How do different access credentials compare
Source: William Pao, a&s International
Needless to say, an access control system contains two core hardware elements, the reader and the credential. Different types of credentials exist in the market today, from cards to one’s mobile phone
. An understanding of each can help the user with the selection process.
In access control and identity management, there are three main types or factors for authentication – “what you have” or access credentials, “what you know” or passwords, and “what you are” or biometrics. Among them, access control credentials store a unique ID code to be read by the reader.
Access control credentials have come a long way. The magnetic strip cards that we used to enter college dorms in the 90s have evolved to contactless, RFID-based cards and even mobile phones where you can just tap the phone on the reader and the door will open. The major types of credentials are summarized as follows.
Both proximity (or “prox”) cards and Mifare
cards are “proximity” in nature as the card interacts with the reader in proximity. Both are passive so instead of being battery-driven, they “wake up” to the electrical field emitted by the reader. That said, proximity cards operate in the 125KHz range. “The microchip embedded within a proximity card has only one function: to provide the prox card reader with the card’s identification number and/or site facility code number so it can be verified with a remote computer,” said a blogpost
by IDWholesaler. “Many access control systems only read the identification numbers and do not require the available memory that is present in a smart card.”
Mifare or smartcards
Mifare or smartcards, originally used for European public transportation payment transactions, offer more functionality and security. According to IDWholesaler, Mifrare cards differ from proximity cards by the following:
- The frequency of a Mifare card is 13.56 Mhz. A standard 1386 proximity card is 125KHz.
- The standard Mifare card is factory programmed with a unique 32-bit serial number. This is a random number and does not contain a facility code.
- A Mifare card has memory for storing values (typically up to 1 kilobyte of data). A proximity card does not have the capacity to store values.
“A Mifarec card can be programmed with multiple credentials, which adds an extra ‘handshake’ between the card reader and the card reader software. The memory within the Mifare card can also be programmed for use as a cash card or a pre-paid membership card,” IDWholesaler said.
According to a blogpost
by Kintronics, a mobile credential
is an authorization token much like a prox card or keyfob. “The ID number is held in your smartphone instead of a card. The smartphone can connect to a door reader using Bluetooth, NFC, or even Wi-Fi. Bluetooth (BLE) is the most common type of communication used in the security market,” it said. “If you want to use your smartphone as the credential, you must select a reader that operates with the Bluetooth connected smartphone. Some of these mobile-enabled readers will support both proximity and mobile credentials.”
A major advantage of mobile credentials is the convenience factor. As opposed to cards or keyfobs, users tend to carry their mobile device around at all times and tend not to lose or misplace them. As a result, the market for mobile credential and its associated hardware is set to experience huge growth in the mid-term. A recent study by Research and Markets forecasts the global mobile credential reader market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 29 percent between 2019 and 2025.
“The commercial segment is expected to witness the highest growth during the forecast period,” it said.