The Plastic That Protects
As photo ID technology improves, and printers decrease in price, security-conscious end-users are finding that there are powerful reasons to choose secure plastic photo IDs over easy-to-copy paper badges. Photo IDs prevent badge-swapping and unauthorized access, and they improve security and guest safety.
After Sept. 11, 2001, there was a big increase in the use of photo IDs for employees. HES Convention Services, for example, needed immediately to create photo IDs for its 400 temporary staffers, who frequently work at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., and Orlando hotels.
HES was first in the Orlando market among staffing companies to offer photo IDs because it already had an Evolis Pebble printer in-house. “Within 24 hours, we were making photo IDs for our staff members,” says David Lehman, president of HES Convention Group.
Six years later, photo IDs for employees are commonplace, but due to cost, conference organizers still carefully consider the need for photo IDs for conference attendees. Companies that provide a product or service to the government are likely to choose the extra security, and competitive considerations can play a role. “If businesses want to protect corporate secrets or new product information, they’ll require a photo ID,” Lehman says.
For example, HES has provided photo IDs for software company meetings, for press credentials for a NATO meeting and for various Homeland security conferences.
To those who opt to print paper nametags with photos to reduce cost, Lehman points out, “If it’s paper, you can counterfeit it. Paper doesn’t provide security. That’s why we use plastic cards.”
Streamlining registrations for photo IDs
As with many post-9/11 changes, photo IDs potentially involve a tradeoff between convenience and security. They create an important logistical challenge for convention planners: How to take photos of attendees without creating bottlenecks at registration.
HES Convention Group has found that a three-part approach — combining staffing, equipment and procedures — makes it possible to streamline what could become a cumbersome registration process.
For example, when an American rental car company brought 8,000 associates to an Orlando meeting, HES needed to move the associates quickly through conference registration. This situation is a good candidate for photo IDs, because the IDs make it possible to prevent outsiders from gaining access to proprietary information.
The associates needed to obtain a photo ID before they could register for the conference or even check into their hotel rooms, but the photo ID stations at each of the five conference hotels were potential bottlenecks.
HES was responsible for processing registrations, taking photos, issuing the IDs and making sure that bottlenecks never materialized. “Our challenge was to keep the registration moving,” Lehman says. “This meeting was the largest number of photo IDs that HES had created for a single event up to that time.”
Preparation speeds registrations
The rental car company partnership set a firm processing requirement: The contract specified that each participant would receive a badge in four minutes or less. For HES, this meant that every aspect of registration at the five hotels needed to be synchronized to ensure smooth registration and short wait times.
From equipment selection to employee training, HES carefully designed the elements of the registration system, remembering simplicity, reliability and quality, Lehman says. HES used Canon 10 megapixel cameras linked directly to Assure software, which connected seamlessly to Evolis Pebble single-sided color card printers.
The Evolis Pebble is a powerful and reliable card printer to personalize high-quality single-sided badges. The Pebble connects to any laptop via a USB port and included cable (Ethernet TCP-IP connection also is available) and now comes with a 3-year warranty.
Lehman purchased the equipment from Plasco ID, an identification solution provider and value-added reseller of card-based technology solutions in Miami. For critical equipment, “I would rather have single source and single-source accountability,“ Lehman says.
HES printed 4,300 badges in three and a half days before the conference, and printed another 3,800 badges on the spot at the hotels. At registration, HES had a database of attendees, so registration staffers could simply look up a name, take the attendee’s photo and print a badge. The process took less than one minute (a significant performance improvement over the four-minute requirement). On the most intense day of registration, Lehman estimates that HES registered and printed badges for 2,000 or more people at five locations, using 12 printers (a minimum of two printers per location).
For a project of this magnitude and with these tight processing deadlines, backup is critical. HES always had at least two processing stations on line, even at the smaller hotels. Three IT people floated among the hotels, ready to troubleshoot any problems. “We didn’t have a single station go down,” Lehman says.