RFID User Authentication Drives Access Beyond the Door

Companies are leveraging the cards employees are already carrying to control access to the information, systems, materials and devices their staff uses at work.
Published: June 23, 2019

The ID badge has become a nearly universal emblem of corporate life. At companies large and small, new employees are issued a radio frequency identification (RFID) card that provides visual identification and unlocks the door when they arrive at work. RFID cards provide personnel with secure 24-7 access to a workplace, while maintaining a record of exactly who has entered the building and when this occurred. They are cheaper, easier to manage and more secure than physical keys—and if they are lost or an employee is terminated, card access can simply be turned off.

The same cards can be used to enable access to all kinds of business systems beyond the front door. Companies can leverage the cards that employees already carry to control access to the information, systems, materials and devices their employees use at work.

RFID for User Authentication and Access Control in Business
Companies need systems in place to ensure that authorized employees have access to the information, business systems, materials and equipment they need, while keeping unauthorized users out. Effective access control and user authentication helps businesses to protect sensitive information (such as financial records, human-resources data or company IP), as well as control material and supply costs, improve safety and streamline workflows.

User authentication is the ability to correctly identify an individual user and match his or her information to the devices or systems he or she is using. Access control is the ability to ensure that only authorized users can gain access to an asset or system.

Companies may employ a variety of strategies for user authentication and access control, including physical keys (for supply cabinets and kiosks), passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs). However, these methods are often less than ideal, especially when workers must manage multiple keys or remember different passwords and PINs for a variety of systems. Using an employee ID badge to access all the other systems and materials they need during their workday is faster and easier for personnel and simpler for business IT departments to manage.

RFID Applications Beyond the Front Door
RFID systems for user authentication and access control can be utilized across a variety of business systems and devices. For example:

Single sign-on (SSO): SSO systems allow a user to sign into a company’s network and access all the software and records they are authorized to use and view. An RFID reader can be attached to, or be embedded in, each workstation to enable fast and easy sign-on via an employee ID badge. RFID is more secure than password or PIN systems, as employees generally keep their ID badge on their person and are less likely to share a badge than a password. They also eliminate the IT headache of resetting forgotten passwords and PINs.

RFID is especially valuable in settings in which multiple employees may utilize the same workstation, such as call centers with multiple shifts or companies with hot-desking arrangements. An employee can easily gain access to all of his or her systems and files from any workstation, simply by swiping an ID card to sign onto the network.

Secure printing: Secure printing is beneficial for both cost-control and information management. Employees can send a print job from his or her desk at any time. The printer will only start printing when a worker signs in to start the job. This ensures that sensitive information will not be left lying on an unattended printer if there is a delay between the employee hitting “send” at the desk and picking up the printout. Print management also reduces waste and provides accountability by tracking how much each staff member is printing. RFID access for print management is faster, easier and more secure than entering login credentials into a small printer interface.

Hospital point-of-care: User-authentication and access-control solutions help health-care organizations protect patient safety, comply with HIPAA and GDPR data privacy regulations, reduce loss and theft, and monitor productivity and health-care quality metrics. RFID-enabled systems can help health-care organizations improve security and enable tracking for a broad range of devices and software systems, while allowing fast and hygienic contactless access to medical equipment, supplies and records.

Industrial vending machines and kiosks: Industrial vending machines and kiosks are an increasingly popular solution for providing employees with access to necessary materials and equipment, ranging from lab chemicals to safety gear. RFID user authentication and access control ensure that only authorized employees can gain access to materials and supplies. They can also link user identities to the materials they use for increased accountability and better materials management.

Material handling and manufacturing equipment: RFID can control access to expensive and potentially dangerous equipment, such as forklifts or robots. User authentication and access control ensure that only trained and authorized individuals can operate equipment or make changes to their programming. RFID is simpler and more secure than a key system and provides a record of who has used equipment.

Fleet management: Managing dozens or hundreds of expensive mobile assets is a tough job. Fortunately, today’s fleet managers have plenty of software and hardware options to make it easier, from sophisticated in-vehicle telematics systems to back-end scheduling and logistics software. These tools help fleet managers control costs, reduce risks and improve driver accountability. All of these benefits depend on the ability to correctly identify individual drivers or users, and to control who has access to vehicles, equipment or systems—which RFID proximity readers enable.

RFID clearly offers benefits for developers and the end-user customers they serve. But not all RFID is created equally. Understand the differences in RFID reader technology by downloading ELATEC’s free guide, “RFID Means Business.”

David Koma is responsible for ELATEC USA‘s business development for industry solutions, which include multiple markets and applications. David and his team of account managers and applications specialists provide consultation and support OEMs, integrators and distributors. ELATEC is a designer and manufacturer of user-authentication and access-control solutions for security and numerous other applications. For more information, contact Dave Koma at 610-613-7970 or d.koma@elatec.com.