ID Card Encoding Options

By: Daisy McCarty

As you plan your identification card program, you will discover that there are options to fit every budget and high-tech solutions to address even the most advanced encryption requirements. Below is a brief overview of the data transfer and communication devices available for today's cards. Some printers are field upgradeable with these options while others must have the modules installed at the factory. Talk to an ID badge production specialist to find out how to upgrade your system.

Magnetic Stripe

The familiar black strips of plastic on the back of your credit cards and driver's license contain important information that can be retrieved by passing through a simple reading device. This type of magnetic data recording and retrieval system is ideal for high volume, low cost member reward cards, gift cards, and IDs. Base level security access can be programmed in for office environments, resorts, health clubs, and event coordination. Virtually all ID printers on the market offer mag stripe encoding as an option - even the low volume desktop models. This inexpensive solution is perfect for small businesses and is generally the first step up from simple bar coding.

RFID - Proximity

Radio frequency identification devices have become increasingly popular since mass production and miniaturization first made them cost effective. Each tiny tag contains an integrated circuit for data storage, and an antenna. RFID transponders are usually passive (meaning they do not contain a battery) and are activated by an outside source (the scanner). A transceiver is then used to decode the data on the chip. These cards can be read at a distance making it unnecessary to swipe them through a reader to retrieve the encoded information.

RFID proximity cards are an excellent solution for high traffic areas where keeping the flow moving and avoiding bottlenecks is vital. Public transit is the obvious application for this technology, but many other environments can benefit from issuing these fast and efficient entry devices. You will want to select a printer with reverse thermal transfer printing to create these cards so you won't damage the embedded antenna. Proximity devices can also be programmed to work in conjunction with smart card encoding to create a “contactless” unit.

Smart Card

These pocket sized integrated circuit devices are the pinnacle of technological sophistication in the ID industry. They are the ideal vehicle for handling sensitive information since the encryption level can be set quite high. Memory cards offer data storage capacity light years beyond what can fit on a magnetic stripe, and microprocessor cards can carry on two-way communication with a computer terminal. This solution provides multiple forms of secure identity authentication either in person or through an electronic network.

Government agencies use this type of card to meet stringent regulations and precautions regarding access to restricted locations and information. Healthcare industries and other businesses have been quick to follow suit. Privacy and data security are of paramount importance in a world where information leaks can result in lawsuits (or worse). If you choose to upgrade to a smart card enabled encoding module, be sure to invest in rigid card holders to protect these devices from damage during regular use.

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