Let’s be honest. The average employee probably doesn’t give his or her ID badge much thought. They hope that they remember it each workday, it gets them in the building and it’s fun to swing around when they’re bored. But new badging systems are changing how IDs are being used throughout an organization, adapting the piece of plastic from a utilitarian accessory to an integrated business tool.

If you keep a close eye out for add-ons and partnerships, such as Web-based databases, reusable access cards, surveillance integration and analytics, your upgrades have the potential to create a badging program that company employees, and even certain delinquent students, can’t ignore.

So when hunting for a new ID management system or just an upgrade, look out for unification, diversification and justification.


Unify, Unify, Unify

For example, the Jersey City Public School System had 42 different locations and nearly as many different ID management programs. The district itself had very little control over the various systems, which left huge gaps in its security plans, not to mention its attendance and truancy policy enforcement.

Thanks to a triumvirate of access control companies – EyeMetric, ScreenCheck and Vision Database – the Jersey City school system now has a single, online ID badge database that consolidates information from across a student’s file, including emergency contact information, school lunch funds and library book records.

At the Christian Broadcasting Network building in Virginia Beach, Va., Lt. Edward Lawhorn also switched to a Web-based program, but his move was necessitated by the state of his old database: index cards with Polaroids stapled to them. CBN switched in stages, updating its access control and databases in 2000, and to an entirely new Keyscan ID system in 2003.

Lawhorn works with the company’s HR department at CBN to get new employees an active ID immediately after an initial employee training session, and he receives an HR report every two weeks to update the database on name changes, transfers or terminations.

“We also have temporary workers and contractors who get a temporary ID with expiration dates,” Lawhorn says. “We use badge templates for temporary versus regular employees and faculty versus students at Regent (University, a CBN-affiliate). That makes it pretty easy to spot who doesn’t belong.”


Diversify, Diversify, Diversify

ID badges aren’t just for visual identification anymore, either. At CBN, the cards can be used for people-tracking, video verification and analytics. If necessary, security officers could sit in the dispatch station and view everyone’s picture as they scan into the building. They could also call up video surveillance at specific doors to compare the ID photo with the actual footage.

Added value was a big part of the switch for the Jersey City Public School System, as the Web-based system is not all they received.

Approximately 150 students, across the system, might arrive late to school on any given morning. They used to be manually processed and dismissed to classes, often missing most or all of their first period. Armed with scanners and mini printers (think receipt printers hooked on belts), hall monitors and school administrators can scan the ID badge of each incoming student, note the tardiness, check his class schedule and print a hall pass. Students caught wandering the halls can no longer claim to be headed to gym class if a monitor can scan the student’s badge, see that she is skipping Algebra and issue a detention on the spot.

"We can look up any student’s access, schedule and background issues,” says Debasis Gupta, IT Manager for Jersey City Public Schools. “We can track students, and soon we hope to take attendance by ID. We can use analytics in the cafeteria too – who buys lunch, where kids spend money, how much money is left in each account. The ID checks every student’s accountability.”

The combined system also has multiple possibilities for expansion and additional analytics.

At an early childhood development building, 250-300 kids might be dropped off in one half-hour window. The new system has the capability to record each student’s arrival, as well as what parent dropped them off and then who can sign them out. This can help in tracking custodial rights – a current mission of the school district.

The system keeps a record of who has permission to check a child out of school, and sends a text alert to guardians of when their children were checked out and by whom. Visitor passes also feature a photo of the child or employee that a person has come to check out or see – creating a badge that provides guards with plenty of instant information.

Eventually, the district would like to integrate the visitor passes with the mobile scanners so guards can see a visitor’s status and check for counterfeits in the halls.


Justify, Justify, Justify

And as attractive as an on-the-spot visitor pass scanner might seem to you, you still have to justify the purchase and installation of a new program. Key talking points are improvements to accountability, the possibility for expansion, and, simply, lower costs.

Not only did the new ID system in Jersey City consolidate multiple programs, it also created the opportunity for more administrative accountability.

“It used to be, we could see the kids, but we didn’t know what they’re doing or where they’re supposed to be,” Gupta says. “This system brings some efficiency to the administrative side.” Principals can save time on patrolling the hallways and get down to solving less tedious problems than dawdling students.

Gupta also said that the district is looking into using the badge-scanning software as an attendance tool.

“Homerooms could have devices to scan in and out for attendance checks,” he said. “It would save teachers time and track students who are in the wrong place. It would be an entirely new student management system.”

CBN also has multiple applications for their system, including map integration, where Lawhorn’s team can immediately see any doors that are propped open or alarms are sounding. But one of the most immediate justifications for the CBN switch is cost.

Previously, one ID badge cost $18, taking into account the cost of the Polaroid and hand-lamination, as well as the index card filing.

“These were the cards, this was the system that was here in 1987 when I started,” Lawhorn said. His new system features 36-bit HID cards with a peel-and-stick laminate applied to each card, which can be removed when a user is no longer active.

“You can reprogram and reuse the card until it stops working entirely,” Lawhorn said. “And they’re pretty durable. I’ve seen them go through the washing machine, dryer too, and they still work.” Plus, each card costs less than $5 to produce.

“Now, we have no Polaroid film in the fridge, no note cards, they’re easy to reprint – it’s a world of difference.”