A significant number of businesses depend on electronic access control cards and keyfobs to open their doors each day. Over the past few decades, magnetic stripe and bar code technologies have given way to “contactless” technology for access. These access tokens are typically in the form of a proximity (a.k.a. prox) card or keyfob. Although more updated contactless smart cards are available, proximity is still king.
HID proximity cards and key fobs, commonly referred to simply as prox cards, use radio frequency ID, or RFID, to improve access functions. Each one is customized with a code that is required to gain entry into a specific area, and it communicates wirelessly with a designated device that controls access to a door or gate.
That communication is done through a metallic coil that is embedded inside the card and allows it to interact with the external antenna of the reader. The card also has a silicon chip with an integrated circuit, which provides the necessary information such as the card’s ID number or another code that needs to be verified by the computer to allow access.
Such HID prox key fobs and cards offer a safe way to provide access to a building, and they also allow companies to better document access and departures to and from their facility. Because of their ease of use, prox cards also have become a popular option for employee ID cards and public transportation.
“There are a lot of advantages to using proximity cards and key fobs,” explains Tim Long, president of Laminex in Charlotte, N.C. “The technology is superior and it’s more reliable, more secure and more convenient.”
What’s more, such technology also saves time, which can be a huge benefit for organizations dealing with a high volume of individuals who need access. Unlike magnetic stripe cards or cards with barcodes, RFID-embedded prox cards don’t have to be scanned or inserted into a card reader. That’s a huge selling point for companies, Long says.
“With RFID, all you have to do is get the card close to a reader and it will pick up the signal from the chip through wireless communication,” he explains. In a situation where each individual has to stop and insert the card into a mag stripe reader, or where each card’s barcode has to be scanned, those seconds quickly add up to minutes and, over time, translate into lost hours, days and even weeks.
“With these cards, you don’t have to swipe; you just touch and go,” Long says. “It’s fast and it’s convenient.”
Made Stronger to Last Longer
Another advantage to using prox cards instead of barcode and magstripe cards is the durability of both the cards and the readers they use.
“Since you’re not manually inserting the card into something, it isn’t going to wear out like a magnetic stripe product,” Long says. And, from a hardware perspective, the magnetic card readers and barcode scanners can wear out faster, because they receive constant friction, which isn’t the case with prox card and key fob readers.
“From a hardware standpoint, the cost of reading devices for RFID cards and for magstripe cards are comparable, but the magstripe readers are going to wear out faster. So if you’re looking at it from that perspective, if you are starting from scratch, it’s really better to just go ahead and start with the RFID readers in the first place.”
HID prox cards and key fobs last longer than either magstripe or barcode cards for the same reason the readers are more durable: the lack of friction from constant contact between the reader and the card. Both barcodes and magstripes can wear off and deteriorate, which means they’ll need to be replaced.
“If you’re looking at up-front costs, the prox card is going to cost a little bit more,” Long says. “But if you start looking at long-term costs over the life of the product, the prox card is going to end up saving money.”
Extending the Life Cycle of a Prox Card
Because the HID prox cards and fobs are so durable, they can be used over and over, even in the cases of companies that brand the cards or fobs with their company logo or use it as a form of employee identification. Branded or personalized cards use an overlay to include such things as the employee’s photo and other identifying information, so if the employee leaves the company, the overlay can be removed and the card can still be used.
A programmed HID prox key fob is a popular alternative for users who don’t need it as an identification card and just want to use it as a tool for access.
“For a lot of people, it’s just more convenient than having to carry a card,” Long says. “They’re encased in a molded plastic body so they’re more durable, and they’re smaller and can fit on your keychain, which makes it more convenient.”
Both prox cards and key fobs can also be disabled remotely at any time by the company, which provides yet another layer of security in the event that an employee leaves the company or if the card or fob is lost or stolen.
“Any of them can be reassigned, so they can be used over and over again for a long time.”
What You Need to Know When Ordering a Prox Card or Key Fob
Getting the HID prox card or key fob that’s right for you means knowing which kind of access system you use. Card and fob manufacturers use a number of different credential formats, so finding one that is compatible with your system is the first step in making the right decision. From there, you will choose from the type of programming and frequency desired as well as select whether or not you want graphics.
Moving to a prox card or key fob access system is a big step, but it’s one that will ultimately save you time and money. And, if you are new to the process, ID Shop can help walk you through everything from what type of product will best fit your needs to how to program your HID key fob and prox cards.