Visual identification integral to security
Visual identification integral to security

Oct 1, 1997 12:00 PM

Diverse applications drive accelerating demand for photo ID systems. Driven by the demand for heightened security, photo ID is rapidly reaching a critical mass in America. Consider the following:* Sears Roebuck and other lea ding retailers now require photo ID when customers charge transactions.

* Airline passengers must present a photo ID, issued by a government authority, when purchasing tickets and boarding.

* Tobacco buyers must produce a driver's license or other photographic identification indicating they are 18 or older in accordance with new FDA regulations.

* Calls have increased for stricter gun control laws and photo ID cards for all licensed gun permit holders.

Clearly, the need for increased security and safety through visual identification has become an accepted part of our daily lives.

Photo IDs appear on some or all of the following: driver's licenses, passports, access cards to the workplace, credit cards, health and warehouse club membership cards, voter registration cards and college campus entry cards. Photo ID is also being used in the military reserves, and even at daycare centers for picking up pre-schoolers. The list of applications is growing.

Digital technology integration

Digital technology is enabling organizations with limited budgets to acquire a full-color system that integrates a video camera, computer, software and a plastic-to-card color printer for production of high-quality, durable and tamper-proof photo ID cards. Starting at about $15,000, such systems have attracted many vendors, which, in turn, has resulted in declining prices.

Photo IDs serve multiple purposes. Most important are the security and safety of employees, students and others who have access to an organization's facilities. Cards and badges identify who should be on the premises and discourage unwanted visitors.

Photo ID compatibility

Imaging systems are compatible with an array of machine-readable, access control technologies, such as bar code, magnetic stripe, biometrics and proximity. They also allow users to create databases that can generate important, information-oriented applications.

Photo ID systems can function as stand-alone systems or as workstations within a network, allowing digital information to be shared across networks or delivered to other PC databases. The bottom line is photo ID systems can enhance security, increase productivity and reduce costs.

Markets and applications

In addition to general safety, private and public sector organizations are concerned about white-collar crime, theft of information, economic (or defense) espionage and terrorism. Here's what a number of digital photo ID system users have to say.

* A director of human resources at a community hospital explains: "Patients have a right to know who is providing care to them. All caregivers must be easily recognized. More than 70 percent of our staff are female. Their safety, especially at night, is a constant concern. We also maintain a heightened level of security in maternity wards and child care centers, and for access to medical records and pharmacies. Video ID, combined with swipe cards, has enabled us to deliver high-quality healthcare with fewer people."

* An ID chairperson at a retirement condo community volunteers that, "color-coded photo ID cards provide many benefits. For example, they identify residents who can use our bus transportation to nearby shopping centers. Many of these older folks do not drive a car. The cards also enable town police to view digitized photos of employees and contractors and to match descriptions of wanted criminals and suspects. In addition, confidential database information such as home and emergency telephone numbers and the location of a spare house key can be stored and retrieved as needed."

* A director of security at a real estate building management company states: "Primary tenants require controlled access to their facilities, especially after normal working hours. Our security personnel perform this task. We select the most suitable photo ID and access control system for each property we manage. We 'click and pick' in-and-out activity and provide the tenants with a printout of individuals who have accessed their offices on weekends and at night."* A supervisor at a county parks and recreati on department cites other benefits of digital IDs. "We compete for dwindling resources and had to cost-justify a new digital ID system in 18 months. Our department manages the county's swimming pools, tennis courts, golf course and beach facilities. Residents pay an annual or seasonal fee. The color on the ID card indicates the type of pass. Our city commissioner uses database printouts to justify budget allocations. We also issue ID cards to residents over 21 who do not have a driver's license and are 'proofed' to purchase liquor."

* Consider the comments of a manager of engineering services at a manufacturing facility with 1,200 employees. "In addition to regular employees, we use agency temps and have numerous contractors on-site, such as cafeteria, maintenance and cleaning personnel. We are also on alert for the occasional disgruntled or discharged employee. A recently installed video ID badge system, tied in with our access control procedures, has improved security. It has also enabled us to provide time-and-attendance reports. Payroll information is downloaded at each pay period. All employee status changes are identified, and new photo-bearing cards are batch-generated with the individuals present."

* A director of security at a commercial bank cites the following photo ID application. "On any day, tellers, auditors and officers are working at different branch sites. To control access, they must be visually identified. Our human resources people use a digital camera to capture new employee portraits at distant facilities, which are imported into the computer. And when important business customers or foreign government trade officials visit, color photographs are sent in advance, then scanned into the computer. A photo ID card is presented to them upon arrival. Replacement cards are also produced when an employee is transferred, promoted, when the department name is changed, or the original card is lost. Digital ID has increased overall productivity."

The market for versatile photo ID card systems is almost limitless. "Universal" or all-purpose ID cards are firmly established on most college and university campuses. ID cards are used in conjunction with biometrics and CCTV systems at correctional institutions and detention centers. Diverse organizations - from warehouse clubs, to casinos, to financial services, as well as many levels of local, state and federal agencies - have adopted digitally prepared ID cards and badges for integration with one or more machine-readable technologies.

Future direction

Continued growth in the photo ID segment of the electronic imaging market will drive production of high-quality systems that enhance security, provide important time savings, lower production costs and offer versatile database capabilities at affordable prices.

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