No longer is visitor or employee identification a simple matter of a paper tag with a name written on it. The products and systems that provide identification for corporations today are much more sophisticated and involve the sales and installation skills of electronic security companies.
â€œThatâ€™s where it all started with the old Polaroid card â€“ thatâ€™s what our industry used to do,â€ points out Bruce Bianco, president of photo ID software supplier Synercard, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. â€œCustomer demands and security requirements necessitated that our applications become more robust.
â€œNow the applications have to be more complex and sophisticated to handle the needs of our customers,â€ Bianco emphasizes. â€œInstead of being just an ID card, itâ€™s a real credential that validates a personâ€™s privileges and rights.â€
Besides putting photo IDs on smart cards that use radio frequency (RF) technology to transmit information about the user wirelessly to readers, biometric information such as fingerprints and iris scans can be included to positively identify a user.
To determine whether the easiest credential to falsify â€“ the visible photo â€“ has been altered, the ID photo itself can be included in the chip on the smart card.
The question nowadays is how much security does your customer need? â€œAdditional security has to justify additional cost,â€ declares Andy Lowen, product manager for access control, Checkpoint Systems Inc., Thorofare, N.J.
â€œA finger is free, but the readers themselves can be eight times more expensive, $800 versus $100 at the reader level,â€ Lowen estimates. â€œBiometrics are time-consuming, and the processing of a fingerprint template is not as fast as a card reading.â€
David Heinen, product marketing manager for access systems, Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y., explains how fingerprint readers for photo ID cards have changed.
â€œWith the fingerprint readers used five years ago, your template had to be scanned into every single reader, so if you had five doors, youâ€™d have to scan your fingerprint into each of five doors,â€ Heinen remembers. â€œThe new way is to put it into the card â€“ itâ€™s only comparing it to the one on the card, and if they match, youâ€™re in, so itâ€™s very easy for it to read it accurately and correctly.
â€œYouâ€™re assured the person coming through the door is the person who belongs there, so youâ€™re not comparing it against a huge database of fingerprints,â€ he points out. â€œSo the people who havenâ€™t tried it should really look at it. It was much harder to do, and now itâ€™s less expensive, easier and it works better than it did before. And the readers themselves are less expensive. Each one doesnâ€™t have to have massive storage capability to read all those templates.â€
Heinen points out the advantage for security dealers and systems integrators who sell photo ID systems. â€œThe approach we are trying to take is that the technology is becoming less expensive and easier to use,â€ he notes.
â€œFingerprint readers in particular are working their way toward becoming a commodity, and youâ€™ll find them at a very affordable price in the future,â€ Heinen predicts. â€œComputer log-in with fingerprint readers will drive their price down substantially, I think.â€
A â€˜Fingerâ€™ in the DoorPhoto ID badging can be used as the beginning of an access control system, maintains Robert Bayer, director of sales and marketing for PCSC Corp., Torrance, Calif.
â€œGet them into the solution with baby steps,â€ Bayer recommends to dealers and integrators when they first approach a customer without an access control system. â€œA lot of times the commercial sales guy comes in and says access control on every door will cost $70,000, and the end users fall over. Donâ€™t walk away â€“ offer them an entry point to let them start getting the feel for what this solution youâ€™re offering can do for them.â€
After the customer becomes accustomed to a photo ID system for employees and visitors, offer them access control on just one door, Bayer recommends.
â€œEverything in our industry is about information,â€ he asserts. â€œThe end users who buy our systems and use them, sure, they have pneumatic locks, but the valuable thing is not that someone canâ€™t get in, itâ€™s tracking who came in, when, where they went, and how long they were there.â€
That step-up feature is offered by a number of vendors to help ease security dealers into the access control market, and their customers into a system that can be built up as their needs demand it.
â€œWe have a version of our newest software that allows customers to have a complete badging system in terms of the software for under $500,â€ points out Jerry Cordasco, vice president and general manager of Compass Technologies Inc., Exton, Pa. â€œNow, that badging software they have is also our complete access control software, so if at some later point they wanted to add electronic access control, other than putting the hardware in, it wouldnâ€™t cost them a dollar more.â€
Cordasco agrees that some facilities only require photo IDs without any access control features. â€œThere are people who just have photo ID as part of their security,â€ he concedes. â€œThereâ€™s no intelligence in them â€“ thereâ€™s just a photo ID badge.
â€œIf that same badge is going to be used to grant the person with the badge access to specific areas during specific times, then you get into this issue of what type of intelligence would be built into the badge of which it is part,â€ he declares.
The Integratorâ€™s Edge: Visitor ManagementVisitor management is an area that more end users are beginning to find necessary. It can make a profitable add-on and a distinguishing edge for security dealers and systems integrators to offer.
â€œVisitor management is becoming more and more popular,â€ stresses Rafael Moshe, product manager for Lobby Works, Honeywell Security, Louisville, Ky. â€œMore and more regulations out there explicitly force a company to have a visitor management system. Itâ€™s a no-brainer to have an automated visitor management system in place.â€
However, visitor management systems are not the same as employee access systems, Moshe maintains. â€œFrom a simplistic point of view, it may seem that visitor management and badging systems have a lot in common and are almost one and the same, because it seems all they do is produce a badge, but thereâ€™s a lot more to it,â€ Moshe insists.
He points out that visitorsâ€™ badges must be produced much more quickly than employee badges, sometimes within 15 to 30 seconds.
â€œVisitor management is more of a process management tool â€“ itâ€™s different from badging systems in key areas,â€ he observes. â€œOne is that the key value of visitor management is the information it collects about the people, not just for a badge, but for all the information you need to form a security perspective about a person coming in.â€
These include where the person is from, who is hosting him or her, whether they left on time and will return, whether they are foreign visitors, and much more. â€œThere are a lot of things you collect about visitors that go way beyond a typical badging system,â€ Moshe emphasizes.
Not just the name tag but having information about visitors now is of prime importance, agrees Dana Milkie, general manager of Temtec-STOPware, Suffern, N.Y. Tempec, a manufacturer of self-expiring visitor labels, is now owned by Brady Worldwide along with STOPware, a visitor software supplier. This strategy follows the trend Milkie sees developing in the industry.
â€œThe industry has been moving towards computerized or software-driven visitor management solutions in which the software links into a companyâ€™s access control systems, watch lists and other critical information,â€ Milkie notes. â€œWeâ€™ve seen the watch list feature become a pretty big trend recently.
â€œYou can create your own watch list for internal use of disgruntled ex-employees or a spouse that is having problems or link into government watch lists,â€ he reports. â€œThis helps companies create a safer environment for their employees, while meeting regulations.
â€œPeople want to be able to identify if someone is a suspicious person or threat,â€ he comments. â€œAdditionally, businesses are beginning to link the visitor system to permanent employee software systems to help manage all of their traffic better.
â€œVisitor management is a really hot topic with the security industry â€“ there are a lot of opportunities for companies to develop this market,â€ he insists. â€œA lot of businesses are seeing the need to have better control in this area. Complete visitor management solutions are a way for access control integrators to really differentiate themselves.â€
Adds Honeywellâ€™s Moshe, â€œWhereas before, people could just shake your hand and come in, now companies need to keep records of who came in and why and who they met. In cases where customers use visitor management and donâ€™t print any badges, they need information about people coming in.
â€œWhether you print a physical badge or not is a separate issue,â€ he declares. â€œMost customers do print a badge because once theyâ€™ve collected the information, they want to visually identify customers and clearly differentiate them from employees.â€
Target MarketsBesides Fortune 500 companies, markets that use visitor management systems include companies involved with pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food, utilities, hospitals and schools because of fears of violence, Moshe lists.
â€œVisitor management is also moving into the low end of the market,â€ Moshe points out, referring to kiosks that allow visitors to create their own badges. â€œA lot of companies that have a large number of visitors are looking at this as a productivity and automation tool.â€
But despite the advantages of computerized ID systems, the basic data entry functions still must be performed.
â€œIn every single case, whether itâ€™s a photo ID, mag stripe or prox or smart card badge, you still have to enroll the person in the database, match up a card number with the person in the central database, and design a badge for printing,â€ notes Lowen of Checkpoint. â€œRegardless of what technology is out there, you still have to do those three items. Badges donâ€™t replace security policies in terms of enrollment.â€
Sidebar: Making Existing Cards SmarterFacilities with multiple access control systems can add a smart card tag to an existing card, such as a proximity card, points out David Heinen, product marketing manager for access systems, Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y.
â€œItâ€™s the size of a 50-cent piece,â€ Heinen explains of the product from Boschâ€™s partner HID Corp., Irvine, Calif. â€œYou peel off the back and stick it on the back of your card, so it becomes your smart card device.â€
This enables the userâ€™s fingerprint to be stored in the smart card chip, so fingerprint scanners can provide quick access with the employeeâ€™s photo ID card rather than waiting for a network to compare the fingerprint scan against a database of such scans.
â€œInstead of replacing all your cards, the adhesive tag lets you access newer readers with less disruption and keep older photo ID badges and convert to new readers,â€ Heinen notes. â€œWeâ€™re selling a lot of these applications where people want to continue using their old reader badges and go to a newer system.â€
Another trend he points out is the use of holographic security overlays on photo ID cards to make them harder to counterfeit. Unlike the hologram that is prevalent on credit cards and expensive to produce, the overlay is much less expensive.
Heinen also declares that having a security key needed to operate a printer of photo ID cards improves security markedly. Plenty of room is left on smart cards for additional information besides fingerprints, he points out.
â€œOur engineers are always looking for opportunities where we can do value-added things,â€ he promises.
Sidebar: This Label Will Self-destruct inâ€¦Several different types of self-expiring technologies can be used for visitor and other temporary badges. The first involves a chemical process in which diagonal red bars appear on badges after a set period of time (a half-day, one day, one week or one month). Additionally, a light-sensitive badge is available that turns blue when exposed to ultraviolet light.
â€œThe expiring badge starts out white, and via a chemical process, ink migrates up through the badge creating visible red bars that signal expiration,â€ explains Dana Milkie, general manager for Temtec-STOPware, Suffern, N.Y. â€œOur products are focused on anyone that is not part of the permanent work force within facilities. In other words, we help businesses manage their temporary traffic flow.â€
Milkie points out that visiting salespeople usually are not in a facility for more than a half or full day making Temtec-STOPwareâ€™s standard product perfect for them. Construction and temporary personnel that are expected to be on-site for a longer period of time can be issued the week- and month-long badges so they do not have to be badged in daily.
â€œThe LIGHTbadge is most often used because companies want to constrict or inhibit people from moving from building to building in a campus situation,â€ Milkie points out. He cites as an example a facility or university with several buildings that wants access restricted to one building. Because the badge is sensitive to ultraviolet light, it can be used to prevent re-entry once a person goes outside.
Sidebar: Put Labels on Cards for Less ExpenseFor temporary employee or visitor badges, a cost-effective solution can be to print out a photo and badge information on self-adhesive labels that can adhere to a proximity, mag stripe, smart or other type of card. Some systems can use a simple color ink-jet or laser printer to put a photo and information on a label.
These systems can print on removable paper for visitors or a more permanent polyester for longer-term use. For security purposes, the paper and polyester labels rip when removal is attempted.
â€œWith general wear and tear, polyester printed on a regular desktop ink jet printer will be less permanent than plastic, but it can be more economical than a dye sublimation machine and plastic cards to print, even if you have to reprint the card a few times a year,â€ points out Peta-Gaye LatibeaudiÃ¨re, product manager, photo ID, for Avery Dennison Office Products North America, Brea, Calif.