What are MIFARE cards?

Created by NXP, MIFARE is a market leading provider of contactless solutions. MIFARE is known worldwide for a wide range of contactless products that are used in more than 40 different applications. Their contactless cards are used in access control, payment, transit and much more.

What are proximity cards?

In a previous article we looked at proximity cards, or prox cards. Proximity cards are sometimes known as contactless smart cards, but this can be misleading. Proximity cards contain a microchip, connected to a small antenna that is able to communicate wirelessly with a card reader.

The microchip embedded within a proximity card has only one function: to provide the prox card reader with the card’s identification number or code number so it can be verified by a remote computer. Many access control systems only read the identification numbers and so do not require memory. Proximity cards have many uses, such as for door access.

So what are the differences between MIFARE cards and proximity cards?

Both proximity cards and MIFARE cards are used for access control, ticketing, attendance and more, but they each have different benefits.

While proximity cards have no memory, MIFARE cards contain memory in addition to a microchip, and so are able to store information. This information is used for identification and authentication. It also acts as a secure ‘handshake’ between the card and reader, adding a layer of security.

MIFARE cards are designed to be extra durable and keep information safe. Encryption keys are used between the card and card reader so they must mutually authenticate each other before information is processed or access granted. This adds further security to the process and makes duplication or replication extremely difficult.

Another difference is that MIFARE cards operate at a frequency of 13.56 MHz, while a standard proximity card operates at 125 kHz.

MIFARE cards are programmed with a randomly generated, unique 32-bit serial number, whereas most proximity cards are programmed with a facility code.

Proximity cards are extremely widespread and used in numerous applications worldwide. However it’s easy to see how MIFARE cards have grown in popularity with the benefits the cards offer.
When purchasing cards, make sure your card readers operate at the correct frequency for the type of card you choose.

For further advice on which type of card is best for your organisation, contact our team.