Vendors Increase The Security Features Of ID Card Printers
Today, a college kid with a personal computer and color scanner can make a fake ID. As a result, vendors of ID card printers are adding extra security measures.
ID card printers are keeping up with increased demand for security, while printing faster than ever, according to two industry representatives. The total ID card printing business can be estimated at $100 million, according to Paul Mullen, manager of NISCA Products in North and South America and the Middle East. NISCA Products (Somerset, NJ), a division of Kanematsu, entered the ID card market in 1993 and employs 40 people. The division claims 7% of the estimated market.
Ray Coles is president of Ultra Electronics Card Systems, Inc., (Redmond, WA) of UK operations (Weymouth, England). The card systems operation employs 50 people on both continents, and is part of the $200 million turnover Ultra Group.
Provide VARs With Job Security
Since it's getting easier for people with sophisticated computers to reproduce ID cards, Mullen and Coles agree that a primary trend with ID card printers is layered security features. "There's a continued corporate need for security because of the events we see in the news on a regular basis," says Mullen. "That heightened sense of awareness has made people say ‘We want to feel safe in our workplace. We want to make sure the only people getting in our place are our employees and approved guests.' "
"You can see advertisements in the back of magazines for fake ID services," says Coles. "This is a real problem because what has been introduced as a security measure is really full of holes. It's easy for a college kid with a computer to create one of these badges. Nowadays, you can buy color scanners for approximately $110. People can take an existing card, scan the image into their computer, bring in a new picture to put on the card and change any information. Then, if you have a dye-sublimation printer, you could produce a very believable fake ID card.
"From our point of view, the technology advancement to come will be protecting these cards from that kind of forgery," Coles continues. "One of the ways we will do this is by using a special overlaminate. But, this process is expensive and takes extra time. We've developed a system that works with ordinary ID card printers, which modifies the overcoat layer when it's printed. It actually puts a daylight-visible security logo into the transparent covering, kind of frosting it. This technology would offer the same kind of protection as the overlaminate used on driver's licenses at a cheaper cost."
"The industry takes its advice from security people as to what needs to be put on the card," says Mullen. "You could have a thicker proximity card with a chip and a radio frequency buried antenna or an encoded mag stripe card. We are trying to incorporate as many options and features as necessary into the printer to meet the needs of the security industry."
Printer Costs Are Coming Down
Prices for ID card printers have gone down as the demand has increased. "The cost of an ID card printer five or six years ago was upwards of $10,000 and ended up being more like $20,000 with added features," says Coles. "Now retail prices are in the $3,000 to $7,000 range, and the system's quality has also improved."
Tips For Successful VARs
There's always something that can be done to generate more customers or provide better service to existing ones. Here's what Mullen and Coles recommend to stay competitive with ID card printers:
Provide customer service. In ID card printing, says Coles, VARs need a hands-on approach. Repair and service warranties are an important part of a VAR's customer service because ID card printing machines are prone to break.
"VARs interact with their customers and really do live up to the ‘value added' title. They provide a service along with the product. They need to be in tune with their customers' requirements and customize the solution, not simply provide a product from a catalogue. A lot of business will come after initial sales through after-sales support. VARs can't move on to the next customer and forget about the previous one. That would be fatal in this business."
- Know your limits. "VARs must look at the type and size of the installation," says Mullen. "Typical mistakes are under-sizing a system by incorrectly estimating the actual usage. Two systems can have the same number of cards to produce, but the effective run rate for producing a card can be different. VARs need to understand the different factors and know how many and what kind of badge needs to be made within a specific time. When the VAR is looking at an installation, it's good to know the time it takes to print a card from the first keystroke."
- Have strong computer skills - "Loading software for ID card printing is easy" says Mullen. "But the ID card printing software has to talk to the corporate database. It has to read an employee's record and take that information and put it into the badge format. Then, it has to be able to talk back to that corporate database and say the badge has been issued and is valid until a specific date."
Follow directions - "If you are entering the ID card printing business and you are looking at the hardware," says Mullen, "having a frank and honest discussion with the manufacturer on how to install a printer is always advisable. Sitting down and working through problems make VARs much better product sellers."
Look For Incremental Improvements
Look for incremental improvements rather than radical changes in the ID card printing business. "It's all about building a better mousetrap. Coles says there is a trend toward increased speed in the ID card printing business. "Dye sublimation, the process used to print cards, is a five-panel process," he explains. "Each color is printed separately, plus an extra layer for bar-code black and an overcoat layer to protect the card against UV light and physical abrasion. Cards that used to take 45 seconds to print can now be finished in 20 seconds without sacrificing any of the quality."