How HID Proximity Cards Work

Published: 31st March 2010
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Physical Access control is a key component of an organizations security infrastructure and proximity card have become an increasingly important piece of the overall physical access control solution. The essential components of a proximity card control system are a proximity card reader, a proximity card (also known as a prox card), an access control panel and a computer to manage the system. Together, these components function as a system to review user credentials and allow authorized personnel physical access.

An HID proximity card is a specific manufacturer's brand of proximity card; in this case, the manufacturer is HID which is an acronym for Hughes IDentification Solutions which was spun off from Hughes Aircraft Company (which was founded by Howard Hughes). In any case, the term HID prox card, or HID card is often thought of as a "combined term" just as the term "Xerox copier" has become a verb whereby people "Xerox" a document.

An HID Proximity card is about the size of a driver's license or credit card and contains embedded information that identifies the owner of the card. Two key components are the facility code and the card number. The facility code of the HID card is use a unique identifier of a location whereas the card number of the prox card is used as an individual identifier. Typically, the facility code will have multiple cards assigned to it but each individual will be assigned a unique card number (which is often transparent to them). The HID prox card can be combined with an ID badge (or ID card) into a single component so that the HID prox card can also display the individual's picture and organization. This information can be printed used an ID card printer and then affixed to the HID prox card.

An HID Prox reader at the point of entry is used to read the prox card. The prox reader transfers the prox card information to the control panel where it is checked to see if the cardholder is authorized to enter the area at that specific time. If the prox card holder is authorized to enter the location, the HID controller sends a signal to the lock relay and the entry door will be opened.

The last component is a software program that acts as a security management console to updates to the prox card holder information, enable and disable prox cards, configure the door access hardware and provide necessary reporting about the system use (such as date/time of entry).

For additional information on HID cards or Proximity Card products, visit my recommended website at or contact an HID prox card specialist at (714)922-1140.

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