The Advantages of Smart Cards With RFID

by John Papiewski

Many businesses use Radio Frequency Identification smart cards to open security doors and track the flow of people in a building. Each card contains data encoded on a machine-readable RFID chip and plays an integral part in a computerized security system. When the card comes within a few feet of the reader's antenna, the RFID chip transmits its data, identifying the user to a security computer. RFID smart cards are programmable, easy to use and inexpensive.

Low Cost

RFID chips are electronic devices made in the millions; though costs vary, most run between 7 to 15 cents. The smart card itself need not cost significantly more than a standard photo ID, so managers can issue RFID cards to as many employees as circumstances require. Most of the cost of an RFID system lies in the electronic readers, locks, computers and related software.

Secure Data

The data on an RFID card is readable only with special equipment, keeping the data recorded on the chip secure. Also, the data need only be meaningful to your own organization. You can record a unique employee ID code and other data known only to your company. A lost card typically conveys little useful information to someone without detailed knowledge of your organization's security.

Data Tracking

Because an employee carries an RFID card with her, a smart-card system records her movements throughout her working day. The computerized system matches the smart card information against its own database, identifies the card holder and logs information into another database. For example, when she enters a locked storeroom with the card, the system notes the person, the date and time, and the activity. In an emergency, the security team can quickly determine if people are still in the building and find their locations. A smart-card-enabled copy machine can automatically deduct copying costs from the cardholder's department account.

Flexibility

With the right equipment, you can reprogram an existing RFID card with new information. For example, if an employee receives a change in security clearance or transfers to a different department, he can get his card updated to reflect his new status. When the company decides to revamp the security system, the department responsible for the cards can revise the data on the cards without needing to issue new ones.

Ease of Use

An RFID card is just as useful in your pocket or clipped to your shirt. Because the RFID system uses radio waves, the card's proximity to the reader triggers the system. Unlike a magnetic stripe card, an RFID smart card doesn't need to make physical contact with the reader. This adds convenience when you're carrying an armload of boxes and want access to a locked room, for example.

About the Author

Chicago native John Papiewski has a physics degree and has been writing since 1991. He has contributed to "Foresight Update," a nanotechnology newsletter from the Foresight Institute. He also contributed to the book, "Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance."

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