OVER the past 5
years, HID has cemented its position as the world’s leading supplier of access
control readers thanks to a combination of sharp pricing and excellent work by
the company’s product design and R&D people. Peer into every possible niche
in the reader market and you’ll find an HID product staring back at you. The
company’s strength isn’t just in the looks department. HID products never lose
sight of the job.

According to
HID’s senior product marketing manager, Dave Adams, the most important
qualities of an access control reader are secure communications between the
card and reader, and flexible and secure communication options for connection
to the host controller.

“Also vital is
upgradeability,” says Adams. “Consumers are looking for solutions that protect
their investment. And that calls for migration capabilities. Organizations are
seeking solutions that offer seamless migration for transitioning from one type
of credential to another; this requires a multi-technology reader that can take
them there.”

Adams says
optimized Read/Write performance between the reader and card type is also
vital.

“Some
multi-technology readers have very different read range capabilities when
presented with multiple card types, which they claim to fully support.”

In terms of
stand-out features of the HID product range, Adams says HID’s multiCLASS and
EdgeReader multiCLASS readers offer the widest selection of card type
capabilities available in the market, while HID reader technology is the global
technology of choice for accuracy, compatibility, technological innovation and
responsiveness.

“HID iCLASS
readers and credentials employ enhanced security through encryption and Mutual
Authentication,” Adams says. “This ensures that the communication between the
card and reader can never be copied and repeated back to the reader.

“Along with this,
HID iCLASS and Edge readers offer a wide range of communications options –
Ethernet,Hi-O,RS485,RS232 and USB, as well as Wiegand and Clock and Data for
connection to legacy access control platforms.”

According to
Adams, all HID iCLASS readers can be upgraded and/or reconfigured in the field
by means of an upgrade or configuration credential, while EdgeReader has the
ability to be upgraded or configured remotely by means of its Ethernet
connectivity.

While the
decision on which access control reader technology can be confusing, Adams says
there are a number of things the end user can do to ensure the best possible
performance.

“End users should
avoid older technologies such 125kHz proximity, Magnetic Stripe, Barcode and
CSN (Card Serial Number) readers,” he explains. “They should also make sure the
reader offers a secure connection to the access control host and they should
avoid Wiegand and Clock and Data if possible.

“The reader
selected should employ strong encryption for both card reading and
communication to the host,” Adams says. “And end users need to bear in mind
that the ongoing cost of maintaining card-based access control systems is a key
element of many systems.”

“To find a
balance between cost and security, end users should look for readers such as
HID Global’s iCLASS and EdgeReader which have the ability to be upgraded and
reconfigured. This allows the reader to adapt to new applications as the end
user’s security needs change.”

Adams says the
future access control reader will be card technology agnostic and capable of
reading/writing to most if not all contactless technologies without the need to
change or replace the hardware.

“In the future,
readers will be a license-controlled product, which allows an end user to
purchase and begin using a new or different card technology by simply loading a
new license key into the reader,” he explains.

“The future
access control reader will incorporate a modular design, enabling biometric
applications to be added to existing readers as customer security needs change.
This modular design will also make it possible to add additional services to
the door such as VoIP and Video.

“Connectivity
will continue to model the IT space and the future access control reader will
be more of a network appliance that just happens to read a card.”

What sort of
reader would Adams install to protect a site if security was everything and
money was no object?

“A multi-technology
biometric reader, featuring iris recognition at a distance of up to 3 metres
with long and short range credential authentication capabilities,” he says.

At INDALA
distributor, Chase Security, Will Yeadon says the most important qualities of
an access reader and its cards relate to making the right choice in terms of security,
functionality, price and quality.

“When it comes to
security you want a non-duplicated format, authentication between card and
reader and card data protection,” he says.

“When thinking
functionality think about read ranges, mounting options (mullion, wall switch, vehicle
bollard), and the selection of attractive covers.”

“And when looking
for quality readers, go for lifetime warranty,” Yeadon says. “And be smart
about cost – cost is not about money, it’s about value for money.”

According to
Yeadon, the stand-out features of Chase’s INDALA access readers include the
fact that INDALA readers transmit card data using  Phase Shift Modulation (PSK) and therefore
operate on a different frequency modulation then other readers (FSK), operating
on a different data frequency modulation gives an inherent higher level of
security. Only INDALA ASP+ readers can read INDALA ASP+ cards.

“INDALA also has an
option of password protection, an additional 30-bit layer of security
enveloping the card format so unless the password matches on both card and
reader, card data does not transmit into the reader/system,” Yeadon explains. “This
stops the chance of a card issued on one site accidentally being granted access
to another site.”

Yeadon says that INDALA
offers many propriety formats other than the standard and over-issued 26-bit.

“Importantly, these
security features can be upgraded to INDALA readers in existing installations
by using field programming cards.”

According to
Yeadon, there are a number of things end users and installers can do to ensure
they good the right level of security.

“They must choose
readers that challenge the card data, this is authentication. Many readers are
“pass-thru” readers that do not challenge the card but rather pass any card
data straight through to the panel,” Yeadon says.

“They also need
to choose or create an authentication that is specific to them and avoid
formats that have been duplicated. And end users should think about what
security level they need. Is the system to be genuinely secured or is it simply
an electronic key access system?

“Readily available
lower security readers in 26-bit are convenient and economical, but lack card
authentication security,” Yeadon explains.

“Higher security
readers will cost more but offer robust card authentication security at the
door. Choose a reader from a quality global manufacturer with proven security levels
and a lifetime warranty.”

To balance
security and cost Yeadon says security managers need to start with a solid
foundation, by choosing a secure card and reader up front.

“Installing
readers and cards that are known to be of a non-secure format and duplicated
throughout the industry will lead to high maintenance costs in the future,” he
says. “There is no guarantee that the most secure card and reader will not be
targeted by hackers but starting with a cheap non-secure card and reader option
that is known to be duplicated is not recommended.”

Yeadon says in
the future access control readers will need longer read ranges then that
offered in 13.56Mhz (14443) readers and more security then offered by generic
125Khz readers. And he says they’ll need to be and multi-technology readers – capable
of reading different frequencies/different formats.

“I see an increasing
demand for Dual Technology cards (125Khz/13.56Mhz) that offer functional read
ranges for access and the ability for data storage for biometrics and e-purse
transactions,” Yeadon says. “The 13.56Mhz (14443) frequency does not offer
functional read range for many access control environments.

“When it comes to
biometrics I think the recent innovation of sub-cutaneous biometric
identification (Hitachi Finger Vein) represents a true biometric rather than a
photograph of one.”

Yeadon says networkability
will be important in the future, too.

“The increase in
secure wireless data transmission between reader and panel and panel and
network will be the next step in network access control technology,” he
explains.

“We’ll also see the
ability to connect remote sites via long-range authenticated transmissions such
as Zig-Bee protocol.”

For Yeadon the
perfect access control reader for a high security solution would be a triple
authentication reader.

“It would require
something I have (card), something I know (PIN) and something I am (Biometric),”
he says. “Depending on the door security sensitivity level or time of day, one,
two or all three authentications would be required to gain access.”

Meanwhile, CSD’s
Etwell Pausigere says he has no doubt the most important qualities of an access
control reader would need to include reliability and security.

“With the myriads
of various proximity technologies available it’s difficult to be sure you are
really getting what you paid for. This is why we sell and support our solid
range of products from HID,” Pausigere says.

“Readers and
their associated cards are the face of the security system. They are the most
heavily used component of the security system. Some readers are placed in some
of Australia’s harshest environments and credentials are regularly put to the
test by their holders. HID has been a clear choice for CSD by providing life
time warranty on their product line.

“The level of
security required for a particular type of reader will vary from case to case.
Low security applications are ideal for the 125 kHz range and are a popular
choice for existing customers,” says Pausigere. “The 13.56 MHz range offers
smart card technology and a superior level of security.”

According to
Pausigere, a personal favourite access control reader is the HID iClass.

“Besides the
typical specifications you would expect from a quality proximity device, iClass
offers smartcard technology with a superior level of security that won’t break
the bank,” says Pausigere.

“For example, an
individual could access doors around their office or facility, pay to use the
vending machine and log in to their computer with a single iClass credential.”

Pausigere says
CSD also carries excellent access control readers from Rosslare and Microlatch.

“Rosslare
manufactures solid vandal proof prox pin readers that continue to have an
excellent reputation in the industry, while Microlatch offers a very stylish
range of remote fobs that incorporate HID both 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz.

According to
Pausigere, there are a number of things end users do to ensure they buy readers
that offer the best possible security levels.

“End users
usually aren’t aware of the features offered by the various proximity readers
available today,” Pausigere says. “While most low security applications might
only require a basic credential for physical access control, smart card readers
are usually the same price.

“And some people
confuse Wiegand proximity formats with the level of security the reader has to offer.
The most common Wiegand format is 26-bit which is referred to as an open
format. This format is used when programming a card and this information is
transmitted by the reader to its controller,” he explains.

“Users should ask
what level of security is provided to prevent reading or duplicating data from
the card. Another important question to ask is what security exists between the
reader and the card. There are quite a number of different proximity solutions
that require various levels of authentication from the card in order for it to
be read.”

According to
Pausigere, Central Security Distribution offers different readers to suit
almost any application.

“Perhaps users
would like to use a card technology coupled with a unique pin code they have to
enter on a terminal to gain access – perhaps they might incorporate biometrics
with proximity – in either case we can help them,” he says.

Pausigere agrees
the ongoing cost of maintaining card-based access control systems is a key
element of many systems but he says it needs to be kept in perspective.

“Credentials and
their associated readers are probably some of the most reasonably priced
security products you can buy on the market,” he says.

“But obviously users
need to ensure that they are not spending more than necessary on features that
might never be used. For instance, I have found that a majority of customers
order custom products that consist of unique site codes and card formats that
simply are not required. Non-standard options such as custom card formats or
unique site codes might not cost much per card but make a massive difference
for bigger orders.”

“Consideration also
needs to be taken when managing credentials,” Pausigere says.

“If credentials
are recycled considerable cost savings can be made. And if you have 100
employees working for you, don’t order 100 cards. Each individual card order is
going to incur a programming fee, service call and lost productive hours on
site. Instead try to keep a 15 per cent margin for lost cards and new employees.

Pausigere says photo
ID is an excellent technology, when it’s used properly.

“There is no
point in placing an employee’s name or photo on a card if the credential is not
used for identification of the card holder,” he says.

“It’s not
uncommon to find security guards waving personnel with photo ID past a secured
entry point because they either know the staff or are not performing their
duties correctly.

“If you have two
sites using different card technologies, speak with your supplier. There are
various multi-technology cards available. Instead of purchasing two cards for
the one person to travel from one site to another, you can simply purchase the
one card.”

When Pausigere
looks to the future he says that while reader technology isn’t really behind the
8 ball, some of the supporting hardware generally is.

“Card
manufactures have been pumping out Wiegand readers since the pyramids,”
Pausigere says. “But this technology has numerous limitations including a total
lack of security over the data lines between the reader head and the control
equipment.

“Combatting this,
Inner Range has recently developed an interface for HID’s Hi-O. Hi-O (Highly
Intelligent Opening) is a system Concept solutions can use to interface with
doors on a high level with features such as voltage monitoring, Sabotage
detection and Component heartbeat monitoring.

“There’s no
question that today’s card technology has a lot to offer to the public,”
Pausigere explains. “Non-volatile memory is cheaper every day. Cards are
usually only sold for the purposes of access control but they can do so much
more if end users and integrators ask them.

“Examples of some future applications are
storage of personal medical data including photos and other digital media. In
terms of encryption and card security in general, I think the technology is
progressing nicely with market demands,” he says.

“The reader selected should employ strong encryption for both card reading and communication to the host. And end users need to bear in mind that the ongoing cost of maintaining card-based access control systems is a key element of many systems”