Corporate identification made quite a bit of progress in past 20 years and played important role in the computer revolution. While some small shops still have paper based time attendance punch machines most of the corporate world managed to take advantage of the new technologies that emerged since personal computer and work era started in late eighties. Most technology development is driven by need and identification was no different.
How to combine a bunch of heavy keys with attendance card and identification document? Get a readable card with security features and back it up with a computer system. Most elements were there already, credit cards with magnetic strip holding small amounts of data were in use for some time, computer based attendance systems as well and plastic card based identification documents just got introduced.
Custom id badges
With increased productivity however came security risk as all computers connected in a network might be targeted if only one is compromised. Same with the cards, magnetic strip card data can be easily read and rewritten to another card. Data could be encrypted but it means more space is needed to store it and magnetic strip capacity is rather small. That’s where contact smart card come to play, the electronic chip can hold encrypted data and its interface allows for fast data transfer during the read process. They have drawbacks as well, contact chip means wear, hardly any smart card can last over 5 years and these are not cheap; also even strongly encrypted data can be eventually cracked,
To overcome some of these drawbacks radio frequency identification cards (RFID) have been introduced. At first there were much thicker than ordinary cards, didn’t allow for graphic image and used low frequency of 125 kHz preventing fast data transfer. Today's cards work at 13.56 MHz and most sophisticated RFID tags use 433MHz frequency. They’re as thin as credit cards and some allow image printing which transfers the plastic card into full blown identification badge combined with access card and attendance tag. Some RFID tags use battery power to operate but most and especially the ones that double as id badge don’t use a battery. How do they manage to get power to transmit the data wirelessly? Each card has a very tiny metal coil inside and when placed in electromagnetic field of RF card reader it allows to generate electricity which powers internal wireless transmitter. Battery operated RFID cards and badges are most often using for tracking objects, both people and equipment. For example hospitals often use mobile equipment tracking to verify its location or the fact that the procedure was performed on a patient. When it comes to tracking people a few Texas school district introduced RF id badge to students to able to track them on the campus and school buses. While it caused some privacy concerns the attendance records have improved significantly prompting other school district boards to consider the solution.
Custom ID cards
Number of hotel chains was also able to take advantage of RFID tracking technology. Their tags often have couple of programmed buttons which allow adding communication to the tracking features. For example one button is programmed as ‘room cleaned’ another one for ‘maintenance staff attention required’ and the 3rd button for emergency. This way management can not only improve productivity but also safety of the staff.
While RFID cards are generally less expensive than smart cards they’re still significantly more expensive than plain plastic cards. This doesn’t mean plain plastic card can have no use in the corporate world. They often use a printed barcode to store the data that can be read a barcode scanner. Scannable barcode is widely used in freight and retail industry