Modular multi-standard readers tackle RFID migration process
However, there are a number of reasons to question existing identification solutions: Security concerns over aging RFID standards, the use of chip cards for expanded functions and the question of whether NFC should be used or not.
But how is it possible for access control solutions to migrate data efficiently in large companies that have a vast number of reader points and hundreds or even thousands of transponder cards? Solution providers can score points in this department if they show flexibility when it comes to the transponders that they use and when installing reading devices.
It is no longer advisable to use just any RFID standards for security-critical solutions. Experts have warned against 125-kHz transponders particularly, as they are insecure. They also recommend replacing older generations of RFID.
There are also scenarios where it would still be a good idea to replace them, even though modern standards are being implemented: One such scenario is the standardisation of isolated applications for physical access control, identification and permissions management. Another migration scenario would be, for example, when systems for access control, time management and payment are to be merged onto a card with cryptography tokens for IT authentication.
Access control system providers should be prepared for these kinds of scenarios. In the case of smaller companies, it might be practical to suggest a cut-off date by which the client should exchange all of the cards. However, if there are hundreds or thousands of cards, it would not be possible to avoid using both old and new systems simultaneously. Elatec RFID Systems are in a position to tackle this particular challenge faced by system manufacturers head on: Multi-standard readers give manufacturers huge flexibility in terms of RFID standards.
But where’s the problem?
The vast number of old and current RFID standards give rise to a huge amount of different possible combinations. It is not possible to have access control terminals in place for every combination of both old and new standards. Manufacturers either have to deal with a huge number of exchangeable chips of the same size or will need to obtain a reader that is geared up for all eventualities. In the past, most of the chips that Elatec offered were the same size, but the company has increasingly come to rely on a slimmer and cost-effective multi-frequency/multi-standard reader in the shape of the TWN4.
The TWN4 multi-frequency/multi-standard reader from Elatec exhibits a range of special features, which make it particularly attractive to system manufacturers, since it allows the development of future-proof and extremely versatile reading devices. The TWN4 combines practically all previous and current standards, including NFC, on one PCB, making it well-equipped for almost all imaginable applications and migration projects.
The TWN4 connects 125-kHz, 134.2-kHz and 13.56-MHz technologies and is available in two versions, the TWN4 Mifare NFC and the TWN4 Legic NFC. The MIFARE DESfire transponder-platform module family was the focus of particular attention during the development stage as it is currently being used in a wide range of security applications. To this end, Elatec provides a comprehensive API that makes it much easier for developers to implement DESfire communication.
So regardless of whether the customer wants to migrate from LEGIC prime to LEGIC advant, from HID Prox to HID iClass or to MIFARE DESfire, or to any NFC-compatible standards at all, the reader module from Elatec puts them in the perfect position to do so. Reading devices that are equipped with this reader module enable user groups with different card types to access a shared application.
Simultaneous use of chip cards and NFC telephones is also possible. It is not yet clear whether users will embrace the idea of using their mobile phone as a key, but simply being able to offer this nifty extra shows just how open the solution is. The multi-standard modules will free system manufacturers from having to grapple with the variety and dynamics of using several different RFID standards.
Suitable for access control migration scenarios: TWN4 LEGIC NFC core with Ethernet interface for wall mounting. Image source: Elatec
They enable a continuous exchange of reader devices and the step-by-step implementation of new transponders. Scenarios, in which a wide variety of cards are constantly in use are also conceivable, for example, if company share the same site or building. The incremental costs are negligible when you consider the added value of a reading device with this kind of flexibility. Even if you ignore the subject of NFC, the cheapest alternative to a TWN4 would be to integrate two reading modules into one terminal – one for the old RFID standard and one for the new standard. The price of individual modules varies according to the standard, but the cost of a TWN4 is currently no more than 30 to 40 per cent higher than what would be spent on one TWN3 modules. Furthermore, this price difference is constantly shifting in favour of the TWN4 multi-standard solution.
It is possible that the customer will have access to ‘inherited’ cabling as well as the conditions already mentioned. Magnet-card based solutions were often in place where RFID access solutions now exist. A reader module such as the one described above would provide a number of different interfaces. SPI and CAN will also soon be available, in addition to USB, RS232 and serial TTL, I2C. Certain older and very specialised interfaces are also still being used in the field of access control. Providers who want to establish a modern RFIS access system in their company are not only confronted with RS-485 and RS-422, but also with the Wiegand interface from the 1980s, clock/data or even Omron. Just as they did back then, these standards still have their benefits.
TWN4 multi-frequency reader (125 kHz and 13.56 MHz in one) with two SAM sockets.
TWN4 multi-frequency core module (125 kHz and 13.56 MHz in one) for external antennas.
For example, a twisted-pair cord based on RS-422 can be 1,200 metres long and strong enough to protect against electromagnetic interference. Changing anything with the cord would not usually be necessary or even allowed. However, access control solution providers have to prepared for these traditional interfaces. Elatec has resolved this problem on a modular basis, insofar as TWN4 reader adapter boards are now available for these interfaces. The design of the access control terminals does not have to be changed, since they all have the same slim form factor. It is only necessary to add a suitable adapter board if the new RFID solution needs to be adjusted for one of the old interface standards.
Access control migration projects affect everyone entering and leaving a company. Cut-off day regulations and complete exchanges can be difficult or indeed impossible to implement when dealing with large numbers of users. Solution providers who use reading devices to adapt to every situation in a flexible manner and enable the use of a variety of transponders make it easier for their customers to modernise an access solution. The modern electronics used in RFID reading devices can provide this flexibility, so that users are no longer held back by the question of standards.
About the author:
Klaus Nagel is Director of Sales and Business Development at Elatec RFID Systems – www.elatec-rfid.com
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