applications with encoded patterns such as bar-code printing, in which special filters and infrared scanners are used. Infrared patterns and with hologram jackets are used for extra security and durability.
Proximity — The leading contactless badge technology. The prox badge uses either passive or active RF technology. Leading manufacturers of proximity cards, such as HID, claim to have more than 200 million cards, fobs and keys worldwide.
Passive proximity cards have no internal power and typically get their momentary power by having a signal induced from a reader’s radio signal. The proximity card has a coil and microchip electronics embedded in it. Once a signal is generated from the card’s antenna, an acknowledgement signal is sent to the reader identifying the card.
This whole process is typically completed in microseconds. This technology also uses the popular term RFID, or radio frequency identification. Modern badge printers can print and encode RFID cards at the same time. RFID is another form of longer-range proximity technology.
Smart cards — Also known as chip cards, these are small plastic cards similar to credit cards that have a microchip containing memory and, optionally, a microprocessor. Memory cards (smart cards with memory, but no microprocessor) offer PIN-protected access to the data stored on them, but cannot perform encryption within the card.
Smart cards include security features to resist tampering. A smart card user authentication code (password or PIN) is needed to authenticate the user before providing access to the contents in the microchip. Smart-card technology can also be mixed with other proximity technologies for a longer life, contactless intelligent card.
Card-Printing Technology Comes in 3 Forms
There are basically three ID printing technologies in use today: direct-to-card (DTC), reverse image and thermal inkjet.
The card printer can be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment in the badging system. Sales personnel should have a good understanding of the technologies and which application fits the buyer’s price point.
George Kennedy, national sales manager for Avery Photo ID Systems, identifies three main issues in selling badging hardware. “The customer’s price point, compatibility with customer’s security culture and customer’s needs, and ease of use,” he says.
DTC printing is one of the most popular desktop ID printing systems. Images are printed directly on the surface of the plastic card by a heat transfer process that passes a special ribbon between the thermal print head and the card.
Another process is reverse image techn
ology, where the digital thermal printer first prints an image on a special thin film, which is then fused to the surface of the security card. Because of the lamination process, the card is durable and has a high print quality. This technique also offers the advantage of being able to print on a large variety of cards.
Dye-sublimation is a process that is capable of printing smooth, continuous- tone images. A thermal print head (TPH) is used to transfer multicolored panels of yellow, magenta and cyan (YMC) to the card. The ribbon will move back and forth several times to create all the colors needed for clear graphics. Some ribbons will also include a black panel as black from YMC combinations can look a little muddy. The ribbon compound is actually fused onto the printing surface, making for a very durable bond.
Resin thermal transfer is another heat printing process in which only small black dots are printed to provide a very sharp and dark, print for detailed lettering and 2-D bar-code patterns. Also, the composition of the printing is such that both infrared and visible scanners can read it better.
The thermal process is not a printing technique that many PC-literate people are familiar with at first. Andy Matko, Ultra Magicard’s marketing manager, states, “From our experience, the dealers have a good knowledge of the benefits of thermal technology. The issue is more about educating potential end users, for whom thermal is often a complete unknown due to the world being full of PC inkjet printers.”
Thermal printing technology can either be a pleasant or painful experience for the customer and dealer alike. This often depends on how well the printer was selected to the card stock being used and the type and application of the cards, such as contact or contactless.
For the salesperson, some good homework and training can go a long way. It is also recommended that maintenance programs serviced by experienced trained technical personnel be put in place for happy and well informed customers. Thermal printing is a demanding technical process (see “Tech Talk” on page 30) but can provide excellent results for all.
Make Money After the Sale by Learning to Love Consumables
Everyone in the security industry is always talking about the merits of recurring revenue. In the printer industry, the buzzword is consumables.
Any experienced printer technology salesperson will see there is money to be made in consumables. It is a fact of the card-printing operation that the customer will use plenty of ribbons. Simple card wear-and-tear and replacement will help add more sales to the printer.
Matko adds, “A typical life of an ID card printer is five years. Over that period, the sale of dye-film ribbon will typically equal the sale price of the printer. Additionally, replacement card sales can very from as little 10 cents for a blank card to several dollars for a multiapplication contactless card. Printing costs are around 30 cents to 60 cents a card as well.”
Don’t forget badge accessories as well. Security badges need to have holders, lanyards, etc. Get onboard with a card accessory supply house for some extra sales as well.
New Excitement Is Afoot With Visitor Management Systems
While standalone visitor management systems have been around for some time, new integrated technology applications and the need to expand 9/11-type security measures have created a form of visitor management redux.
Security directors are realizing that doing a better job at catching a potential security threat at the front door goes a long way in creating a safer working environment. In the past, extra guards added to operational costs and extra manual processes slowed up the busy daily flow of visitor traffic. New high-tech visitor badging automation can now help overcome these hurdles.
New visitor access and management systems, like Honeywell’s Lobbyworks platform, can provide some exciting features.
When a visitor enters a lobby, they can either pass their driver’s license or business card to a security officer or, in the case of a low-volume lobby, can directly enter commands and have their card scanned by a video screen kiosk. Character recognition will read the business card or license data, including mag-strip data, into a visitor database.
This data can then be compared against government and private profile lists for suspicious activities. The information can also be checked against a previous appointment list that was made in the company system, either over an internal or Internet network connection.
Software for these systems is intelligent enough to recognize aliases, such as Bob for Robert. It can also allow for the importing of existing visitor data logbooks and even text-to-voice notification. Due to its communication capabilities, one interesting application is visitor management for large management companies that oversee visitor activity at multiple sites.
Rich Montalvo, regional sales manager for Honeywell Access Systems, says, “A lot of companies just don’t know about new visitor management technology like the LobbyWorks system yet, but should find it exciting when they do.”
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