What are Proximity Cards?
Proximity Cards are very common for keyless entry used with access control systems to allow card holders into gyms and fitness centres, apartments, condo buildings, hotel rooms, large amusement parks, and more. These cards look no different to the usual 30 mil PVC card, however, embedded inside is a metallic antenna coil which holds the encoded data. Examples of other proximity items include Key Fobs and Stickers.
How do Proximity Cards Work?
Proximity cards are contactless, meaning they don’t need to be inserted into a card reading device and don’t require a swipe either. The cards use a low 125 kHz radio frequency to communicate to a door access reader, the card is then positioned onto the reader allowing a sequence of unique numbers to be given to the access control panel, this will then approve the number if it matches within the internal database. The door will be unlocked!
The term “proximity card” refers to the older 125 kHz devices as distinct from the newer 13.56 MHz contactless smartcards. Second generation proximity cards are used for mass and distance reading applications. Proximity cards typically have a read range of up to 50 cm, which is the main difference from the contactless smartcard with a range of 2 to 10 cm. The card can be left in a wallet and read by simply holding the wallet near the reader. These early proximity cards can’t hold more data than a magnetic stripe card, and only cards with smart chips (i.e., contactless smartcards) can hold other types of data like electronic funds balance for contactless payment systems, history data for time and attendance or biometric templates. When used without encoding data, only with the card serial number, contactless smartcards have similar functionalities to proximity cards.
Passive 125 kHz cards, the more widely used type, are powered by radio frequency signals from the reader device and so have a limited range and must be held close to the reader unit. They are used as key cards for access control doors in buildings. A version with more memory, contactless smartcards, are used for other applications: library cards, contactless payment systems, and public transit fare cards.
Active 125 kHz proximity cards, sometimes called vicinity cards but vary slightly, are powered by an internal lithium battery. Proximity cards typically enable read-only capability while vicinity card or other RFID cards enable both read and write functionalities. They can have a greater range, up to 2 meters. Other contactless technologies like UHF (Ultra High Frequency) smart cards can reach up to 150 meters (500 ft) and are often used for applications where the card is read inside a vehicle, such as security gates which open when a vehicle with the access card inside approaches, or automated toll collection. The battery eventually runs down, however, and the card must be replaced after 2 to 7 years.
The Genius that goes on:
Things to know about Bit Formats – There is a wide range of bit formats, ranging from the standard 26bit to other formats that may be brand specific, for example, 32, 34, 35 and anything up to 40. Something useful to note with brand specific Proximity Cards is that they aren’t any more secure than your standard 26bit card.
The Cards Number Encoded is created using 3 Parts:
A parity bit is used as a very simple quality check for the accuracy of the transmitted binary data. The designer of the format program will decide if each parity bit should be even or odd. A selected group of data bits will be united with one parity bit, and the total number of bits should result in either an even or odd number.
The video opposite gives a complete explanation and also shows this is not a perfect solution.
The Facility Code
A Facility Code is given when you first begin a door access program and when you get the Proximity Cards as well. The code given to you is usually a number between 1 and 255. This number is then vital for your card encoding to help keep your building secure.
The Card Number
This is very simple to understand. You always begin with your proximity card program at card number 1 and then count upwards.
Tips to remember with Proximity Cards:
Bit Format is 26 bit as a standard but any number from 24 to 40 is what you’ll need to look for.
Card types include standard PVC or composite cards, thick clamshell cards, printable cards and magnetic stripe cards. Also, the alternatives would be key fobs and tags.
Facility code, every building has a different facility code so remember you get the location correct for encoding your proximity cards
Range of new card numbers. If your last card has a number of 6728 and you then have an order of 1000 more, your range changes to 6729 – 7728. Always make sure the numbering is sequential as shown and NEVER overlap card ranges. For example, two cards given the same number will automatically be seen on your system as one card instead of two separate cards.
Printing on Proximity Cards:
Printing on proximity cards, if you are looking to get best results for colours and clarity, as well as a very durable printer I would advise purchasing a retransfer printer as it has quality printing technology.