id card with rfidWe are often asked to explain the various technology choices for employee ID badges. There are many kinds of “auto-identification” technologies that have been integrated in ID cards over the last twenty or thirty years. The most common of these are barcodes and magnetic stripes, which serve the essential purpose of generating a machine-readable code that can be linked to the cardholder.

Smartcards and RFID provide similar capabilities, but with a number of advantages. Their essential role is to allow a digital device (generally known as a “reader”) to pick up a unique piece of information from the card, which creates a linkage between the cardholder and the service being requested. Typical “services” requested might be “please open this door for me”, or “please log me on to this website”, or “please dispense me a cup of coffee”, etc. While these services might have been made available through cards with a magstripe or barcode, there are two main reasons why smartcards and RFID present a significant step forward: security and convenience.

First and foremost, security was at the root of developing these new technologies. Prior technologies were inherently open, which meant anyone could read and copy the digital codes. They were, therefore, conducive to fraud, whereby an imposter could easily copy the digital identity from your card and access the services as if he were you. There are a range of different smartcard and RFID technologies, with increasing levels of security, but all of them make it far more difficult for someone to copy your digital ID. An explanation of some of those security methods will be left to a future blog posting.
Second, ease of use. Some traditional technologies required expensive, cumbersome equipment (think of the complex equipment required to scan your barcodes when checking out at the supermarket). Others required somewhat inconvenient card manipulation, like swiping through a reader. (Who hasn’t had to re-swipe his or her card because it was turned the wrong way, or upside down?) With new technologies, cards can be read at a distance, often while they’re still in your pocket.

These two factors, security and convenience, are exactly what companies are looking for when they develop a staff ID card program. That is why more and more ID cards are being produced with an embedded chip, slowly replacing prior generations of technology. More and more of the cards we print at InstantCard are smartcards, or contain an RFID transponder.

If you have any questions about how your ID card program might be enhanced with one of these modern technologies, don’t hesitate to contact us.