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The Benefits Of Smart Cards In An Access Control System

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Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

When it comes to choosing an access control system, the options include systems that use proprietary proximity cards, magnetic stripe cards, biometric systems, and smart cards. For many facility managers, a one-card approach that uses smart cards may prove to offer the most benefits.

How does a smart card system benefit facility managers?

First, consider the alternative without smart cards. Under a business-as-usual scenario, an office building with a base-building access control system may have its own controllers that are separate from the tenants’ card access system controllers. Tying them together requires integration between various access control systems and possibly multiple types of cards.

Or consider a hospital or university. Specific buildings or even departments may have their own systems, requiring different access cards. This can cause confusion when trying to track which cards access which facilities.

Enter the smart card. Smart cards contain a computer chip programmed with personal information about the cardholder and the access point or points the individual is allowed to enter. One benefit of smart cards is that they can be integrated with different technologies, including proprietary proximity, magnetic-stripe and biometric systems. That allows smart cards to be used in different locations with different technology readers.

The benefits of smart cards don't stop there. A smart card that is programmed to be read by different types of readers or by a multi-technology reader at different locations is expandable through the addition of new access control panels and readers. That means better flexibility.

Smart cards can also help protect corporate information networks — so-called logical access control, as compared with physical access control for entry into a facility. IT departments seek logical access as a lock on a company’s computer network. In a logical access control system, a user’s smart card is inserted into a card reader linked to the cardholder’s workstation.

Logical access using a smart card reader provides better security than a password because employees often fail to log off their workstations at the end of a day, allowing others to access sensitive company files. The smart card solves that problem because removal of the card unlinks a workstation from a company’s computer network.

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