Getting smart

It’s led some of them to look to technology that offers morereliability than swipe cards.

Enter contact-free card systems.

Two Toronto-area hospitals have switched from a magnetic swipecard system to Verex smart card readers, with Mifare technology, toread and write to contact-free smart cards.

Trillium Health Centre and the New Women’s College Hospital bothselected Mississauga-based Veridin Systems Canada Inc. to deploythe system. Veridin integrates security systems for buildings,using card access, video surveillance and alarm systems.

The smart cards are to be used by hospital employees. The Verexsystem was already installed at Trillium but branded under adifferent name with a national service provider, according toVeridin CEO Colin Doe.

For Trillium, it meant a switch from their previous serviceprovider as a result of addressing a reliability issue.

“The number one issue was the software wasn’t communicatingproperly with the field panels,” said Doe.

What this means to clients, he said, is that whenever they’reupdating their software – adding or deleting users, for example -the information isn’t readily available at all times.

“In a facility like Trillium, reliability is very importantbecause they have to know they can access the system wheneverthere’s an issue.” Doe described magnetic stripe access control as”an antiquated system. It’s really not used any more.”

The Mifare system is being used strictly for security atTrillium, according to Doe.

“Every employee has a Mifare access card, and on that card istheir photo identification, as well as their critical informationthat needs to be known at a glance,” he said.

The Mifare technology offered the best level of securityavailable, said John Fodor, manager of security and parkingservices, Trillium Health Centre.

“The original system incorporated swipe card technology, and interms of maintenance the card readers tended to fail a lot more, sowe wanted to go to a contactless system,” said Fodor. “It’s morereliable, and you also have a lot more information that can bestored on a smart card.”

The bit size of the data on the card is so large it would take”a few thousand years” to break the code, according to Doe. “It’san encrypted code only readable by the card reader assigned to thatcard.”

Facilities that are added to the card is provided with accesscode numbers so that can’t be duplicated anywhere else, he added.”This makes the cards that much more secure.”

The card has credentials built into it to allow or denyemployees access into different areas of the building, depending ontheir authority level, said Doe.

“The thinking for the future is that smart cards can incorporateother features to make the facility a one-card facility for varioususes such as logging on to the computer and paying for parking andcafeteria items.”

The Mifare installation at Trillium took about a year, providing3,000 employees with new access cards which they receiveddepartment by department.

“We had to identify key doors in the facility that everyoneused,” Doe said. “We put smart card readers at those doors inaddition to the magnetic stripe readers already in place, whichallowed them to use either, and gradually everyone was photographedand given their access cards.”

Doe said they’re in the final stages of completing a similarproject for the New Women’s College Hospital, a new project that,unlike the Trillium installation, doesn’t involve addressing otherproblems.

“The only issue with them is not everyone will have their accesscards right away because there’s 1,500 people and it’s hard to getthat many people in one room for their photo badges,” he said. “Ithas logistical challenges, but so far it’s been going well.”

The Women’s College system was to come online in mid-July.

Ken Ferguson, manager of safety and security services at the NewWomen’s College Hospital, said the system was selected because ofthe ease of use and flexibility of the software.

“In an older facility like ours, where there’s a lot of wires,control cabinets and different things mounted in hub rooms andelectrical closets, we’d run out of space,” said Ferguson. “Thebrains of the smart card system were more compact. It didn’t takeup tons of feet on my wall, and that was a bonus to choosing theVerex system.”

He added that it’s also not a proprietary system, a decidingfactor in the selection process.

Lisa Williams (lwilliams@itworldcanada)is a senior writer with

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