Thursby and Precise Biometrics are outfitting mobile iPhones and iPads with a smart card reader solution, attempting to make the Apple devices a more robust option for bring your own device (BYOD) programs.
According to InfoWorld.com, the both Thursby’s PKard Reader and Precise Biometrics’ Tactivo case for iPhone and iPad, which enable the devices to conduct smart card authentication, are on par with one another. Both solutions support all major, standard smart card formats including the U.S. Defense Department’s Common Access Card.
Precise Biometrics’ Tactivo iPhone and iPad cases feature both a small smart card reader as well as a fingerprint reader, while Thursby’s PKard reader device is plugged into the iPhone or iPad’s charging dock.
Prior to the Thursby and Precise Biometrics’ solutions, military and DoD personnel used either a PC or Mac computer to remotely access CAC-secured sites – for Webmail, travel, unclassified administrative tasks, etc.
At present, the Safari browser on iPhone and iPad does not support smart card authentication. To address this, site browsing that requires smart card authentication will employ Thursby’s free PKard Reader app. The PKard Reader app enables the user to bookmark commonly used Common Access Card-required sites, organizing them in folders – Navy Sites, Army Sites, Air Force Sites, DOD Sites, Marine Corps Sites, Coast Guard and Federal Government.
InfoWorld’s Joseph Roth was able to get hands on both companies’ solutions, and despite offering a BYOD alternative for employees, the solutions were not without their shortcomings. Roth states that would-be military and government buyers should be aware they’ll be restricted to using iOS-compatible Webmail and Web apps only.
In a head-to-head comparison, Roth concludes that the Tactivo solution is “more elegant, but less flexible.” This is likely because there are separate cases for the iPad and iPhone.
However, Roth reveals that the Tactivo does well to house the smart card reader and fingerprint sensor utilities in a comfortable manner. The notable drawbacks to the solution is that those using both an iPhone and iPad to conduct authentication will need to buy separate cases for each, which at $249 and $299 respectively, can be rather steep.
The other notable consideration for the Tactivo solution is the iPhone 5 and its new Lightning connector. Precise Biometrics expects to have a Lightning compatible Tactivo case soon, meaning that those with the new charging docks will have to buy new Tactivo cases.
Roth views Thursby’s PKard reader as “less elegant, but more flexible.” Since the PKard plugs into the charging port of the Apple devices, it will work across all devices with the 30-pin connector.
To account for the new Lightning connector, the PKard reader can in conjunction with a 30-pin adaptor work with the new Lightning connector iPhone models. Furthermore, with a price point of $149 (add $10 for a Lightning adaptor) the PKard reader is much easier on the consumer’s wallet.
As Roth points out, however, the PKard reader also has a snag or two. The PKard reader is plugged into the bottom of the device as opposed to firmly fixed in case form, making it a two-handed task when compared to Tactivo’s easier to manage case. Moreover, the PKard is an accessory in that it is used only when necessary – a feature that could be burdensome to those who already have a plethora of accessories to manage.
Each reader has its pros and cons, but in the end Roth gives the edge to the PKard reader for its lower price tag. Read his full review here and decide for yourself.