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The new image of corporate badging.

FOR MILLIONS OF WORKERS around the world, displaying a photo ID bad is as important a business day ritual as the morning cup of coffee. Photo ID documents have played a central role in corporate security programs since the 1950s, and verification of an ID badge by a lobby security officer remains the principal security procedure followed in most workplaces.

The advent of computer-based ID systems, however, has given corporate badging programs a whole new image. Today, growing numbers of organizations are discovering that ID systems have valuable uses beyond employee documentation, such as providing better visitor identification or serving as the hub of an elaborate security network.

In fact, today's electronic ID systems, combining the power of a PC with a video camera and film or thermal printer, offer the flexibility to fit virtually any security environment.

Employee badging, the most basic use of an ID system, is still one of the most popular. An ID badge combining a portrait and personal data offers companies an easy, reliable, and cost-effective way to identify their employees. Today's electronic systems offer users their choice of badge media as well as features that allow even inexperienced camera operators to produce portrait-quality photos quickly and easily.

With the variety of ID systems on the market, users now have the option of producing badges on traditional film or on new thermal media through the dye transfer process. In fact, some systems can accommodate either method.

Traditional photo ID badges involve the chemical development of exposed film, a process that takes about 60 seconds. In thermal systems, an image is captured and digitized, and the colors are transferred to the receiving medium through a dry process that takes about 90 seconds.

Film badges generally offer the benefits of faster throughput-about 50 badges per hour versus a maximum of 30 badges per hour for thermal-as well as better portrait stability and quality. They also afford a wider variety of readily available badge laminates than do thermal badges. The thermal process, on the other hand, generally produces an ID badge with crisper data elements.

Whatever badge medium they use, computer-based ID systems produce portraits that offer reliable confirmation of a badgeholder's identity. These systems use sophisticated photographic equipment, such as high-resolution video cameras and electronic strobes that provide uniform illumination under virtually any ambient conditions.

Additionally, some systems offer further guarantees of portrait quality by providing automatic features for determining optimum shooting distance, centering the subject, brightening the faces of dark-complected subjects, and eliminating background shadows.

But a clear, sharp portrait is only part of a well-designed ID badge. For maximum security, the badge must also offer multiple defenses against fraud or tampering. Fortunately, electronic ID systems produce ID badges with several layers of security protection.

A basic safeguard is the "all-photo" nature of these badges. By combining both portrait and data on a single sheet of film or in a single image that is thermally dye transferred to the receiving medium, these badges increase the difficulty of tampering with either segment. In addition, many systems optically reduce badge data to a nonstandard type size to prevent its alteration with office equipment.

FOR FURTHER SECURITY, SOME SYSTEMS use a validation plate that optically separates portrait and data images during badge production. The simple removal of this plate renders the system inoperable for further use.

Besides controlling the system's operation, a validation plate provides additional opportunities to enhance badge security. Organizations can customize the plate with a corporate logo or other graphic symbol. And in some systems, the plate allows companies to superimpose a signature or symbol photographically over both the portrait and data portions of the badge. The superimposition makes it virtually impossible to alter either half of the badge without detection.

Sophisticated laminates offer a further layer of badge security. Today's laminates are composed of a durable polyester that actually forms a molecular bond with the badge photograph. Beyond this basic tamper-resistance, laminates offer subtler ways to enhance badge security.

One approach used by many state motor vehicle license departments is to print information or symbols-such as a state name and seal-on the inside surface of the laminate. When the badge is rotated, this information disappears and reappears. For greater security, organizations can use inks that change color when rotated.

Disappearing or dual-colored inks allow a company to validate badges without special equipment. For organizations with higher security concerns, ultraviolet ink requiring a special reader offers greater protection.

Other laminates offer alternative fraud deterrence. Colored laminates, for example, customize a badge with a border and color, making it difficult to duplicate. Back-printed laminates offer the protection of a preprinted graphic of the issuer's choice on the back surface.

Some companies are now experimenting with badge laminates that incorporate holograms. Unlike the metallic holograms found on credit cards, laminate holograms are transparent when viewed directly, allowing the badge issuer full use of every inch of the badge.

Organizations with the highest concern for badge security can establish a virtually impregnable final customized film.

While confirming a cardholder's identity is one of its most important functions, a well-designed photo ID badge can serve many other ID purposes, thanks to the sophistication of current electronic ID systems.

Many electronic systems allow badge issuers to retrieve a variety of badge formats, often at the touch of a button. This capability allows companies to create different card formats for different categories of badgeholders-vertical badges for employees and horizontal badges for consultants, for example. Within these parameters, the ability to vary portrait and logo placement gives further flexibility.

Multiple badge formats give organizations a convenient way to display an individual's employment status and security clearance. With this important information readily visible to security personnel, organizations can more easily control access to restricted areas in their facilities.

Color-coded badge backgrounds serve a similar purpose. Many electronic ID systems allow users to select from a range of portrait background colors at the touch of a button. This flexibility offers an easy, highly visible way to convey a badgeholder's security or employment status as well as the badge's expiration date and other information of an organization's choosing.

Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., a Fort Worth, TX-based subsidiary of Textron Inc., uses an electronic ID and security management system to create badges with more than 20 graphic formats and a range of background colors.

Bell creates vertical badges for full-time employees and horizontal IDs for contractors, vendors, and consultants. The varied portrait background colors instantly allow Bell's security staff to identify non-Bell personnel, full-time employees, and executive staff.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF ELECTRONIC ID systems has given rise to an increasingly popular new badging option: the temporary photo ID. Inexpensive to produce, these temporary paper passes provide superior identification of contractors, vendors, or visitors and can also serve as parking or grounds permits. In addition, they offer companies a secure, convenient way to rebadge employees who have forgotten their regular photo ID.

To produce temporary black-and-white badges, users attach a thermal printer to their regular ID system. Badges can include a high-resolution portrait as well as personal data, signature, a prominent expiration date, and any other restrictions.

These instant passes can be hand-held, hung in a reusable clip-on pouch, or even printed on adhesive-backed stock and affixed directly to an individual's garment.

If electronic ID systems have given new flexibility to traditional employee badging, they have revolutionized the rebadging process as well through their ability to store and recall digitized portraits within minutes.

Computer-based ID systems allow companies to store digitized color or black-and-white portraits-as well as signatures and ID data-on either magnetic or high-capacity optical disks.

With a few simple keystrokes, users can recall this information at any time, verify it, make any needed additions, and produce a new ID badge with the same photo. By eliminating the need for a new ID photo, these systems spare employees the inconvenience of a photo session and save companies the associated expenses.

Some systems carry these benefits further through their ability to incorporate still video portraits into their image data base. This capability eliminates the need for employees at remote sites to travel to a central location for an initial badge photo. Instead of going to such lengths, portraits of these employees can be captured with a standard still video camera/recorder and stored on a two-inch floppy disk for eventual input into the central ID system.

The need for convenient, cost-effective rebadging played an important part in Bell Helicopter's adoption of an electronic ID badging system. Bell operates more than 200 facilities on a 1,200-acre site, employs more than 7,000 people, and works with more than 2,000 contractors and vendors. The company issues or reissues more than 5,000 ID badges annually.

Bell stores badge data on optical disks that hold thousands of files apiece. The stored portraits allow Bell to reissue a badge in about half the time needed for production of a new ID. Bell also performs remote badging using portraits captured in the field with a VHS camera/recorder and transferred to the home office.

While efficient, secure badge production is a critical function of a corporate ID system, it's no longer enough. Increasingly, security directors are demanding electronic ID systems that can interface with other components of today's sophisticated corporate security environments.

As more organizations adopt electronic access control systems for greater physical security, the ability to produce functional photo ID badges that also serve as access control cards has become a high priority. Accordingly, many electronic ID systems integrate functional features, such as magnetic stripes, Wiegand wires, bar codes, or proximity technology to badges at the time of their production.

Some organizations are taking the link between identification and access control systems a step further by creating on-line software interfaces between the two. The on-line connection allows the ID system to download security data to the access control system upon issuance of a magnetically striped badge. The connection also ensures that the access control system receives automatic notification of later data edits or deletions.

By coupling their ID and access control systems, organizations create an integrated security network with up-to-the-minute data accuracy. This network protects facilities from entry by people with expired IDs, such as terminated employees who have not yet returned their identification, and grants immediate access to employees with newly upgraded security clearances.

THE GROWING TREND TOWARD OPEN computing environments offering improved connectivity has helped create other on-line uses for electronic ID systems. Many organizations now interface their ID system with a personnel or security data base either directly or over a local area network (LAN).

Depending on the sophistication of the ID system's data base handling capabilities, users can search and retrieve information using a range of criteria, including ID number or personal attributes, such as name, department, and employee number.

An on-line interface between the ID system and other personnel data bases ensures data consistency throughout an organization and eliminates the need for redundant data entry.

LAN interfaces between a company's central ID station and remote verification stations allow companies to transmit portraits, signatures, and other security data throughout a facility.

With this capability, security personnel stationed at strategic locations-the entrance to the reactor room of a nuclear power plant, for example, or an especially sensitive research center-can call up stored portraits and data to verify the identity of anyone seeking access into the area.

Organizations without a LAN can also receive this same protection, since some systems allow companies to download images and data to tape for manual transfer to a verification station.

Organizations without a remote verification station can link their ID systems with a CCTV monitor to allow the central system operator to perform a side-by-side comparison of a stored portrait with the closed-circuit image of the person seeking entry.

The security benefits of image transmission do not stop at a facility's walls, however. ID systems with wide area networking capabilities allow imaged portraits to be transmitted great distances, even overseas, for verification by security personnel.

Other systems can produce hardcopy portraits and data records optimized for facsimile transmission over standard telephone lines. These images give the security staff at the receiving station(s) all the information needed to confirm identity and clearances.

Some ID systems offer another hardcopy option for portrait dissemination. Called dossier printing, it enables organizations to output individual or batched portraits-complete with security clearances, badge expiration dates, and other security information-on a standard office laser printer.

Easy and inexpensive to produce, these security dossiers can be sent to networked printers at remote sites, faxed for immediate identity confirmation, or sent by courier to provide the recipient with a way to verify the identity of an imminent visitor.

Dossiers offer a wide variety of uses. Individual portraits can serve as temporary badges for employees who have forgotten their regular identification or as access authorization for employees with a temporarily upgraded security clearance.

Batched portraits can be used to provide a manual security reference for security personnel at branch offices or other remote locations, as well as for headquarters security staff without access to the on-line image data base. Group dossiers can also be used to produce enhanced office documents such as "photo" phone directories.

As organizations of all types face increasingly complex security challenges in the years ahead, they undoubtedly will seek new ways to protect their employees and their property. Their search, however, will more than likely lead them to one of the security industry's most proven performers-the photo ID badge, whose new, electronic image fits even the most sophisticated security environments.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:corporate identification cards
Author:Kieckhafer, William L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Don't blow it.
Next Article:Seeing your way with X-ray screening.

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