Why choosing the proximity card reader for your access system matters

 In Access Control

The two most important parts of an access control system any business are the proximity card readers and the software. The card reader matters, as it collects the data from every person entering and sometimes exiting. The software is essential because it offers this information in an hopefully easy to digest overview. The means by which your employees authenticate themselves at the door, be it biometrics, keycards, a PIN code or a smartphone, you will need the correct reader for the application. In this post, we will largely focus on the technologies required for proximity cards or, so called, fobs. Many manufacturers offer their own branded readers, but the technology behind them is a more important decision than you might think.

Proximity Reader Technologies

Proximity readers work by sending out an electrical impulse at a particular frequency. The card or fob reflects the frequency based on the internal antenna, coupled with the code information contained on the card. The important part to note is that some readers cannot read certain cards, due to different frequencies or data protocols. Kantech’s ioProx format proximity readers, for example, will only work with ioProx keycards. HID’s iClass format is very similar in the way that only iClass compatible proximity cards can be used. HID, however, manufactures a few different formats and is seen as more of an industry standard, with new-to-market products supporting HID formats first.

As a result, it is important to make a conscious decision about the card reader that you will be using at your business. Instead of just accepting the parts that were quoted, below are a few pointers that should allow you to make a more educated decision as to which technology you would want to be using in your building(s).

Incompatible Readers/Locks

As time progresses, new technologies are released. This is the case currently with WiFi and PoE enabled locks. These are essentially handle sets with an automated locking mechanism and a proximity reader built into the same device. More on them here. Most access control systems are now compatible with these types of locks, but the proximity reader will only support a few of the protocols on the market. This ultimately means that these locks cannot be retrofitted into some existing installations, without the requirements for a separate keycard or authentication method.

Assa Abloy’s Aperio wireless locks, for example, are built to support HID’s multiCLASS SE and HID Mobile Access. In the case of a Kantech system, this lock will only make sense if there are already HID or HID compatible readers installed. Otherwise all readers in the building would have to be changed to a HID compatible reader along with all keycards, or employees will have to carry two separate keycards, which is not the best solution. Assa Abloy has just recently released an ioProx compatible lock, which will in turn not support the HID cards.

Costly Upgrades

Which brings us to the cost of upgrading. The initial cost of a HID reader will be higher than a manufacturer proprietary proximity reader, but the cost of upgrading at a later time will be even higher. Most access control panels are compatible with HID readers, while most proprietary readers are not compatible with any other access control manufacturer. Should, in the future, the access control system be upgraded to a different system, or the manufacturer no longer be in business, all proximity readers will have to be changed with it.

While the proximity readers may not seem like a large expense, the cost of new proximity cards, all required programming, and the distribution amongst employees will add up to be a very costly endeavor. That’s why we recommend spending a slight amount more on the initial install and saving massively on costs later on.

Possible Part/Proximity Card Unavailability

Companies, whether small or large, go out of business every day. While any company can essentially go bankrupt, or close for any reason, a company like HID Global that practically offers the standard for the industry, is more unlikely to close their doors. The great thing about the HID standard also is that other manufacturers can build proximity readers that adhere to the multiple standards that HID sets forth, and the same goes for proximity cards. In the case of a proprietary platform, such as the ioProx format from Kantech, Kantech is the only manufacturer of both readers and cards, creating a possible bottleneck for large orders and a possible lack of parts in the future.

When choosing the proximity readers for your site, the availability of compatible proximity cards should always be a priority. Without these cards, access to your building will be impossible after all.

Multi-Site Restrictions

We’ve had a few customers that had a Kantech system installed at one building, a Keyscan system in another and a Honeywell NetAXS system at yet another site. Not only is this a horrible idea for the management of all the buildings, but it caused them to have incompatible keycards from one location to another. Management would have to have multiple proximity cards on them to be able to access their buildings. This issue can be fixed by creating a standard across all locations in terms of the access control system, whether proprietary or not. But ultimately the issue that can arise is that the product is not available for a future build, requiring all previous builds to be upgraded.

With a HID proximity reader, this risk is somewhat eliminated, as they are mostly backward compatible and, as mentioned previously, there are many manufacturers that can build compatible readers. Now, the investment is more protected than before with an open standard.

Our Recommendation

As you can see, we highly recommend utilizing HID compatible readers for your buildings. HID’s multiCLASS SE readers are very cost effective, support a wide range of proximity card formats and look great in any modern building design. Additionally, these readers are compatible with most access control panels and will offer many years of reliable service. One of our most popular proximity readers is the HID RP40, which is also available with a keypad as the RPK40.

Thank You

I would like to personally thank you for reading this post. It is important to us that you are informed about all of the possible ins and outs about your security solutions. When investing in new hardware, or looking to upgrade, the picture may not be quite clear. We would be more than happy to personally help you with answering your questions and offering advice for your current situation. We have a team of trained professionals ready to help you find the perfect solution for your business. Please contact us at 1(844) 230-2730 or email us at [email protected]. We are ready to help 24-7-365 and would be happy to help you.

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