How To Implement Proximity Cards


A proximity card is a contactless smart card which can be read without insertion into a card reading device. Because they don’t require a swipe, they can be left in a wallet or purse and still serve their purpose. Prox cards use a low 125 kHz radio frequency to transmit to a door access reader. When the code is transmitted from the card to the door access reader, the unique ID on the card is verified by the door access reader and will either allow the door to be opened or not. Data is stored on a prox card utilizing an embedded metallic antenna coil, a capacitor and an integrated circuit which holds the user’s unique ID number in a specific format. In addition to cards, there are also key fobs and tags that work in a similar fashion.

When ordering prox cards you will need to provide the appropriate programming information for the cards to work with your door access system. To provide accurate information there are a few things you need to know. Card readers communicate in various formats. Each format holds a specified number of bits. You can think of the format like a computer programing language with various strings of 1 and 0 that when interpreted by the computer mean much more than the 1 or 0 by itself. Often the first few bits will identify a location or facility while the rest of the bits in the string will identify the card holder. You can think of the bits like a credit card number. Part of the number specifies the type of card (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) and the rest identify you specifically.

Step 1: Choose a Type of Proximity Card

There are two types of proximity card designs. One is described as a clam shell card, it is a thicker, cost effective option. The main benefit to this choice is that the adhesive ID can be removed and the clamshell card can be reused. The main disadvantages to this choice are 1) the ID can’t be printed directly on the card and 2) the clamshell card is significantly thicker than a typical ID card. This type of prox card cannot be put through a card printer to apply a picture and other pertinent ID information directly to the card. ID information is typically applied to this type of card utilizing a 10-mil pvc card that has an adhesive back. For most printers we recommend the 10 mil pvc card with a mylar adhesive back. Once the ID is printed on the adhesive backed card the adhesive back is removed and the 10 mil card can be applied to the clam shell prox card.

Proximity card manufacturers have advanced the same technology into a thinner card that can be fed through an ID card printer to combine both access and ID into one card. The main benefits to this card are 1) the ability to print on the front and back of the card and 2) a mag stripe can be incorporated so the card can serve multiple purposes. The main disadvantage to this choice is that the prox card cannot be reused if an employee leaves or your ID cards need to be changed or updated.

Step 2: Find the Right Prox Format

Since the type of protocol you use will depend on your access system, your first step is to find the right proximity format for your door access system. This should be specified in information your IT or Security department has regarding your door access system. If you are reordering prox cards, you can just look on a previous box of prox cards you’ve ordered to find it. The most common format is format code H10301 which is a 26 bit card. This format code determines how the internal programming of the cards will be read by your door access system. Finding the correct format code is vital to ordering prox cards that will work.

Step 3: Programming Information

Once the format you need is determined, the part number you would order can be identified. This part number will depend on the manufacturer of the card, IDville offers two manufacturer options, HID and Magicard. Once the base part number is identified there are a multitude of programming and card options including frequency, what type of card you want (color, finish, material), card numbering and slot punch that need to be determined. This information can quickly be determined in a conversation between you and one of our dedicated ID System Specialists at 866.438.4553.

Step 4: Card Range and Facility Code

Next you need to specify the data you want programmed into the card. Essentially, this is the code that will be scanned by the door access reader. As mentioned before, sometimes the first couple of numbers specify a building or facility and the rest specify the card holder. If your organization is using a site or facility code to differentiate between buildings or locations make sure you make that information available when you order. Then specify the starting card range number, this is the internal card number that will be programmed into each card and identify the holder of the card. The programming will start with the number you specify and then program sequentially. Be very mindful of this sequential numbering and DO NOT overlap card ranges. If two cards are given the same number your system will see them as one card.

Yes, it will only take these four steps to order the appropriate prox cards for your organization. Prox cards are pre-programmed for you, we want to ensure the programming is done correctly and that you get exactly what you need. Prox cards are pricey compared to regular PVC ID cards and if the programming is incorrect they will be useless to you. We want to ensure that doesn’t happen. Our ID System Specialists are here to help with any question you may have throughout the process. So just pick up the phone and call, you will get a live person every time! 866.438.4553. 

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