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Decoding the mystery.

Decoding the Mystery

AS ACCESS CONTROL TECHNOLOGY continues to expand, security managers are faced with a number of often bewildering choices in system designs. Access control manufacturers and designers talk about integrated and stand-alone systems and readers; card technology options like magnetic stripe, Wiegand, barium ferrite, and proximity; and biometrics.

Access control can be integrated with a total security network and report to a proprietary security console where an operator can monitor security as well as the individuals entering multiple doors at remote locations. Stand-alone access control systems can be useful in situations where employee identification is the highest priority.

The most visible part of an access control system--the card reader--comes in several varieties to fit nearly any type of security application. Moat manufacturers provide card readers whose electronics fit into an interface box near the reader but on the protected side of the wall. This arrangements reduces the chance of tampering with the system, thus increasing its level of security.

Swipe readers comprise the majority of readers used today because people can gain entrance with a valid card with little delay. Individuals seeking entrance merely slide the card along the top, side, or bottom of the reader, depending on the application. Swipe readers, the best of which have very few moving parts, can be used outdoors as well as indoors and can be mounted in various fashions. The cost is reasonable, too.

Due to their low cost, magnetic stripe cards are the most widely used. Because of all the encoding equipment available to consumers, however, these cards can easily be duplicated. While the life of these cards is fairly good--keeping initial and long-term costs low--magnetic stripe cards should be used only in areas where security risks are moderate or where a personal identification number (PIN) is used in conjunction with the reader.

Wiegand cards, on the other hand, are higher in cost but possess a higher degree of security. These cards have wire bits in an embedded module containing a hard-to-duplicate encrypted code that prevents misreads and duplication.

The cost of Wiegand cards is moderate, especially considering their high level of security. The reading equipment itself is acceptably priced. Overall, Wiegand cards probably possess the best price-to-features return of all card technologies on the market today.

Batium ferrite cards contain a thick, magnetically encoded sheet embedded within each card. Available for more than 40 years, barium ferrite cards and their reading equipment are more expensive than either magnetic stripe or Wiegand technologies. Nevertheless, they are difficult to duplicate and rate close to Wiegand cards in terms of the level of security they provide.

Proximity cards--another access control technology--allow for handsfree badging within a reading distance of two to 12 inches and are a tremendous convenience. The user need only walk through the area of the reader to gain entrance--a plus if the user has his or her hands full. The card simply remains in the user's pocket, wallet, or purse; it does not need to be swiped or inserted. Depending on the readability--now averaging some 98 percent of all reading attempts--the user gains or is denied access without taking out the card. In situations where many employees go through a low-security area, proximity readers are a desirable option.

Biometrics, a technology based on reading the physical attributes of an individual through retina scanning, signature verification, voice verification, and other methods, was at one time limited to government use and to supersensitive installations. Biometrics will soon acquire a larger market share in access control sales because much of its development stage has passed and costs will be within reach of a larger group of buyers. Much of the mystery behind it, too, will disappear as access control becomes an integral part of daily security needs.

Susan Bricker is assistant COMSEC product manager systems for the Electronic Security Division of Mosler Inc. in Wayne, NJ.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
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Title Annotation:electronic security systems and key cards
Author:Bricker, Susan
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Previous Article:It's in the cards.
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