Some companies call it fob systems, others call them access cards. The industry name is an RFID parking system. So do you need one for your car park? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons and why many in the parking industry are moving away from this technology in favour of software based options.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been available since the 1940’s but has only started gaining traction in the 1970s, as the cost of hardware decreased over the decades. While used widely for managing parking access, RFID is also used by a host of other industries including inventory management, credit card technology, asset tracking, logistics, attendance and access control, manufacturing and retail.
How does RFID work?
It utilizes electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and monitor tags or special codes attached to objects. An RFID system consists of three components: a tiny radio transponder, a radio receiver and transmitter or a scanning antenna.
When a nearby RFID reader device transmits signals and detects the tag, a digital data is sent back to the reader, allowing the object attached to that particular inventory number or code to be identified and monitored.
How is RFID used in parking management?
An RFID reader is placed at the entry and exit points of the car park, and each user is given a credential or tag that allows him access to the facility. RFID tags are usually in the form of stickers / decals that are directly attached to the vehicle’s windshield, or portable hang tags, cards or fobs that offer more flexibility when the individual needs to drive another vehicle for the day.
The system is designed to control the entry and exit of vehicles based on the credentials assigned to them, within a wide range of distances (up to 30 feet for ultra-high frequency RFID readers) and access speeds (up to 100 mph). This allows for quick and relatively accurate access without human intervention.
Advantages of an RFID parking system
Contactless and quick access
No need for card or ticket machines, PIN pad readers, or human parking attendants- an RFID parking system provides contactless access to the parking lot.
It normally just takes a few seconds for the RFID reader to scan the credentials in a tag, minimizing bottlenecks at the entry and exit points.
RFID cards, key fobs, or hang tags are easily transferable, in case you need to bring a different vehicle. This means less cost for the user, as there is no need for multiple tags for one person.
Monitoring and record keeping
With the unique code assigned per person, the RFID system can help maintain customer records and corresponding usage. Car park operators can then easily monitor if there are questionable activities, suspend the access of abusive users, and keep records of violations.
Security and accuracy
Since RFID readers are known for high accuracy (usually at 100% for active tags) and sensitivity, the possibility of misreading the code is quite low. This offers a good level of security, minimizing the chances of allowing entry to a user with false credentials.
Concerns with the use of an RFID parking system
While the transferability of the RFID tags adds to the convenience of its use, it can lead to increased security risks when the cards, fobs or hang tags get lost or fall into the wrong hands. Users might also abuse the system and share their RFID tag with their friends and family members.
There is also the danger of RFID skimming- the method of unlawfully obtaining an RFID tag’s unique credentials and in the case of parking management, possibly gaining unauthorized access to the facility and getting the user’s private information.
Stealing data from an RFID card or tag has been becoming more rampant in the recent years, due to the wide availability of card-reading machines with the capability of reading cards / tags placed inside a bag or pocket, from a 15cm distance; and access to mobile apps with skimming functions, including the Android OS’ built-in NFC reader.
The whole RFID parking system- security gates, RFID readers, self-check stations, sorting equipment, inventory wands, configuration with the parking software- requires a big financial investment, ranging from $70,000 to over one million dollars, depending on the size of the car park.
Each RFID tag can cost $0.50 to $1.50 each, with more customized designs costing more.
Installation of the needed hardware, roll-out of the RFID tags, to the full implementation of the system can take months.
Alternative options to RFID parking system
An RFID parking system comes with several benefits, but with the high costs involved, you might not be ready to fully commit to an RFID parking system yet. Additionally, the RFID technology is still continuously being developed, and you might want to wait for the right timing when security issues have been resolved and vulnerability to misuse has been minimized.
Fortunately, alternative solutions are available, that can help you manage your parking systems securely:
- Parking management software
Utilizing parking software in the form of a web application or a mobile app is an affordable and easy parking management option. It combines the following benefits: contactless and quick access, portability, monitoring and tracking, security and accuracy with lower costs and less security risks.
Take for example, Wayleadr.com, the leading software for automating and optimizing workplace parking- which starts at only $5 per month, and even offers a free trial period. It is a cloud-based system, so parking permits, reservations and availability are updated in real time.
Wayleadr.com allows users to do digital entry and exit, opening and closing of parking barriers- all with the use of their mobile phone. It uses a special algorithm to automatically allocate spaces based on the guidelines and preferences set by the car park operator.
Most parking management software can also be easily integrated with any parking access system and requires little training to use.
There are different kinds of parking management software, each with their own specialization, to ensure that you get all your specific parking problems solved. Parking Boss & Reliant Parking works well for apartments, condominiums and homeowners associations (HOA) parking, while EVA Check-in and Ballparc manages event parking.
- License plate recognition (LPR) cameras
LPR systems make use of what vehicles already have: a license plate. This means, no need to allot time and money to produce RFID tags, that may have a high chance of getting lost or falling into the wrong hands.
LPR cameras are high-definition cameras which are fitted with infra-red sensors and use optical character recognition technology to match the license plate to a database. They work well even under very bright or low lighting conditions and claim to have a 98% accuracy level.
However, extreme weather conditions such as heavy snow, rains and fog can affect the accuracy of the system. In case the license plate is not in good condition, such as when the characters are faded or splattered with mud, the LPR camera might have a hard time making an accurate reading.
While cheaper than an RFID parking system, an LPR system can still set you back by up to $65,000. It is worth noting that LPR systems work best when integrated with a parking management software like Wayleadr.com to unlock the full power of the technology.
RFID parking systems have been becoming increasingly popular in the past decades. However, the acceleration of technology has paved the way for more sophisticated tech crimes, as well, which have threatened the security of RFID systems.
Though improvements are constantly being developed to make the system more secure and hopefully, more affordable- other alternative options, such as parking management softwares and LPR systems have risen up to provide more innovative solutions to parking problems.
As a car park operator, it is best to evaluate all options available, and decide on the best system for your parking lot operations. Set up a call with your potential provider to see what solution works well for you.
Wayleadr.com can help you set up your contactless, convenient and secure parking management system.
Find out why we are the parking partner of choice of industry leaders from companies like Sanofi, Indeed.com & CBRE. Schedule a demo with Wayleadr.com and see how we can solve all your workplace parking problems with the click of a button!