Comparison of MIFARE and proximity cards
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Comparison of MIFARE and proximity cards

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For identificationand access control, organizations use proximity cards and MIFARE. Using these technologies simplifies your operations, saves you time, and enhances your security.

There are a few differences between the two technologies, even though their working rationale is almost the same.

What exactly is the difference between a MIFARE and a proximity card? A detailed analysis of the two technologies, including their features, advantages, and disadvantages, is presented in this article.

Proximity cards: what are they?

Proximity cards are low-frequency contactless cards that communicate with a reader using 125 kHz radio waves.

Unlike magnetic cards, prox cards do not require insertion into a reader. Swiping is not necessary, which ensures convenience and enhances security.

The card detects radio waves and sends data back to the reader in less than a second when it is close to the reader. A beep will be heard when that happens.

What are proximity cards and how do they work?

All the cardholder's data is stored on a metallic antenna coil embedded in the cards. To transmit data to the reader, the device uses a low-frequency of 125 kHz.

Thus, the cards have a relatively small reading range of 50 cm (or approximately 15 inches). The reader's read range is sufficient to allow you to leave your card in your wallet/purse and still capture your data.

It allows access to buildings and other designated areas. Here's a detailed explanation of how these cards work:

The proximity card system consists of the following components:

  • Proximity cards

  • Card readers that are preprogrammed

  • Data analysis software

A pre-programmed reader can recognize the pre-determined number on these proximity cards.

As soon as the card is close to the reader, the reader will capture the data and send it to the system software.

The software will then analyze the data and determine if it matches any of the preprogrammed numbers. The doors will open if the reader accepts the card number.

MIFARE - what is it?

MIkron FARE Collection System is also known as MIFARE. NXP's card is small enough to fit into wristbands, smartphones, key fobs, and plastic materials.

As a result of this flexibility, MIFARE has gained enormous popularity in employee identification, transportation, stadium access management, and library control. It complies with ISO/IEC 14443.

MIFARE Technology's Origins

In 1994, the ISO/IEC 14443 memory IC standard was introduced. Contactless smart card systems have been implemented by many organizations.

MIFARE technology applications

MIFARE is used to authenticate, identify, and store information. The technology can be applied to the following areas:

  • The transportation industry. In the ticketing industry, MIFARE cards are valuable assets. Buses and trains can be paid quickly and cashlessly with them. The Clipper Card in San Francisco, the Oyster Card in London, and the TROIKA Card in Moscow are some of the most noteworthy MIFARE ticketing cards.

  • Identification systems for university libraries. MIFARE technology is used by universities worldwide to identify students, grant access to various departments, and manage inventory. Cambridge, San Francisco, and the National University of Singapore use the MIFARE system.

  • Corporate building access control. As part of their security management systems, many corporations are adopting MIFARE. Among the institutions that have adopted this technology are the EU Commission, Nestle, and General Motors.

  • Hotel guest management. MIFARE is used by many hotels to manage inventories and allow access to rooms.Hilton, Rosewood, and Hyatt are among the hotels that use this approach.

  • Managing stadiums. If you do not implement stringent security measures, managing fans can be difficult. As a result of these difficulties, most stadiums have begun using MIFARE to control their fans. Manchester, Sao Paulo, and Istanbul are among these stadiums.

MIFARE is also being used in many other sectors due to its ease of use and guarantee of security. It complies with all ISO/IEC 14443 standards for Near Field Communication (NFC).

MIFARE card types

MIFARE cards contain a small chip with enough memory to store information. Similar to HF tags, it operates at 13.56 MHz. When shopping, you can consider the following MIFARE tags:

  • MIFARE Classic

Chips have a 4-byte non-unique identifier or a 7-byte unique identifier. It is relatively affordable compared to other chips on the market.

Since it was the first MIFARE chip, it faced several security challenges. For enhanced safety and security, NXP produced more improved chip versions.

  • EV1 MIFARE Classic

A chip with either 1K or 4K EEPROM memory is available. Data is transferred at a rate of 106 kbps and has powerful encryption features.


There are three versions of the chip: EV1, EV2, and Light. Security features include 3-factor authentication and on-chip backup.

Additionally, the tag is compliant with ISO/IEC 14442A and ISO/IEC 7814-4. Data security is guaranteed by compliance. Data can be transferred at 848 kbit/s.

  • Plus MIFARE

MIFARE Plus EV2 and MIFARE Plus SE are included in this version, as well as top-notch security features such as AES authentication and data encryption. ISO/IEC 14443 certification is also available for MIFARE Plus cards.

  • Ultralight MIFARE

An IOS unique identifier and a one-time programmable memory are included in the chip. There are three variations of the MIFARE Ultralight C: MIFARE Ultralight EV1 and MIFARE Ultralight Nano.

Proximity cards vs. MIFARE: What's the difference?

MIFARE and proximity cards differ in four main ways. Among them are:

  1. Operational frequency

MIFARE cards operate at 13.56 MHz, which is equivalent to a high-frequency RFID tag. In contrast, a proximity card operates at 125 kHz. Therefore, MIFARE cards have a greater read range than prox cards.

  1. Capacity of memory/storage

MIFAREs come with memory for storing data. For inventory management, it is ideal since it can store crucial information regarding the cardholder. MIFARE cards have varying storage capacities, but the average is one kilobyte.

Data cannot be stored on proximity cards. Therefore, these cards are only useful when used with preprogrammed numbers to gain access to restricted areas.

  1. Setting up

A MIFARE card has a unique 32-bit serial number that is programmed at the factory. The number is random and does not contain the facility code. A facility code must be configured for 26-bit proximity cards.

  1. Aspects of functionality

A MIFARE card has a broader range of applications than a proximity card. There are a variety of applications for them, including contactless/cashless payments, road tolling, identification, access control, and fare collection.

The MIFARE card can even be programmed with multiple data. You can update the card's details to include all the information you need for various purposes. Prepaid membership cards and cash cards can also be used with MIFARE memory.

Proximity cards are used primarily for access control. Card numbers must match those in a pre-programmed reader.Access is granted to the cardholder after the match has been made. Security may be compromised since the cards do not contain any personalized data of authenticated personnel.

How Do RFID Readers and Proximity Card Readers Work?

RFID/Proximity card readers read and interpret data contained in a chip. There are two types of readers: portable and fixed.

If you choose the fixed type, you will need to choose an easily accessible location for installation. Make sure the transmission process is not hindered by obstacles.

RFID and proximity card readers: why they are important

The MIFARE and proximity cards are part of a larger system. To achieve the best results, you must ensure a synergistic approach between MIFARE and proximity cards.

In order to accomplish this, you need highly efficient card readers. Cards' data is captured and analyzed by these readers, also known as interrogators.

RFID Readers: How to Choose One

You should consider the following factors when selecting your readers:

  • The ability to read your cards. Make sure your reader can read the frequency of your card before you purchase it. You can, for instance, have a reader that only reads cards with 125 kHz frequencies. A MIFARE card will not work in such a case.

  • Considerations related to software. The reader captures the data from your cards and sends it to software for interpretation. MIFARE cards have a 32-bit number configured from the factory, while proximity cards have a 26-bit number. It is therefore imperative that your software is capable of interpreting the pre-encoded data without a hitch.

Make sure you place your reader strategically to capture all cards entering your building. Before purchasing, make sure it is compatible with your cards.

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