SDM Magazine

How to Buy: ID Badging Systems

December 1, 2004
Does shopping for the perfect ID badging system seem overwhelming to your customers? Analyze your current customer requirements to help you get started.

What do you look for in a system? Should the ID badging system stand alone or be part of a larger system for access control, time-and-attendance and visitor badging?

“It’s important for a dealer to have a variety of badging products that meet a range of requirements,” recommends Jerry Cordasco, vice president and general manager of Compass Technologies, Exton, Pa.

The difference between success and failure in choosing an ID badging system for your customers lies with the printer. Understand how many badges your customer wants to produce annually, weekly and daily before choosing a printer.

“The single largest point of failure in a badging system – where the customer is most unsatisfied and the dealer provides the most support – is the printer,” Cordasco maintains.

Ink-jet printers are for the entry-level market and produce badges on a PVC card. Users are familiar with the technology and badges are easy to create.

Direct-to-card printers heat a special ribbon beneath a thermal print head. Direct-to-card uses dye sublimation and resin thermal transfer printing methods.

Dye sublimation prints continuous-tone images using a dye-based ribbon and print head containing hundreds of thermal elements. The card passes through the printer three times, producing up to 16.7 million colors.

Resin thermal transfer uses a single-color ribbon to print black text and bar codes, which can be read by both infrared and visible-light scanners. Solid black dots are transferred.

Direct-to-card printers can provide password control, security imaging, print notification, print diagnostics and e-ordering information.

High-definition printing (HDP) provides secure, high-level printing. HDP printers/ encoders use dye sublimation to print 300-dpi images on the underside of HDP film. Printing images between the HDP film and card makes them resistant to wear and tear and almost tamperproof. HDP works well with smart cards, proximity and magnetic stripe cards.

Reputable Company

“Look at the company you are going to buy the product from and the support they are going to offer,” recommends David Heinen, product marketing manager for Bosch Security, Fairport, N.Y. “Does the company stand behind the product you are going to buy?”

The manufacturer should provide dealers’ customers with in-depth product training, technical support, warranties, online support and on-site service. Explain to your customers the kinds of programs that are in place for printer failure, ribbon replacement, and camera and software malfunctions, and how fast parts can be replaced before they make an investment.

Growth

Can the system grow with your customer? If a customer starts small and the project goes well, it will expand to a much larger system, Heinen explains. Choose a product for your customers that lets them expand.

Work with the customer on current and future needs with the understanding that technology is always changing. Do not sell equipment that will have to be replaced a year later.

“A mag stripe encoder built into a card encoder is cheaper now, but buying a card encoder later is more expensive,” points out Brent Barlow, vice president, ID House, Kaysville, Utah. “It only costs a few hundred dollars to put an encoder into a printer, but it may cost $3,000 to buy a separate encoder next year.”

Badges

Educate your customer on card differences. If a card is being used solely for ID purposes, know the different card types that produce the best and most durable image quality. Different types of PVC and composite cards are available depending on the type of image that is demanded.

If a customer wants a lower quality image, a PVC card works well. If a higher quality image is desired, a polyester overlaminate patch with a composite card is recommended.

Coordinate card selection with printer choice. As a dealer, help your customer decide between image quality, card quality and cost. For example, retransfer printers create high-resolution images. Direct-to-card with a lamination station produces a durable card. An ink jet is for a cost-conscious user. If using a smart card, you cannot print on the area of the card where the chip is.

“Understand the customer to help steer them in the right direction,” suggests Holly Sacks, vice president of marketing, HID Corp., Irvine, Calif. “Then make the card decision after that.”

Features – Standard and Unique

Most badging software systems are easy-to-use, support more than one badging station and have drag-and-drop design features. Images import easily and can be e-mailed to different site locations for badge creation. Databases are either SQL or MSDB, which allows interfacing with other systems.

Badging systems generate reports, contain a Web interface and leave an audit trail that provides creation data, such as who made the badge at which work station.

Incorporating driver’s license information into a system is becoming more accepted. After verifying the license of a person, swipe, scan or manually enter license data into the system. Many states encode data on a magnetic stripe or print a bar code on the back. Use the information to create a badge quickly.

If a person needs building access for only a few weeks, the technology is available to scan that person’s driver’s license, create a holographic visitor’s badge and never enter that person into a system. Integrate the badge with the CCTV system so when swiped it triggers the appropriate cameras.

A special mirror-based screen device uses two cameras to take a picture. Adjust the mirror to show a person’s face and place his or her driver’s license at the bottom of the picture. The simple system automatically takes the photo of the person and license simultaneously, thereby providing an easy-to-use method in situations in which people make the cards themselves without assistance or where language may be a barrier. Keep the photo and license information in the database.

A multiple technology card is available for customers who want to move to contactless smart card technology. Customers can install smart card readers and use the multiple technology card so it will still work with older models of readers.

“The benefit for going to a contactless smart card is to add more applications, such as logical access control and cashless vending,” explains Sacks of HID.

Cards are available to dealers with embedded ultraviolet ink. This gives dealers a mark so they know they are the only types of cards they sell, and it provides a way for end users to know they issued that card to their employees.

Sidebar
System Features That Can Help or Hurt Dealers

What benefits should a dealer consider when choosing an ID badging system?

“About 70 percent of the badging systems sold are part of an access control system,” notes Jerry Cordasco, vice president and general manager of Compass Technologies. “Use one company for access control and badging so you don’t have to teach installers multiple systems.”

David Heinen, product marketing manager for Bosch Security, reminds dealers that when they choose a system, they can expect to support that system for years. “You don’t save anything buying an inexpensive system if you can’t get spare parts or the company no longer offers support,” he cautions. “Lack of support and spare parts will cost you dearly.”

Printer reliability is a primary consideration of any installation. “When purchasing a low-end printer, you are not making much money, so you want it to be plug-and-play,” suggests Jon Paradis, director of North American sales for Fargo Electronics, Minneapolis. “If you need a high-end printer, be aware of the technical capabilities of the entire solution – smart card encoding, lamination, additional security, manufacturer technical support – and bring a value-added solution to your customer.”

Advises Scott Dunn, vice president of sales, Synergistics, “Sell a service contract and do not be the person to provide the service. The dealer doesn’t have to learn the details of the system and support it himself. You are still getting a benefit, the customer receives a benefit and you are making a buck.” In this case, the manufacturer provides the service.

On the other hand, providing service can be a benefit. “Service can be taken care of fast, and it’s easy and billable,” points out Brent Barlow, vice president, ID House. “User error, cleaning and maintenance are two big areas where customers need help, so that is another revenue stream.”