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Barcode Automation, inc.
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20th Anniversary

Comparing Barcode Readers to other Vehicle Identification Systems

In general, Access Control Systems control who (or what) is allowed to enter a doorway or a gate. Here, we're going to discuss vehicle access control systems. First, before a vehicle is allowed entry to a walled or fenced property, it must be recognized by the property's Access Control System. This sounds complicated but really, it's very simple.

Let's say that one evening while you're at home, someone knocks on your front door. Before opening the door, you'll want to identify your visitor, and there are several different ways of doing that. You might catch a glimpse of a face through the front door peephole. You'll pull the curtain aside to look through a window. If that doesn't work, you flip on the porch light and ask, "Who is it?" No matter what happens, you're not going to open the door to someone you don't recognize. Well, vehicle access control systems work the same way.

Equipment used to identify vehicles falls into two groups - Manual Vehicle Identification and Automatic Vehicle Identification. Products that require the driver to do something make up Manual identification group, while products that work without making the driver do anything are known as Automatic identification. So which system is the best, safest and the most convenient for drivers to use? Let's compare.

Manual Vehicle Identification

Simply put, Manual Access Control Systems will not function unless the driver does something, such as entering a code by hand, swiping a card or pressing a button.

Keypads require a driver to stop, roll down a window and enter an access code on a Keypad. These systems are uncomfortable to use, especially during heavy rain or snow. They are also easily compromised by well-meaning people who give out security codes to friends, relatives, delivery drivers, even home maintenance workers. Though this system is very cost-effective, it is slow, so its not the best option for a high-traffic area where a lot of vehicles are moving through. Overall, it takes an average of 45 seconds to get through, as every driver must stop, punch in the access code, then wait for the gate to open before driving in.

Swipe or Contact Cards require a driver to stop, roll down a window and swipe the card through a slot or touch the Card to a pad. Unfortunately, Swipe and/or Contact Cards usually end up being loaned out and some will be lost or never returned. Widespread use of this technology has made it easy to have additional swipe Cards made for family and friends. Although Card systems are inexpensive, loose Cards can end up circulating through many unknown hands. Drivers usually take about 20 seconds to stop, roll down the window, swipe (or tap) then wait for the gate to open and drive in, which is faster than most Keypad Systems.

Access Control Transmitters aka Remote Clickers resemble hand-held garage door openers in both appearance and function. In fact, they work exactly like garage door openers. This is the major advantage of Remote Clickers - they have a long transmission range. Drivers don't have to stop at the gate, roll down a window and then press a button. Drivers can use the Remote Clicker while they are far away, and by the time they arrive at the gate it is already open. This is the second advantage of a Remote Clicker system, speed. Because there is no waiting time, traffic enters smoothly without getting backed up. However, the disadvantage is that drivers can open the gate for other vehicles. If the other vehicles should not have been allowed in, this creates a problem. Another disadvantage is cost, the remotes run between $15 to $35, not including the price of batteries. As with other manual systems, Remote Clickers tend to be passed to friends and family, where they may be misused, broken, stolen or lost.

Automatic Vehicle Identification

Products for Automatic Vehicle Identification will function automatically without any action from the driver.

Proximity Cards aka RF-ID Tags are miniature radio tags attached to vehicles. When the vehicle with a RF-ID Tag (Proximity Card) pulls up to a entry gate, the ID tag is scanned by a radio signal. If the ID tag is recognized, the gate will open automatically. Unfortunately, this system has two major disadvantages, its high cost and the probability of radio frequency interference. Some might be willing to overlook the cost if the product worked consistently, but in many cases it doesn't because of radio frequency interference. We call anything that prevents or interferes with the radio signal reaching the RF-ID Tag interference, which can come from several different sources.

In many luxury vehicles, windshields and windows are made of glass with metal oxide, which blocks radio signals from passing through. These vehicles cannot use an RF-ID Tag that mounts inside, because the windows block the signal. To avoid this problem, the vehicle owner may be forced to purchase a more expensive external waterproof tag, which mounts on the front headlamp.

Tags on Headlamps are Radio based, even if they have a barcode on them

Some Radio Frequency tags that go on the front headlamps have a barcode printed on them. They are not however identified by that barcode. They are working on a Radio based system and can suffer from similar problems as all other Radio systems. Manufacturers of this system also indicate that these do not work well on glass covers.

Other interference comes from Sunspots or solar storms, Cell phone towers, even WiFi and the new collision avoidance sensors on vehicles. Years ago this was not an issue, because Cell towers were not as common, WiFi was not widespread, and the collision safety systems were only available in a few select luxury cars. Today, with the increased use of Cell phone technology, WiFi and collision avoidance sensors, radio frequency interference is a very real problem.

Barcode Decals are read by specialized outdoor Barcode Readers. An adhesive-backed barcode decal is applied to the side window of a vehicle. When that vehicle passes the barcode reader, it decodes the decal which identifies the vehicle and opens the gate. These systems have several advantages including reliability, ease of use and the low cost of decals. Also, Barcode readers are optical systems, they are not affected by radio frequency interference.

Benefits of Barcode

When a BAi Barcode Decal has been properly applied to window glass, it stays there - it cannot be loaned out or lost. If it is a BAi Black-on-Black label on a tinted window, it will blend in to appear nearly invisible. Our system is not affected by radio interference or low battery life. Even better, BAi Readers only work with the original decal. It will not read photographs, photocopies or digital images of our barcode decals.

Comparing Costs

There can be a large difference in the initial cost of a system depending on what equipment is used. For this comparison we are using a hands-free RF-ID system that closely matches the capabilities of BAi systems. Approximate prices are based on manufacturer MSRP.

Cost comparison between BAi and comparable RF-ID
  BAi Barcode System RF-ID System
Reader $8,890 $5,600
1,000 Decals / Tags $4,490 $15,000
Total Cost $13,380 $20,600
Total Price
  BAi Per Vehicle RF-ID Per Vehicle
At 500 Vehicles, 1 Reader $22.27 $26.20
At 1,000 Vehicles, 1 Reader $13.38 $20.60
At 2,500 Vehicles, 2 Readers $8.05 $17.24

Installation cost is only part of the expense, there is also maintenance and upkeep. BAi Barcode Readers include a 5 year Manufacturer's Limited Warranty. Most RF Readers include a 1 year Manufacturer's Limited Warranty. BAi Barcode Decals also include a 2 year Manufacturer's Limited Warranty, RF-ID Tags often have no Warranty.

These costs are intended for equipment purchase comparison only and do not address all of the equipment and costs involved in a site installation. Please consult a dealer for a complete system installation cost estimate.

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