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I'm looking at putting in a smart card driven system at my local sports club (which doesn't have oodles of money), and since they're willing to pay for hardware, and I'm willing to do the technical setup, I was wondering if anyone had any experience in setting something like this up. Writing any software needed is not the problem, I've pretty much got that covered with various open source projects out there and custom code I'll write, but it's more the hardware side I'm not too sure about and I'm looking for advice from people out there.

I'm sure there are numerous complications, but on the surface it looks fairly simple. I'd basically like to enable members to swipe/touch a smart card at the door to gain entry to the club, walk up to a touch screen PC and swipe/touch a card reader there to "login" to the system I create, which will allow them to book club facilities etc. I may even want that same card to then activate things like lights or music when they enter the room they've booked.

Pretty Eutopian I know, but still, we'd like to get as close as we can. As I said, the software shouldn't be a problem, and on the hardware side, so far I'm looking at:

  • All in one touch screen PC running Windows 7 or Ubuntu
  • USB card reader (not sure which one to buy)
  • Smart Cards (again, never bought these before)
  • Door/lighting hardware that could be triggered (not sure here either)

If anyone has any advice on implementing something like this - especially the items I'm not sure about above, and of course anything I've missed out that's crucial, I'd be most grateful. Recommended hardware that you've used for something like this would be fantastic!

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I would recommend taking a look at RFID products for your "swipe" cards.

SparkFun has a small selection of RFID products - a few readers, USB host for the reader, and a few different types of cards.

The cards they sell are about the size of credit cards and blank - I'm not sure if they're printable or not (like the way they make some work ID badges), and these cards are non-reprogrammable. They also have button-sized tags (and implantable, if your clients are willing to go that far to be a member!).

blank card

I also found some blank cards by Parallax that have the ID/lanyard clip hole at the top.

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This is a better idea than using a smart card. RFIDs are dirt cheap (we stick them inside fish), and it makes it so you don't have to worry about anything on the cards other than a pseudo-unique ID (Cloning is another problem, but probably not one that's particularly worth caring about, though you could bust out the biometrics). Which lets your backend software do all of the heavy lifting and verification (not some "membershipactive=yes" on the card). – Tyler Jan 15 '10 at 23:17

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