Secure access and identification authentication are more critical than ever in the modern cyberthreat landscape. As bad actors increasingly leverage compromised credentials to gain unauthorized access, organizations must be able to protect their assets.

Businesses across industries have long relied on proximity cards for access control. However, tightening regulations and evolving cyberthreats demand even more secure credentials. Enter smart cards. Using RFID technology and embedded microchips, smart cards store a wealth of data from facility codes to card numbers. When paired with the right smart card reader, smart cards enable strong authentication and enhanced access control.


What is a smart card reader?


smart card reader is an electronic device that communicates with smart cards using contactless RFID technology. Smart card readers come in various forms, including USB-based readers that connect to a device and readers that can be embedded into a device. 

High-frequency and dual-frequency smart card readers enable secure transactions, identification, authentication, and data access that’s crucial in today’s digital world. The use of these devices not only offers enhanced security, but also increased functionality. Smart cards can be used for logical access use cases like single sign-on, secure printing, and even cashless vending. But to unlock these benefits and use cases, you have to identify the right smart card reader for your workflows and industry needs.


Exploring the 5 best smart card readers


To get the most from your investment, it’s important to explore your options for smart card readers. This research helps you identify a device that meets your specific industry, operational, and compatibility needs. Let’s take a closer look at our top readers for 2024:


1. Best desktop smart card reader


The WAVE ID® Plus Mini smart card reader supports nearly every type of contactless smart card and proximity card. This space-saving desktop reader has a compact design that allows you to place the reader wherever it’s most useful, from a hospital reception desk to a cashless cafeteria. The versatile device is ideal for businesses in the healthcaremanufacturing, enterprise, and financial sectors. 


Best desktop smart card reader


2. Best mobile contactless smart card reader


WAVE ID Mobile Mini

If you want to take the mobile touchless technology route, look no further than the WAVE ID® Mobile Mini. This dual frequency contactless reader harnesses the power of Bluetooth® low energy and NFC digital wallet technology — all in a single device. It also supports multi-factor authentication (MFA), which requires you to present two of the following: Something you know (like a password), something you are (like fingerprints or facial recognition), and something you have. By waving an ID badge or smartphone, users can fulfill the “something you have” criteria for MFA with this smart card reader. Additionally, the streamlined authentication process eliminates the need for manual username and password entry, offering users a seamless experience.



3. Best smart card reader for highly regulated industries



First-rate security is essential if you operate in a sector with stringent regulatory requirements, like healthcare, government, or financial services. The WAVE ID® Bio supports a wide variety of credential types, including biometrics (such as fingerprint), secure badges, and mobile credentials, which enable MFA in a single device. This reader helps you comply with regulations like HIPAA and the EPCS mandate, which both necessitate MFA. An added bonus? No user information is stored on the reader itself.


4. Best on-the-go smart card reader



The WAVE ID® Nano offers a convenient solution for field workers and mobile employees. The compact device is compatible with laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other devices. This allows employees to complete their daily tasks on the go while keeping data secure. The USB-C version can also withstand extreme temperatures, humidity, and altitudes.


5. Best smart card reader for secure printing



The WAVE ID® SP Plus is a fully programmable reader that’s compatible with a large number of devices, including multifunction printers, point of sale systems, and protective enclosures. You can embed the reader directly into your devices or mount it externally. It’s an ideal choice for organizations in the government, healthcare, industrial, enterprise, or manufacturing sectors, allowing for easy upgrades to accommodate emerging technologies.



Harness the power of smart card readers in 2024 and beyond


The smart card market is forecasted to grow at a rate of 6.2% from 2023 to 2028, underscoring the importance of secure access technologies like smart card readers. It’s time to take advantage of convenient and versatile hardware to protect your assets, secure sensitive data, and streamline your organization's access controls.

Ready to embrace the future of secure access control and identification authentication? Get in touch with rf IDEAS to learn more.

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