Top 7 Best Types of Access Control Cards

Types of Access Control Cards

Access control is quite critical in many systems right now. It serves as the first line of defense against those wanting to access a room or facility without proper access. There are several tools in place to make this possible. One of them is the use of access control cards.

These access control cards are available with different technologies. It is important for you to understand which technology is available, how it works, and where best to use them. That is what this guide is all about. You will be exposed to many cards to help you choose the right one.

 

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Technology Overview

If you have had a hotel room before, you probably used this as the key to access the room. The card features a magnetized strip of material containing the information the card reader needs to authenticate it.

The data is encoded onto the card by altering how the strip particles are magnetized. This leaves the card with a distinct pattern that represents the key information.

You will come across multiple magnetic stripe cards. Options include high coercivity and low coercivity.

The high coercivity or HiCo is a type of card that offers great durability and performance against data corruption. This makes them useful for applications that involve frequent use of the card.

As for low coercivity or LoCo, you will find them more susceptible to wear but uses less energy to operate compared to the HiCo models. Such features make them useful for applications that demand less frequent use of the card.

Applications

  • Financial transactions such as credit and debit cards
  • Identification and access control, including employee identification and membership cards
  • Transportation sector working as public transit cards
  • Hotel key cards for managing how people access their rooms

Pros

  • Cost-effective solution
  • Many existing systems are already in place
  • Have a simple encoding process
  • Affordable

Limitations

  • Limited data storage
  • A few security concerns

Proximity Cards

Proximity Cards

Technology Overview

Proximity cards use RFID technology to communicate with the readers before authentication happens. To make this possible, you will find that the card comes with an antenna and a chip for processing the demands of the card reader.

You will come across RFID cards later in this list and wonder what the difference is between the two. As much as they both use RFID technology, we see that proximity cards have a limited range of frequency of operation. Most of them would use the 125KHz frequency. As for RFID cards, they can operate on a larger band of frequency.

Of course, a limited frequency range means the read range is also limited. This makes the proximity cards more suitable for access control as someone has to be close to the reader for additional identification if necessary.

Applications

  • Access control systems such as a secure entry or time and attendance tracking of employees
  • Work as identification badges for employees and visitor management
  • Parking access for automated parking systems in a building to enhance convenience

Pros

  • Contactless operation
  • Higher security levels
  • Fast authentication
  • Versatile operations

Limitations

  • The range is limited
  • Card cloning issues

Smart Cards

Smart Cards

Technology Overview

Smart cards feature an IC chip that processes and stores verification data. The smart cards are available both in contactless and contact forms. The contact cards will require inserting them into the reader before the information is read. As for the contactless cards, they can be read wirelessly so long as they are within the read range.

The overall storage capacity of the smart cards is better than what you get with magnetic stripe cards. This makes them better at handling diverse information. Also, having an on-board chip makes the cards better at speed, security, and other features.

Applications

  • Credit and debit cards to add more security measures in place and improve performance
  • Some countries issue smart cards as IDs to their citizens
  • Healthcare systems can have insurance cards as smart cards
  • Transit cards used for public transport can also be smart cards for convenience and frequency of use

 

Pros 

  • Improved overall security
  • Better versatility for multiple uses
  • Improved storage capacity
  • Contactless cards enhance convenience

Limitations

  • The initial cost of implementation is high
  • Might have compatibility issues with older systems

RFID Cards

RFID Cards

Technology Overview

Radio frequency identification or RFID is one of the reasons we have the best access control cards on the market. This technology uses radio-frequency waves to allow communication between the reader and the RFID card.

The typical components of the RFID card include the antenna for communication and the RFID chip for processing and storing the data.

With RFID, you will come across several operating frequency bands. They are classified as low frequency(LF), high frequency (HF), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). There can be additional classifications, but these are the major ones.

You will also find the RFID cards as either passive or active. Passive means they have no power source as part of the card, while active means there is a power source. The job of the power source is to enhance the read range of the RFID card.

Applications

 

  • Expect these cards to ensure secure entry into different facilities and employee identification.
  • It is possible to use them for managing inventory in a warehouse too thanks to their ability to help with tracking assets
  • Patient tracking is also possible with these cards in the healthcare system
  • You also get to see them used for contactless payment systems

 

Pros

  • Easily scalable access control cards
  • Improved durability even with frequent use
  • Better data storage capacity
  • Fast and contactless operations

Limitations

  • Some cards have a limited range
  • You may experience interference from some electronic devices or metal surfaces.

Biometric Access Control Cards

Biometric Access Control Cards

Technology Overview

Biometric access cards can be described as smart cards with additional biometric authentication methods to make them more secure.

Some of the common biometric features include fingerprints, facial recognition, palm prints, and more.

As you can see, in addition to having the usual smart card, the user must go through an additional biometric check to verify their identity and ensure it is the same person the system expects.

These cards feature a better data storage option, which is vital for additional authentication if necessary. The matching process is done based on the data on the card to ensure it is what the system has in the database.

Applications

 

  • With such features, expect it to be a good access control card for corporations and government facilities
  • The cards can also be used for securing patient data, especially in healthcare facilities
  • They are also useful in research laboratories to ensure the experiments or research in the labs are protected
  • Financial institutions would also use them to secure their vaults and data centers

 

Pros

  • Enhanced security with biometric features
  • Biometric features are not transferable
  • Expect better speed and convenience
  • Multi-factor authentication

Limitations

  • The overall cost is higher due to sophisticated technology
  • There can be privacy concerns during the collection of biometric data

Smartphones As Access Cards

Smartphones As Access Cards

Technology Overview

Yes, you can also have smartphones working as access control cards. This is because most smartphones now have near-field communication or NFC technology embedded in them. The NFC chip uses RFID technology to wirelessly communicate with the reader and grant access if you are in the database.

Considering many people use their phones all the time, it makes sense to have a phone with such capability. You would not have to get additional access control cards when your phone can be configured to work as one.

Phones also have biometric authentication, which makes the system even more secure.

Expect that the access control apps for your phone make it easier to access the facility with a simple configuration. Also, no one is easily going to get details about the NFC configuration from your phone.

Applications

 

  • The phones as access control cards make them good to use for employee access and visitor management
  • You can use them for residential security. This is where you have NFC readers to act as smart home access. No need to carry around a bunch of keys when you can use these cards.
  • The hospitality industry also needs such a system. The hotel room keys can also be digital so that they can unlock their rooms with ease, and then the access is revoked once their stay is over.
  • You can also use the same for public transportation systems. The smartphones act as virtual passes, and loading credit onto the cards becomes easier.

 

Pros 

  • Convenient since smartphones are everywhere
  • Improved overall security
  • Remote management of access
  • Save on costs since people already have phones

Limitations

  • Dependency on the smartphone battery
  • May have compatibility issues

Hybrid Cards

Hybrid Cards

Technology Overview

In this case, you are looking at access control cards that can have multiple technologies in one. The most common combination is magnetic stripe and RFID, or smart card and biometric, and more.

The aim of such technology is to make the access control cards more versatile and work great for various applications. That is why they can be used as identification cards and still use the same card to make payments.

You may also come across these hybrid cards with embedded processing capabilities. This makes it possible to have on-card authentication as an additional layer of security.

Applications

 

  • Access control systems where using different technologies is encouraged to enhance security
  • Financial transactions are also known for more security, and such cards can make it happen
  • If you need secure ID cards, this can be useful to ensure that there are several ways of authenticating the ID cards.

 

Pros

  • Versatile access control cards
  • Expect enhanced security
  • They are interoperable
  • They are easily scalable

Limitations

  • They come with a lot of complexity
  • The cost is a bit high to implement them

Conclusion

We have looked at several access control cards and their applications. Right now, you can easily choose the right one for the application in mind. We recommend having a keen look at your needs first and then deciding on which would be ideal for you. Also, keep looking at their security loopholes and finding ways to improve how access control can be enhanced.

 

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