One of the first steps in selecting a new Access Control System is choosing which smart card technology you are going to use.

For most organizations the access card is also an identity card printed with the user’s photo, name, department and logo of the organization. It can also multi-task for use with vending systems, photocopiers, and other facilities.

Today nearly every new system will use a contactless smart card. Unlike a bank debit or credit card the contactless card does not mechanically interface with the card reader and that is a convenience factor which also extends the life of the card and reader.

Previous generations of access control systems used magnetic stripe (Magstripe) cards or what are known as Proximity or Prox cards. Prox cards can be likened to RFID chips or animal tracking devices in that they are continuously broadcasting out their ID number without any form of data protection – enabling anyone to read the information. Often organizations are left with a legacy of an old card technology. Swapping that out in a cost effective and convenient way often forms part of the design considerations for a new system. There are several different ways to approach this, including the use of card readers which can read multiple types of cards. Often, due to security concerns about older card technologies, it is best to convert all cards at once to the new technology.

Identity assurance is clearly a key issue when choosing a security system, and the combination of a card with a unique PIN number and/or a biometric (such as a fingerprint template) is often a discussion point, and the technology selected needs to be compatible with any smart card selected.

Compared to the previous generations of card technology all smart cards are quite secure, but to prevent any type of cloning or duplication (which is sometimes technically possible) it is highly recommended that you should select a more secure card. Card security usually comes with a price so compromises sometimes need to be made rather than selecting what is technically the most secure card possible.

Across most of the world the most popular smart card type for access control projects is the MIFARE family of cards manufactured by NXP Semiconductors. In ascending order of security their card products are MIFARE, MIFARE Plus and DESFire. The DESFire cards offer extremely high security and are becoming more popular. Symmetry Javelin smart card readers are fully compatible with every card type in the MIFARE family. MIFARE card readers are available from various manufacturers and are compatible with most biometric security systems too.

In the USA iClass cards and card readers sold by HID are currently by far the most popular. iClass offers high security levels and HID offer a wide range of card readers which are fully compatible with the Symmetry access control system. All of the HID card readers can be purchased with your Symmetry system.

For US government agencies, and in organizations involved with transportation across the USA, specific types of high security card credential known as PIV and TWIC are mandatory. All Symmetry Javelin smart card readers are fully compatible with the contactless interface of these cards since their technology and security levels have some similarities with DESFire.

Today most organizations print their own identity cards and the software to design and print cards is included as a standard part of Symmetry software. Users generally have the option to use smart cards unencoded, encoded by the manufacturer or to encode the cards themselves. Unencoded cards offer not much better security than a prox card as described above, so to increase the security level encoded cards should be used. Encoding the cards oneself offers much more flexibility in the security design, and that is also supported by Symmetry, either as a separate stage or as part of the printing process if an appropriate card printer is selected from the range supported by Symmetry.

It is a good idea to choose the smart card and the card reader at the same time. Whether that is with a Javelin card reader or something else, your local Symmetry installer will be able to advise you of the most appropriate choices available. All of the supported MIFARE and iClass cards and card readers are available to purchase with your Symmetry installation.


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