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A reader, keypad or combination of both is an essential ingredient in virtually any access control system, and in the majority of systems the reader will be a prox reader.
Although biometric readers are on the horizon, this technology has yet to establish itself in mainstream access control installations. The original allure of biometrics was to eliminate the need for a credential by using a human physiological characteristic like a fingerprint or hand geometry. Although the technology is here, the cost to implement it is too high for the majority of customers.
There are constraints where the biometric “signature” is used without a credential. The biometric system must first read the finger or hand, and then compare that template with the stored database of authorized users. This takes processing power and time.
When used with a credential, such as a smart card, a template of the user is stored on the credential, and the system has only to compare the individual's fingerprint or hand with the template stored on the credential. While this technique verifies the cardholder's identity, it doesn't fulfill the goal to eliminate the credential.
No doubt, biometrics will eventually become the defacto standard for identity verification, but for the present time, credentials still prevail.
Card credentials offer additional benefits. As mentioned, smart cards are imbedded with data to allow multi-factor authentication. Card credentials also can be used for multiple purposes by carrying more than one type of data. By having the cardholder's image and other information imprinted on the credential, it becomes a powerful security tool, allowing employees to all participate in the security management of their workplace. Photo-ID also enhances the professionalism of the organization.
In access control, proximity credentials are by far the most popular. It is curious that for debit cards and credit cards, a much older and far less secure type of encryption, mag stripe, still prevails. Magstripe is also very popular in educational facilities, where legacy card populations, and installed hardware constrain budget conscious facilities managers from scrapping what they already have and retooling.
Because much new technology in access control is proximity-based, it is very common to see access credentials with both proximity and magstripe encoding.
SPECIFYING THE RIGHT CARD READER
Obviously, your choice of what card reader to use will be based on the following basic issues.
1- The reader must be able to read the format of your credentials.
2- The data back to the access controller uses a communications protocol that is compatible with your access controller.
3- The environment the reader will be installed and used.
4- The mounting options you have for placing the reader must be accessed.
5- The read range you will require for the reader must be determined.
CARD ENCODING FORMAT
The industry standard format is 26-bit. It is an open format. (The use of this format is not restricted). The data encoded using 26-bit format consists of 255 possible facility codes. Within each facility code, there are 65,535 unique card numbers. This means there are a total of 16,711425 unique codes available in the 26 bit format.
There are three universally recognized factors for authenticating individuals:
• ‘Something you know,' such as a password, PIN
• ‘Something you have,' such as a security token.
• ‘Something you are,' such as a fingerprint, retinal scan or other biometric.identifier.
Using only one of the first two factors is considered weak authentication.
The use of a memorized PIN or biometric template in conjunction with the proximity credential is referred to as multiple factor authentication and regarded as strong authentication.
Several other Wiegand formats with higher levels of security are available to the access control industry.
A technology primer for locksmiths entering this access control market.