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IDs put on a new face.

Today's most advanced ID badging products reflect a trend in security operations toward more sophisticated technology, including integrated electronic systems and information-sharing networks. While manual, film-based ID equipment still represents the majority of the systems in use, software-based electronic ID (EID) products are rapidly becoming more mainstream.

Budgets may dictate the s manual systems over EID systems, but the greater efficiency and security provided by an electronic system cannot be disputed. In manual, film-based systems, which do not have a database for storing information and images, replacing a lost badge requires another photography session.

An EID system can retrieve the stored image and data and reproduce it automatically. Storing badgeholder images and information in a computer database is also more accurate, timely, and efficient than retaining the information as hard copy in filing cabinets. Other advantages of EID systems include a reduced risk of fraudulent badges being made and easier verification of badge authenticity at access points.

Manual ID badging systems continue as the product of choice for organizations with fairly modest badging requirements - 1,000 people or fewer. They are quite adequate for the purpose of producing photo IDs in environments where no additional remote verification of IDs is required. In these cases, using a manual or film-based system instead of the more expensive, computer-based video-imaging alternative is most sensible.

The two basic types of manual ID systems are cut-and-paste and all-photo. The cut-and-paste is basically self-explanatory. Using a prism camera, the cut-and-paste system's operator produces a couple of photos of an individual on the same sheet of film. One photo is for the files, the other is for the ID card. To make a badge, the operator trims one of the photos, pastes it onto an ID card that bears the individual's signature and personal data, and then laminates the card. This is the most basic badge-making system, and it is available for around $2,000.

The all-photo ID system costs more than double that price, but it offers greater convenience and is easier to use. While it is film-based, the all-photo system captures an individual's image and integrates the photo with the alphanumeric data. This increases the tamper-resistance of the completed card and eliminates the cutting and pasting.

The wet film process used to create manual IDs is cumbersome, requiring not only developing and drying time but also leaving chemical residues and waste. EID systems eliminate that process. EID systems using video imaging use thermal die sublimation printing techniques.

A new generation of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) printers now on the market eliminates the need for cutting and laminating badges. PVC is a material commonly used to make credit cards. These new printers provide high-quality images on PVC cards in seconds, while creating minimal waste. Currently, cost-effective black-and-white versions are available, while color imaging remains cost prohibitive for all but the highest volume applications.

Selection. The cost of an EID badging system using video imaging, while still significant, has decreased dramatically since its inception in 1986. A typical system today costs around $25,000.

To select a suitable EID system, a security manager should first define the system features most important to the organization. All systems have many features in common. They all capture live images and convert them into digital signals for manipulation, storage, and display; print ID badges; and store and display information on badgeholders. What differentiates them is a variety of additional functions and features.

Some of the key features that should be considered when selecting a suitable system are the following:

* User control of the database. This feature permits the EID administrator to alter the data entry screen and add, change, or delete fields from the factory-provided screen. It also makes it possible to structure flexible reports to extract information from the database. EID systems that do not offer this feature or offer a limited set of capabilities, require potentially expensive customization charges.

* User control of ID badges. This capability, like the database structure, offers greater flexibility and control. It allows the system administrator to determine size, design, and color of the overall badge; size and location of the picture; type of badgeholder information, such as name and expiration date; logos and other graphics; and information, such as bar codes and signatures. The EID system should support as many different designs as are required to differentiate among company departments and divisions. If the manufacturer is required to perform this function, then it will add to cost, delay the ability to change or add badge designs, and could reduce the security of the badges.

* EID system control of devices involved in ID card production. These devices generally include an ID card printer, camera, magnetic stripe encoder, and signature capture device. The overall control, quality, and ease of use of these devices vary greatly between systems. Some systems do not control the ID card printer at all, which allows an operator to produce fraudulent badges. Some systems permit the printing of the ID badge if the picture has not been taken or data is missing, which could pose a security risk.

The way that the different systems handle problems that arise when using these devices varies greatly. Some systems report the occurrence of an error. Others display a cryptic error code that can only be defined by looking it up in a manual. And, some systems identify the exact problem in simple English and provide step-by-step instructions to resolve it.

* System security. Protection levels can vary from virtually no system security at all to flexible, user-controllable capabilities. The company's needs should be assessed and then compared with the security provided by the various systems available. The costs associated with systems requiring customization must be weighed against the benefits or drawbacks of preconfigured systems.

* Ability to use off-the-shelf components from a variety of manufacturers. Some EID systems use proprietary components or support components made by only one manufacturer. Others can use equipment made by a variety of manufacturers. For example, ID badge printers are made by Sony, Kodak, Hitachi, Data Card, Mitsubishi, and others. Changes in the printers, and virtually all other components, are occurring almost daily. If the system cannot take advantage of new technology, it may be obsolete in a short period of time.

* Ease of use. There may well be a varying degree of computer literacy among the people who will use the EID system. Each employee has different needs. The ability of the EID system to accommodate these needs is key to its success.

The ease of use is directly related to the way each manufacturer makes use of the power of the computer, and it can vary greatly. Some key points to look for are easily understandable on-line help, consistency of key strokes among different functions, and system control of gathering required data, such as pictures and signatures. This last item is important. Some systems leave each individual action up to the operator while others automatically lead the operator through the process in a logical, efficient, and consistent manner.

* Ability to accommodate resource sharing. An EID system's ability to connect to and communicate with other computer systems enhances its usefulness. Other systems may include access control, personnel, time and attendance, payroll systems, and even multiple EID workstations. EID system providers vary widely in this area, both in terms of capabilities and proven performance. When done properly, resource sharing is extremely powerful and cost-effective. When done poorly, it can be frustrating and harmful to data integrity.

* Manufacturer reliability. EID systems are continually evolving. Dozens of manufacturers have come and gone over the eight-year history of EID systems. Product performance and reliability can vary widely. Some vendors can provide long-term service and some systems can be upgraded as technology advances. When choosing a system, the buyer should contact manufacturers' references; evaluate the support provided by each dealer and manufacturer; and think about potential uses of the system and its ability to perform those tasks.

The market. The EID marketplace is heating up. It was clear at the 36th ASIS Annual Seminar and Exhibits in 1990 that EID systems were still a new concept. At the 1991 seminar and exhibits, prospective buyers started asking pointed questions about system functionality and viability. Last year, at the annual event in San Antonio, potential users showed an even greater degree of system knowledge and involvement by aggressively differentiating between the EID systems on the market. New computer and printing technology, as well as technology transfer from the defense and aerospace sectors, has helped to propel EID into mainstream security operations. On the corporate side, organizational technology, with its emphasis on a systems approach, is another factor leading to EID's acceptance.

Potential. Given the need for an integrated systems approach, some EID system providers are now bringing together many elements of security operations, such as badging, access control, and CCTV. In many cases, however, these systems still operate separately. Reports on access control, for example, still cannot be generated from ID badging stations. In addition, system operators are required to know how to use the different commands of each of the integrated systems, and they typically have to decide when to use or activate each integrated device, leaving opportunity for human error.

While more work needs to be done by system manufacturers to achieve single-system simplicity, there is no question that EID systems using video imaging will have applications broader than photo ID management. One manufacturer, for instance, is developing a broader-based system. It is a multimedia information management system using electronic data imaging as its key technology. It offers multiple databases and the ability to store multiple electronic images for each record. This system provides total freedom for users to design a customized system for managing any and all information securely. Affordable scanning technology makes it possible to store in any file a multitude of media ranging from full color video images and photos to documents, fingerprints, and signatures.

As a result, this system will have applications throughout an organization. A security department, for instance, can develop the typical file, for passholders; finance can create a file within this new system for asset management; and human resources could build a file for managing personnel documentation, including employee photos (which are shared with security), employment applications, citizenship verification documents, fingerprints, and signatures.

Outside of the corporate marketplace, EID has found its way into the mainstream service culture. Amusement and theme parks, having switched to single admission pricing programs, use EID to eliminate ID transfer problems. According to industry sources, transferability accounts for up to 15 percent of yearly or seasonal admissions losses. In addition, amusement and theme parks see EID as a tool for personalized marketing, helping to generate traffic and thereby boost profits.

Card transferability has also presented problems in the health care industry. Intake cards lacking photo IDs issued to recipients of government-subsidized health care plans are at times passed to friends and relatives resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fraud losses. But ID cards can do a lot more in this environment than curtail fraud. Health care providers have also identified EID as a valuable tool for ensuring quality care and enhanced patient confidence.

Used throughout a facility from admission to discharge, a shared EID system can effectively and securely monitor a patient's care. With high bed turnover rates, problems associated with dispensing medication to the right patient can be greatly reduced by introducing photo IDs into charts. The tragedy of baby stealing can also be diminished with black-and-white photo ID PVC cards and bar codes on baby bracelets. No baby could be removed from a designated hospital area if the bracelet's bar code does not match the PVC ID.

EID technology is taking the same route into mainstream society that many other view technologies have taken. Given an increasingly competitive corporate environment and society's general trend toward electronic systems and global information-sharing, EID promises to play a big role in everyone's daily lives in the future.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:identification products
Author:Yates, John D.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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