The Benefits of Multi-Application Smart Card Technology

Editor's note: Learn the best pratices for moving your business processes to the cloud right here.

Organizations around the world are facing more security threats to their business than ever before. At the same time, tighter regulation and stricter compliance measures mean that these same organizations are under growing pressure to demonstrate to their investors, shareholders and customers that they are taking a consistent and comprehensive approach to managing these risks in their day-to-day operations.

Faced with these external pressures, more and more organizations are recognizing the potential benefits of an effective identity and access management (IAM) program in terms of cost savings, better service levels, tighter IT governance and improved regulatory compliance. Smart cards are at the very heart of this drive.

Not so long ago, many organizations were relying on multiple credentials to fulfill different tasks. Upon arriving at work, employees would often have to fumble in their pockets to find one card for physical access to the main building, a separate card to access their own floor, and a security token to give them access to their computer.

But these hassles are a thing of the past for organizations that have recognized the flexibility and convenience that smart card technology can provide, as several smart card technology leaders have developed converged card solutions that combine both physical and logical access.

The contactless payments space is a striking example of how innovations in smart card technology are helping organizations streamline their operational processes and make their employees' lives easier through a converged card solution.

Willis, a major international insurance brokerage, was keen to create the best possible working environment for its 1,600-plus employees at its London headquarters. The company was looking for a solution that would allow it to extend the functionality of its existing access control cards to incorporate cashless payments for its new catering facilities.

In this case, HID Global worked with a partner, VMC, to leverage the technology already in place to create a seamless solution that gave employees a convenient and efficient way to access the building and pay for meals with a single card.

A further example of converged smart cards making a real difference in practical terms can be found in the healthcare industry. Up until a few years ago, it was relatively easy for an intruder to walk unchallenged around a hospital, accessing areas meant only for authorised staff. In rare cases, this led to security breaches where babies were removed from pediatric wards.

Contactless smart cards are addressing this physical access problem by using encryption to offer differing levels of building access to certain staff. For example, a cardio-thoracic surgeon would require access to the operating theatre, while a registrar might need access to all the wards in the hospital.

Medical professionals can also use their smart card to access sensitive patient data on an IT network. So as well as safeguarding the security of patients' personal information, using a smart card for logical access can also create efficiencies in terms of time.

If a doctor can access crucial IT systems with just a smart card, this saves on time wasted in remembering and entering usernames and passwords and frees up more time for patient care. It also helps healthcare professionals to demonstrate that they are storing and managing patient details in a safe and secure way to comply with the Data Protection Act.

So, in view of these potential benefits, why aren't more organizations using smart cards?

One of the foremost barriers to adoption cited by companies is the cost issue. The ravages of the recession have blown a sizeable hole in the IT budgets of many organizations, with other corporate issues sometimes prioritized over IT security. However, when a company slashes its IT budget, it can leave itself dangerously exposed to security and financial risk, and the money saved by reducing budgets can soon be more than swallowed up by the costs of security breaches.

As a flexible solution, multi-application smart cards can provide different levels of security according to the specific needs of an organization, and this is reflected in the price. However, the returns in terms of cost and time savings - not to mention enhanced security - show that if your organization is investing in smart card technology, it is well worth partnering with a trusted brand.

In today's increasingly risk-conscious environment, managing digital identities and user access is more important than ever.

Portable and secure, smart cards are becoming an increasingly valuable tool for safeguarding physical security and guaranteeing the privacy of sensitive electronic information across corporations, hospitals, government agencies and any organization seeking heightened security solutions.

Converged cards also simplify installation training and operations and streamlines maintenance costs. When you weigh up the benefits of converged smart card solutions against the costs of reputational damage, security breaches and non-compliance, they can offer outstanding value by saving time and money while protecting an organization's assets.

HID Global is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe, the no. 1 industry event in Europe held on 27th 29th April at Earl's Court, London. The event provides an unrivaled free education program, exhibitors showcasing new and emerging technologies and offering practical and professional expertise. For further information please visit

More by Volker Kunz

About HID Global

HID Global is the trusted source for secure identity solutions for millions of customers around the world. Recognized for robust quality, innovative designs and industry leadership, HID Global is the supplier of choice for OEMs, system integrators, and application developers serving a variety of markets, including physical and logical access control, card personalization, eGovernment, cashless payment and industry and logistics.