USES FOR ID CARDS #6: PHYSICAL ACCESS

Cards, and most commonly smart cards – with an embedded electronic chip, are increasingly accepted as the credential of choice for securely controlling physical access. Smart cards are used to authenticate individuals, to determine the appropriate level of access, and physically admit the cardholder to a facility, most commonly using a card reader at the point of entry. Multiple access applications can be contained on a smart card, granting users access to both physical and logical resources without the need for multiple credentials. Access rights can be changed dynamically or revoked, depending on perceived threat level or if the system is in any way compromised.

Here are some examples of where data securely held on a card is particularly useful:

Government

Protecting access to secure government facilities and infrastructure is important to protect critical functions and to counter disruptive threats in today’s World. As one of the largest employers in most societies, federal, local and district governments use physical access control and the issuance of secure ID cards to ensure that only those individuals who are permitted to be in specific facilities are granted access.

Education

Protecting campuses and safeguarding students has become a critical operation for all educational establishments from kindergarten through to universities. Smart cards, each issued with unique keys to provide access to campuses, faculties and individual classrooms, are now a fundamental requirement for staff, visitors and increasingly for students of all ages. Cards are typically presented to an authenticating reader, linked to a physical access control system (PACS) which verifies and grants access to an individual.

Corporate

Electronic data, securely written to a smart card at the point of issuance can be used to grant access not only to the front door, but also privileged access to more secure departments or assets within the building itself. A smart card is typically presented to a card reader, linked to a physical access control system (PACS) which authenticates the individual and permits access. Access rights can be revoked or amended at the touch of a button

Events

ID cards for all event attendees can be personalised and issued at the point of entry using desktop ID card printerssmart cards and badging software. Data encoded on to an electronic chip on the card can be used to grant access via turnstiles or card readers located within the event. Access to specific areas, such as VIP lounges, or selected conferences can also be allocated at the point of issuance.

Facilities

One of the most important uses of ID cards is for securing entry points to critical infrastructure facilities such as airports, hospitals and ports. Employees working on these sites are issued with a secure card, often based on centrally government standards, containing electronic data that grants access to the site and secure areas within the site itself. Access is granted through turnstiles and card readers. For the most secure areas, multi-factor authentication might be required. This would involve combining the smart card with pre-loaded secure electronic data and password or PIN associated with the card or a biometric data such as a fingerprint or iris scan, read at the point of entry.

Healthcare

Both employee smart ID cards, patient ID and instantly issued visitor cards can be used to grant access to secure areas within a medical facility including ward access, associated with pre-defined visiting times. Access is typically granted using a card reader linked to a physical access control system (PACS).

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About the author

Clare Lamb
By Clare Lamb

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