A proximity card is type of a smart card. The owner of the card does not have to insert the card into the
reader every time like other magnetic strip cards. The owner can place the card near the reader. As soon
as the reader ‘reads’ the card, it will produce a beep type of a sound to indicate that the card has been
The owner can leave the card in the wallet or purse. Juts hold the purse or wallet within a two inch
distance from the reader and the reader will recognize the card. Recently, proximity cards have become
famous because of the many advantages they hold over magnetic strip cards.
There are two different types of proximity cards:
- Active Cards
- Passive Cards
Both cards are used in completely different settings. Active cards are used in areas where the reader
cannot be accessed by the card every time. For example the card can have range of 5000 feet. These
types of ranges are required in security facilities where vehicles are only allowed to enter if they have
the proximity card inside. The cards carry an internal lithium battery that has to be changed every 5 to 7
The more commonly used type of cards is passive cards. These cards are replacing magnetic strip cards
in many banks. Other ways in which these cards can be used include:
- Key cards for doors that have access control
- Library cards
- Public transfer fare cards
- Contactless payment systems
The card and the reader use radio frequency of two different sizes: 125 kHz and 13.65 MHz. Newer cards
function on the later frequency mostly. A capacitor, an integrated circuit and an antenna consisting of
a wired coil are the common parts found inside active and passive cards. Active cards contain an extra
component that is the lithium battery.
These components are joined together in the form of a circuit that is used to pass radio signals to the
reader. The reader checks the radio signals and identifies if the information sent in those radio signals is
correct or not. Access is granted only if the card recognizes the information from the card.
The proximity card is kind of like the RFID card because of the radio frequency function that is
common in both the cards. However, proximity cards work on a system and have no tag involved. The
components of the card are held together to form a circuit that not only stores the energy of the field
but also absorbs it. It is can be compared to the electric version of the tuning fork. The ID number or any
other information is sent by the chip to the antenna coil and from there it converts to radio signals.
Vendors who encode the proximity or contactless cards do not follow a standardized encoding scheme.
Legic, iClass and Mifare have there own individually defined propriety encoding schemes. To increase
the amount of data present in these cards, a smart chip can be integrated in the circuit. This chip can
store other important data and is one the most secure methods of keeping information safe.
Contactless or proximity cards have become very popular over the years. The reason being, that the
cards offer fast and safe security options that are not otherwise available. These cards are mostly used
for areas were the access required should be preferably contact-free, fast and secure. Because of these
reasons, it can be said that the cards are used for identification purposes.
Since the information carried is sensitive, it is important that the printer required for printing the ID
cards should be made for such cards. There are different ID card printers available for such types of
cards. Some ID card printers even have the option to laminate the card to ensure safety and security. Be
sure to check the ID card printer properly before buying it.