Inline Smart Card Personalization

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Implementing smarter smart card issuance with inline personalization

No longer a novelty, smart cards are a part of daily life for many of us. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find “dumb” ID badges personalized only with a color photo and black text that function simply to help others visually verify that we are who we say we are. Today’s smart IDs serve not only as photo identification, but also as access cards, debit cards and even mass transit passes in major cities across the world.

End users who manage the issuance of these smart cards to individuals in their organizations routinely synch up data that’s pre-programmed into the card’s electronics with personal data that gets printed onto the outside of the card. Specifically, within an organization’s database, an employee record containing a photograph, name and ID number gets updated to include a unique card ID number that was pre-programmed into a contactless card (and typically pre-printed onto the card’s surface) by a access card manufacturer or a system integrator.

How quickly and accurately the cardholder’s personal information is updated with the access card’s unique ID number varies. Many organizations’ first step is to use a desktop card printer to add color and text to a card’s exterior. Next, they extract the card from the printer’s output bin, turn to their computer and manually type the pre-printed/pre-programmed ID number into that cardholder’s record in the database. If their system is slightly more automated, they may have an external desktop reader on which they can tap the smart card in order to electronically copy its ID number into the cardholder’s record.

This two-step process is used so frequently that card issuers have grown accustomed to synchronizing their cards this way, even though it adds time to the issuance process and increases the potential for keying errors. Often when a typing error is made, it is not discovered until the cardholder attempts to enter a facility and is denied access, which compounds the error and adds even more time to the issuance process.

Today, the tools enabling issuers to move away from the outdated two-step process into one, inline smart card personalization process are readily available. In an inline personalization process, users submit a card into a desktop printer equipped with an internal smart card encoder, and in one seamless step the printer/encoder personalizes the card inside and out. This inline process saves time so issuers can focus on other tasks, increase card throughput and effectively reduce errors that commonly occur during the synchronization process.

Nearly all major card printer manufacturers offer the option to build card readers/encoders into the machines, and offer card issuance software that is compatible with the integrated system. If an organization already owns a card printer, it can usually be upgraded with an encoder in the field.

By integrating readers/encoders into card printer hardware, organizations position themselves to leverage the benefits of smart card applications well into the future. And when they’re ready to maximize their smart cards’ functionality, they’ll already have the smart issuance part of the equation figured out.