There are many different types of key cards and fobs available today. While they all perform a similar function, when it comes to choosing the best key card door access for your space, it’s important to know the difference between the most common options. Which access control system is right for you will depend on how many doors you have to secure, the number of people using the key card door access system, and the level of security needed. Below are the three most common types of key cards and fobs for access control.
Wiegand key cards
One of the first types of key cards to be developed in the 1970s, Wiegand key cards store unique binary data that cannot be erased or reprogrammed by magnetic fields, and are most commonly used with legacy security systems. These types of cards don’t use a microchip or other breakable components, so they tend to be a more durable, though outdated option.
The Wiegand protocol is still the standard interface to connect readers and scanners to controllers today. Even newer iterations of key card systems and fingerprint scanners use readers that convert the data to a Wiegand number.
Swipe key cards
Your classic credit card-style system, a swipe card features a magnetic stripe along one edge of the key card that holds the credential data. To trigger an action, whether it’s to unlock a door or pay for a transaction, the user simply has to swipe their card through a magnetic reader. Swipe key cards can be individually tracked, and enable audit trails. A swipe card door access control system is an easy-to-use, inexpensive security solution for larger organizations with many people accessing the same areas.
Card swipe entry systems are often less expensive than proximity card reader entry systems. However, a swipe card door lock has a few significant drawbacks. A swipe card door lock is not a great idea in crowded lobbies where they might cause a bottleneck, or in parking garages where it may be difficult to swipe the card from inside a car. Card swipe entry systems also tend to have more wear and tear, resulting in more frequent maintenance as the system ages.
Proximity cards, RFID cards, and RFID fobs
Some of the most commonly used types of security key cards, this access method uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to transmit data stored within the card to a reader. RFID enabled key cards and key fob systems can operate on different frequency ranges, depending on your needs and the type of security access you choose. With proximity cards and RFID key fobs, the card usually has to be very close to the reader in order for the data to transmit.
Key fobs can be programmed to allow time restrictions and special location permissions on individual components, making them a great option for keyless entry systems in larger building complexes. For this reason, offices complexes often use a key fob system for business tenants. Some key fob door entry systems also have built-in PIN pads for two-factor authentication.
Smart cards are a high-frequency RFID key card option that uses Near-Field Communication (NFC) to transmit data. These types of cards generally have more storage capacity than other RFID cards and include encryption for better security, as seen in contactless payment systems and credit cards.