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What Are RFID Key Cards and How Do They Work?

rfid key cardsIn an age when building and community security are more important than ever, many facilities are doing away with physical, mechanical keys in favor of electronically-read RFID key cards. These key cards are programmable, customizable and far more secure than mechanical keys, for a variety of reasons. Let’s explore this technology to see how it can make your apartment community, campus or facility more secure.

What Is RFID?

RFID stands for “Radio Frequency Identification,” and as with most modern technology today, it is associated with a chip. Specifically, objects equipped with RFID contain a small chip programmed with data, along with a tiny antenna that transmits that data via a weak signal to nearby receivers. As a more secure technology, RFID is rapidly replacing barcodes and magnetic strips that used to contain similar information to be read by scanners. We see it on our credit cards which are now trading the familiar magnetic strip for enhanced chip technology. We also use RFID in key cards which can be programmed to unlock doors when the card is placed near a receiver at the entry point. In the context of key control, the RFID card replaces the standard lock-and-key system for entry. You place the card on or near the reader, the reader identifies the signal as belonging to an authorized user, and the door unlocks.

How Are RFID Key Cards Safer?

RFID key cards offer many advantages over physical keys and even barcode technology — both of which can be easily copied. Here are just a few of the advantages replacing conventional lock-and-key systems with an RFID key card system:

● Difficult to copy or hack. A radio signal can’t be “copied,” and the signal itself can be encrypted so other devices can’t decipher the data.

● Customizable and programmable. An RFID key card can be programmed to open only specific doors (or only one) for a specific amount of time. (Hotels use keycards to authorize their guests only to access their hotel room and the fitness center, set to stop working the morning of checkout.) This system allows management to restrict employee access only to specific authorized areas of the facility for certain amounts of time.

● Anonymous. With no identifying marks on the key card, only the authorized user and the computer may know which door(s) the card will unlock.

● Easily deactivated. If a keycard is lost or stolen, the system can easily deauthorize its identification signal — or the card may simply be allowed expire.

● More cost-effective security. When physical keys are lost or compromised, the lock must be changed to restore security. When a key card is lost, it can be deauthorized, making it effectively disposable. No need to change the locks!

A Management Solution for All Key Types

While RFID keycards are generally more secure than physical keys, their implementation is meaningless without a secure electronic key control system. Acting as a reinforced shield for your keys, HandyTrac offers three secure key control solutions that are accommodating to keys of all types. In addition to keeping your keys secure, HandyTrac archives an audit trail, and streamlines reporting to provide property managers with a complete key management solution.

For more tips on effective key control or information about our systems, contact us today.