Access control has greatly evolved, with modern solutions offering more security and convenience than ever before. Despite the benefits of newer options, many organizations are still using outdated access control technology.

Electronic physical access control has played a key role in enterprise security for decades, evolving from swipe technologies in the 1980s to first-generation contactless smart cards in the 1990s and 2000s, and subsequently to second-generation contactless smart cards, which emerged at the start of this decade.

To fully understand today’s technology, it is important to understand the evolution and transformation of access control:

1980s — Swipe Technologies: Initial swipe technologies were a major administrative improvement over manual locks and keys in terms of management, traceability, and forensics. Knowing who had access rights to certain areas and being able to efficiently control those rights removed the need to re-key as employees left or changed roles in the organization.

1990s – “Prox”: In time, the limitations of swipe technologies began to be felt. The need for physical contact between readers and credentials could be cumbersome and inefficient for users, while broken cards and physical wear on readers became costly and time-consuming for administrators.  Thus, the emergence of contactless technologies was a game-changer in the access control industry.

Late 1990s-2010s — First-Generation Contactless Smart Cards: Around 2000, contactless smart cards emerged that offered more sophisticated technology than Prox. These smart cards, including brands such as MIFARE® and iCLASS®, utilized high frequency technology (13.56MHz) and featured new credentials.

2013-Present — Second-Generation Contactless Smart Cards: Earlier this decade, contactless smart cards evolved further to better meet the needs of today’s businesses. Gone are the proprietary protocols that were more vulnerable in first-generation smart cards. Second-generation smart cards (e.g., iCLASS® Seos® cards) aren’t just more secure, they are architected to enable virtually unlimited applications.

The Next Generation of Credentials — Mobile Devices: Much of the next generation of credentials is already here. Mobile devices are well entrenched in nearly all aspects of everyday life. Allowing building occupants to use their smartphone, tablet or wearable to enter controlled areas to supplement or replace cards will likely be well accepted by all involved parties.

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