A visitor presents an attendant with a business card for inputting to a visitor management system.

Don’t let your customers buy an ID card system after you leave — sell them one that does more than just makes pretty name tags.

The days of the stand-alone machine that produces name tags or photo IDs should be gone, even if a customer requests it, although some companies still use a sign-in visitor log with stick-on paper badges that say, “Hello, My Name Is…”

“I find it unbelievable how many large corporations still operate with paper-based systems given today’s security environment and the threat of terrorism,” marvels Martin Drew, president of iView Systems, Oakville, Ontario, Canada. “It never ceases to amaze me. We’ve got a big job bringing people up from scratch.

“The number of times I have been in a semi-secure environment with no badge and never been stopped once, even though I’m wandering off to a server room,” Drew reports, “I have never ever been challenged by an employee, even though they are badged. They typically are not trained to challenge people and ask, ‘Who are you?’ and especially, ‘Can I help you?’

“You can have all the security in the world, but if you don’t know who’s in your building, why they’re there and who they’re seeing, you’re in big trouble,” he maintains.

Steve Blake, director of secure systems, Fargo Electronics Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn., is also a witness to the stand-alone ID system convention.

“Often times the visitor management system is run by human resources or the receptionist in a corporation and sometimes handled by the security department or facilities department, but they tend to be stand-alone and not really integrated,” Blake declares. “That’s going to change over time, and it has to an extent with the large companies that are trying to protect their intellectual property.”

These include pharmaceutical companies and government subcontractors, Blake lists.

“In terms of the overall marketing, you’re seeing more and more defined segmentation in terms of the offerings out there,” reports Rafael Moshe, business leader of Lobby Works, Honeywell Security, Louisville, Ky. “There’s definitely a separation between the entry-level, low-end solution based on generating a nice badge and more fully featured solutions that have to do with implementation of security policies and management of credentials.

“So you have a customer that just wants a pretty badge and will pay $500 or $1,000 for that and that’s all they will pay; and then you have an enterprise customer that is looking at this as an integrated part of their security system, and they might pay a lot more for that, but they have completely different expectations,” he explains.

Lobby kiosks can produce visitor photo ID badges and notify guests’ hosts that they have arrived.


ID badging software now does more than just make the computer printer run. It can integrate the presence of employees and visitors with different areas of a facility or campus so any person can be located in a building or series of buildings in real time.

“Integration is more important now than it ever has been,” maintains Jim Burditt, vice president of sales for the Americas, CIPI, Burlington, Mass. In the late 1990s, security dealers and systems integrators could sell customers on the transition from cut-and-paste ID systems to computerized ones with card printers, he notes.

But nowadays, customers are on their third or fourth card printer, which has become relatively simple to install, he relates. “Now integrators need to sell the value of their services,” Burditt declares.

“So now they’re saying, ‘I know you’ve had a card printer. How about if we network it with the parent company?’” he asks. “They’ve gotten a lot deeper into that process than they were before.”

The No. 1 integration point for ID badging systems is with access control. In a facility with access control devices on the entrances and exits to most areas, the location of employees can be determined at any time. This can be especially important when a person must be contacted or located quickly or for mustering purposes during facility evacuations.

“Along those lines there definitely has been a convergence of photo ID with access control,” Blake reports. “In this day and age, it’s relatively easy to move from access control to photo ID because products don’t have the compatibility and connectivity issues and database issues that [they] used to have. Things are pretty open architecture these days, and it’s pretty easy to integrate.”

Badging systems can be added as part of an access control software package, points out Jerry Cordasco, president and general manager, Compass Technologies Inc., Axton, Pa.

“It makes some sense, in my mind, for a security dealer who is talking to a customer about badging to try to go the route of selling them on an access control system that has good strong badging capability, even if they don’t use the access control portion,” Cordasco suggests.

That way, if they choose to add access control later, they will have that capability already in their badging system, he notes. Instead, if they only have a stand-alone badge system, its database has to be shared with the access control system and that can get complicated, he maintains.

Richard Goldsobel, vice president of the access control division, Continental Access, Amityville, N.Y., agrees that employee and visitor management can be integrated with access later. “Keep an eye on the future,” he advises. “Even if they’re not putting in access control today or intrusion today, keep an eye on moving in that direction for the customer.”

Demonstrating the capabilities of a badging system will make it part of the system sale, maintains Dana Milkie, general manager of Brady People ID, Branford, Conn.

“Always discuss both employee and visitor badging and management in the upfront discussions,” Milkie suggests. “Sell the customer on how critical they both are to a truly secure system. Including both in the initial, as well as ongoing, discussions will help keep the competition out.

“Ultimately, to fully leverage the capabilities of the access control, employee and visitor badging systems, integrating them together is a must,” he insists. “This is something best done by an integrator, not the end user.

“The more convenient the system is to use, the more effective it will be,” Milkie emphasizes. “In many cases, a customer may have an existing access control system that they are comfortable with. It becomes critical that employee and visitor badging systems can be tied into those systems. Customers want simple, easy integrations as they enhance their security systems.”

Steve Bowcut, business development manager for PCSC, Torrance, Calif., sees two different viewpoints on combining access control cards with photo IDs. One is concerned about loss of the combined access control/photo ID leading to a breach in security. The other likes the convenience of a single ID.

“The best solution is the use of biometrics with smart cards,” Bowcut maintains. “When you think about it, with an access control system, what do you really know when you run a report at the end of the day? You know a piece of plastic came into your building.

“What you want to know is, what people came into your building?” he insists. “The only way to do that reliably with today’s technology is with biometrics.”

However, at the end of the day, the best solution depends on the customer’s unique requirements. “Every customer is different, and it depends on… the level of security they need,” he concedes.

Approximately 45 seconds are required for Alberto Chavez, ID system administrator at Texas A&M International University, Laredo, Texas, to print an ID card.


An opportunity for security dealers and systems integrators exists in those companies that have not yet taken visitor management seriously and implemented an integrated access control solution.

“The last couple of years visitor management has exploded,” Blake of Fargo Electronics asserts. “It took a while for people to figure out what they needed after 9/11. It’s a great growth opportunity and an easy add-on to access control. If they have an employee ID system, they can add onto that for their visitor management. It would be a seamless integrated system.”

Blake suggests that security dealers and systems integrators begin with customers for access control systems by asking them about their possible need for employee identification, which he thinks is more top-of-mind with customers than visitor identification. If that is added on by the customer, ask about visitor identification, he suggests.

“You wouldn’t want to start with visitor management,” Blake advises. Instead, point out how access control software can be an entire turnkey solution that includes employee badging, so multiple cards are not required.

“Then you start to ask questions about visitor management and what they are doing today, and did they ever think about utilizing a card for visitor management and tie it into the access control system, so you truly know who comes in and out?” Blake asks. “Then you go on other parts of visitor management.”

Other add-ons include package tracking. “All these are add-ons [with which] the security dealer can paint the picture for their customers that they’re simplifying the life of their customer,” Blake points out.

Although some point out that employee and visitor ID badging are two separate disciplines, James Moore, iView Systems’ vice president, thinks they should be treated similarly. “You need to link employees and visitors together,” Moore insists. “The difficulty today is if you don’t treat a visitor as an employee, you don’t get the level of respect.”

Giving visitors a lower-end pass because giving them a high-level badge is too difficult is not a solution, Moore emphasizes. “If you get the ease of use, integration and workflow to work, then treating them as an employee or temporary employee is not that difficult,” Moore declares.

“It’s a relatively easy sell,” Drew of iView says of adding visitor management to a security system, conceding that many companies have aging systems that are run independently of the main security system. “People spend millions of dollars on CCTV infrastructure and hundreds of thousands for large access control systems, and then to not add a visitor badging system to that really doesn’t make sense.”

The red bars indicate this visitor ID has expired.
Honeywell’s Moshe suggests that when selling visitor management systems, security dealers and systems integrators should examine the customer’s company culture.

“A lot of it ends up being an issue of culture,” Moshe thinks. “How security-conscious is the site culture, and what are their current policies? Different customers buy visitor management for different reasons.

“You have customers that buy the product primarily as a productivity tool,” Moshe points out. “They have a busy lobby and not enough staff, and people have to line up for a long time, so they need a system to streamline the registration. In a way, it’s like selling an office productivity tool.

“The other kind of customer is focused in a regulated industry and has a compliance requirement, so they’re buying the system as an information system to provide to their auditors,” he observes.

Any industry that has to show it is tracking everyone going in and out of a facility, such as pharmaceutical and food supply companies which have to demonstrate compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, financial institutions which have to show they comply with financial regulations, and those managing dangerous materials all are potential customers for integrated visitor management systems.

“From an integrator’s perspective, to make this a compelling offer, understand your customer and whether this fits,” Moshe suggests. “A lot of things are good ideas, but are you going to spend money doing them? Visitor management is something that many customers can use, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would rank it as high priority for them unless it is tied to a high-value proposition.

“You can convert customers,” Moshe reveals. “That involves uncovering what the security policies are and what business they are in, what kind of visitors, why are they arriving there, [and] what are potential exposures from these visitors?”

“Visitor management is still a fairly new concept for many customers, so if you’re getting a basic visitor management system, understand you’re buying something for today that may not meet their needs as they start using it,” Moshe cautions. “It is a better idea to look at a full-featured enterprise solution because they usually have a lot more flexibility in how you configure them and more ways of linking to other infrastructure. So flexibility is a very important aspect of this.”

Some systems offer kiosks so visitors can prepare their own badges automatically. This can significantly reduce the number of guards or receptionists required at a location with heavy visitor traffic.

Even if a special kiosk has not been designed, a low-cost alternative is available, points out Goldsobel of Continental Access.

“You could set that up as another work station and have instructions to swipe here and the badge would be printed,” Goldsobel notes.

Depending on the volume of the work station’s use and its location, protecting it in a piece of display furniture might be recommended, he suggests.

The printing on the lanyard and badge clearly identifies this person to all in a company.


The features that dealers and integrators should look for in employee and visitor badging systems are many. Cordasco of Compass Technologies thinks badging systems should be multi-dimensional so customers can get the highest return on their security investments.

“Look for a broader range of functionality in the system so that [the dealer] can bring more value to his customer, even if the customer doesn’t use it right away, as long as it doesn’t cost them more,” Cordasco recommends. “It’s a win-win. The customer gets more for their money, and the dealer gets more opportunity to sell to that customer.”

“Ease of use would have to be up there,” Moore of iView insists.

“Minimal training is way up there, the ability to capture data efficiently,” iView’s Drew adds. “A security guard can be busy, and they don’t have time to fill out complex forms.”

Be sure the latest technology is included in the products you offer customers. “Where we’re collecting a driver’s license, I’m in fact checking that driver’s license against a government database that says this is a valid driver’s license number,” reveals Connell Smith, vice president of desktop solutions, DataCard Group, Minneapolis. “So you’re seeing increasing layers of security being added. Those who had a good security system are upping it a little.”

When customers want to economize on an identification system – perhaps by considering a less expensive printer – security dealers and systems integrators need strong arguments for selling quality.

“The first thing is, you want to show the customer when they pay that little bit extra, they’re potentially avoiding some very big pain points,” points out Bob Anderson, director of worldwide marketing, Zebra Technologies Corp., Card Printer Solutions, Camarillo, Calif. “If your card printer goes down, then suddenly new employees have to go through the access control system escorted.”

If established employees decide they do not have the time to escort new employees, the new employees can be left on their own, which can significantly affect a facility’s security.

“So you want those things to be reliable, and the cards to be long-lasting and reliable,” Anderson emphasizes. “If you’re trying to save $100 on a card printer or 10 cents on a card, when you look at the scope of your overall access control budget, including readers, installation, integration, all those other costs, you’re taking risks to change your overall cost structure by tenths of a percent.”

DataCard’s Smith points out that security dealers and systems integrators have to emphasize their expertise in the recommendation of security systems, regardless of their cost.

“At the end of the day, the dealer has been asked to come to the customer to solve a problem, and I think that’s what they have to stay focused on,” Smith emphasizes. “Tying back those factors to that initial need is key in any sale.

“One thing we’ve found is that sometimes it’s just show-me,” he continues. “You run the visitor management software, you take the picture and show two alternatives, and the customer can see how long you have to wait for the cheap low-end printer versus the high-performance one.”

A photo ID is combined with an access card in this application


Anderson points out that the quality of card stock can affect the printing quality, such as how flat the cards are or whether the stock is matched correctly to the printing ribbon.

“I have to give card manufacturers credit,” admits Smith of DataCard. “They have done a good job of improving. Our designs take into account that cards aren’t always perfectly flat. Our printers and supplies have an intelligent RFID matching so the printer can adjust appropriately for the supply we have and eliminates those kinds of issues.”

More of an issue is bending after thermal processes used to bond laminates or holographic film, Smith maintains. “What can happen is the final result can end up bowed, unless you have some special features that eliminate that, so we design that in so it counteracts the tendency to bow and flattens it back out, and that’s something not everyone offers.”

Selling products that are field-upgradeable can give security dealers and systems integrators opportunities for additional sales. “Show them a possible road map for future security enhancements,” Anderson suggests. “This is where they can show the expandability of the product they’re selling.

“Supplies always offer to the integrator a way they can increase their interaction with the customer,” he notes. “Every time you sell replenishment supplies to the customer, there’s a customer touch point, so you can come back and remind them of security enhancements.”

Offering creative accessories such as this card reel can add profit to dealers’ bottom lines.

Sidebar: Add-ons Can Be More Profitable

With hardware mark-ups shrinking as customers buy on the Internet, Jim Burditt, vice president of sales for the Americas for CIPI, Burlington, Mass., has another suggestion.

“I’ll tell you where margins continue to erode —- on the hardware,” Burditt emphasizes. “There are some customers that are just looking to replace their printer. They can do that on the Web by shopping for price.

“Printers are becoming commodity items,” he insists. “It’s getting harder and harder for our dealer base to get out there and sell value.”

But dealers who are looking for incremental revenue are selling add-on attachments like lanyards for ID cards. “Our margins on our components are so much better that dealers are starting to take notice,” Burditt maintains.

Custom lanyards are pushing the price per employee for attachments past $2, Burditt asserts. “What’s happening now is marketing departments have taken notice of employees wearing ID badges,” he relates. “‘If all employees are going to walk to the mall, we want them to look good,’ they think.

“That business has certainly taken off for our dealers, and that also is true of visitor lanyards,” Burditt maintains, which he sells in red so visitors can be spotted easily.

Smart cards combined with photo IDs that provide both physical and logical access are being promoted for use at some government agencies.

Sidebar: For a Smart Solution, Combine Physical and Logical Access

For companies that want to provide physical and logical security for their employees, hybrid card systems may be most effective, suggests Ed MacBeth, senior vice president, business development, at Active Identity, Fremont, Calif., which provides open-platform, employee ID card software that supports the leading vendors’ cards.

The prox feature can be used for existing access readers in combination with smart card chips for high-security access, he explains. “We’ve provided application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate with the physical control system and the existing badging systems, so you can have one-step card issuance or revocation of all privileges, both physical and logical,” MacBeth declares.

This combination of employee badging with physical security systems can have a number of integration benefits, he notes.

“If a person’s badged out of the building, but somebody is logging onto their computer, it will pan the camera to see who’s there,” MacBeth relates. “Or if someone types in the wrong PIN three times, it pans the camera over to see who’s trying to get onto the network. They can start to tie together the capabilities of both systems and determine whether or not the threat is coming from inside or outside the building.”

Adding a smart card chip to a prox card increases the price of the prox card by approximately $10, MacBeth estimates

Scanning existing IDs can speed visitor and employee ID card production.

Sidebar: For Better Accuracy, Scan Government-Issued IDs

For facilities that handle a large number of visitors, card scanning systems may speed visitor registration. With this technology, one or both sides of driver’s licenses, passports, green cards, military or student IDs and other official cards can be scanned and input into the system’s database in seconds.

Richard Goldsobel, vice president of the access control division, Continental Access, Amityville, N.Y., recommends that a visitor management system be able to accept different credentials presented to it, such as a license, and automatically populate the database.

“Most companies do not accept business cards anymore,” concedes Iuval Hatzav, vice president of Card Scanning Solutions, Los Angeles. “It used to be just presenting a business card was enough, but now because of security issues, more and more companies and any government facility will require a government-issued credential.”

Visitor management systems should offer ease of use and full support, Hatzav stresses. His and other systems not only scan the information on the card, but also reproduce the photo so that no new photo needs to be taken. His system can handle a variety of cards because it simply scans the information, photo and signature on the card instead of relying on bar codes or magnetic stripes, he asserts.

Such scanning systems can speed production of employee ID badges, which are needed constantly in large organizations because of staff changes, loss, etc.

“It makes that whole enrollment process less error-prone and more productive,” points out Connell Smith, vice president of desktop solutions, DataCard Group, Minneapolis.

Hatzav agrees, asserting that keying in information is only 80 percent to 85 percent accurate, whereas scanning is 98 percent accurate. The key to that accuracy is not so much the scanner as the software it is using, Smith emphasizes.