Smart cards are a key part of any security system as they represent a highly secure but cost effective way of proving identity.
As a flexible security token, they are also perfect for many other uses (such as on-site vending), but at first glance there can appear to be a bewildering array of choice. Here is the TDSi guide to smart cards, the options on offer and potential uses for this most useful of security tools.
A proximity card (sometimes known as a ‘prox card’) is a contactless smart card which can be used without the need to place it directly into a reader device. This is useful for rapid authentication (helping to move approved individuals through access control without causing bottlenecks) and for high hygiene areas, such as a hospital, where infection is an important consideration.
MIFARE Classic was the pioneer product in smart card use, starting a revolution in contactless systems and paving the way for numerous applications in public transport, access management, employee cards and on education campuses. The benefit of MIFARE technology is that where it stores individual’s data, one card can be used for multiple uses from ID cards, cashless vending and library cards.
The popularity of the MIFARE Classic has made it cheap to buy and use, but the downside is that its ubiquity means it has been a target for criminals and the cloning of these cards has become a concern for some security operators.
Building upon the considerable success and positive points of MIFARE Classic, MIFARE PLUS provides additional levels of security that overcome the concerns of the continued use of its illustrious predecessor.
As well as providing the latest standards of security in access control, MIFARE PLUS is perfect for cost-sensitive applications in automated fare collection (AFC). An additional advantage of MIFARE PLUS readers, such as those from TDSi, is their backwards compatibility with the original Classic smart cards. This means older cards can still be utilised with new readers, which is perfect for a staggered rollout or use of different levels of security across the same organisation.
MIFARE DESfire is the next level of smart card technology. It is optimised for multi-application functionality in transport schemes, micro payments, access management and identity applications. Added to this, MIFARE DESfire EV1 and EV2 standards add fast and highly secure data transmission, offering even more numerous application options where data is required.
Smart card applications
Modern smart card systems offer so much more than just simple identity management, providing greater value for money and ROI than ever before. Here are some typical applications:
Access control – This is perhaps the most obvious application and still the prime reason for using this technology for many security operators. By holding the secure ID, the card is perfect for users and operators alike as it allows rapid and secure access through doors and can be controlled centrally and remotely.
Event ticketing – Using MIFARE Ultralight (which is the paper based version of the cards), this is the perfect solution for secure event tickets which simply can’t be copied in the way that normal paper tickets are vulnerable to.
Car parking – With an integrated security system it is easy and convenient to link car park barriers to access control. This enables the smart card to be used for access to parking as well as access to pedestrian barriers.
Public transportation – Transportation systems can utilise smart cards for debit/credit functionality. Typically, this application will use DESfire technology for increased security and increased memory applications, so data can be stored on the card for flexibility.
University libraries – Smart cards are perfect for storing a record of the IDs of books taken out by students and when they were borrowed. This also means the data can be shared with the integrated centralised university records system for even greater flexibility.
Cashless catering – By securely recording and storing value on the smart card, this can be used for debiting and crediting in on-site vending machines or restaurants.
Health and Safety – With their data storage ability, smart cards can be used to log training and accreditations, ensuring that no access is granted if the card holder lacks the necessary accreditations (or they have expired).
Smart cards offer a huge choice of affordable, secure and practical solutions to any access control and security needs. To find out more about the options available and how they can best work for your applications, please feel free to contact us on +44 (0)1202 723 535.