The US Navy is testing a new contactless access control system called SmartGate to more accurately, securely, and easily track and control access to Navy bases. Under the new system, security personnel at entrance points use hand held readers to identify incoming vehicles and cardholders based on their contactless ID. They validate both the vehicle and the cardholder on both entrance and exit significantly enhancing the base’s perimeter security.
SmartGate uses a card with both ISO 14443 and ISO 15693 technology. The ISO 14443 interface is used for traditional personnel identification at access points throughout the base while the ISO 15693 technology serves situations such as vehicle identification and other applications requiring a longer read range. The project is led by system integrator Beacon Technologies and uses contactless cards and readers from Aix-en-Provence, France-based Inside Contactless.
Inside’s PicoPass™ card contains both the 15693 and the 14443 Type B protocols. According to Steve Riegel, Inside’s VP and General Manager for the Americas, “the Navy saw value in the 15693 for the extended read range that 14443 B did not provide. That enabled them to get faster throughput at entrance to the bases.” But, he points out, there are other applications that fit the 14443 protocol as the military’s Common Access Card'(CAC) program has defined.
Another appealing aspect to the Navy, reports Mr. Reigel, was the handheld PDA coupled with Inside’s HandIT™ contactless reader. This enables the military police to interview sailors in the field, read their card, and check current orders. The previous version of the HandIT™ product was built for Handspring’s Visor but the new HandIT2 product, scheduled for availability in September 2003, will work with any of the wide variety of Compact Flash-capable products.
Certainly Inside Contactless and other supporters of combined ISO 14443 and 15693 products see this move as significant. While most of the focus from the US military and US government has, to date, focused on the 14443 standard, this move suggests that the Navy seems to see benefits in both protocols. Says Mr. Reigel, “this past year, the US government determined that they need to incorporate contactless technology in the CAC rollout. The NAVY perceived a limitation with the CAC design in the lack of read range and throughput for certain environments. Similarly, we (Inside Contactless) do not promote one or the other protocol but see instances when each is appropriate.”
“They were looking for current off the shelf (COTS) products available from a number of different major players including HID, Ademco, and others with this technology in it,” he adds.
“(The Navy) wanted a broad selection so they could have interoperable technology but not be tied down to one particular card and reader manufacturer. The core Inside Contactless technology with the embedded Navy format is transferable across different competing platforms. There was really no one else out there who had offered this to them. It was really wonderful to the leaders of the industry—in particular HID and Ademco—work together to make this happen on behalf of the Navy.”
How the project fares under the scrutiny of both the Navy and the the Common Access Card management remains to be seen. There will be a great deal of attention paid to the project as its timing is ahead of many decisions that are being made at various government agencies regarding contactless access control.