A New Way to Verify Employee Credentials

The solution is simple: photo ID cards + QR codes + the cloud.

By David Finkelstein,President, InstantCard

Managing myriad employee credentials is becoming more and more complex for Training managers as licenses and credentials proliferate. Experts in some fields may have a dozen or more qualifications. All have varying expiration dates and varying continuing education requirements.

Nearly every training course results in a certificate, or some tangible proof that the participant has completed the requisite coursework. Since most individuals undergo regular training from multiple sources, keeping all these records straight and easily accessible is a challenge for the individual and a serious problem for the employer.

The challenge is made even more complex because of a complicated “ecosystem” of interested parties: employers, clients, training organizations, internal training and education professionals, inspectors, government licensing boards, and more. More and more people need to be able to check the status of someone’s records: the person concerned, his or her managers, training and education managers, site safety and security officers, regulatory inspectors, etc. The need to validate credentials is increasing all the time with rising concerns about safety, environment, legal liability, and so on.

There is no standard for what constitutes a valid form of “credential.” There are all types, from wallet cards to wall certificates to records in a computer.While printed records, such as diplomas and cards, can be out of date or even forged, online records are inherently much more secure, reliable, and easily accessible.

A Paradigm Shift

How can you keep track of all this—not just for internal use—but also for customers in the field who need to verify instantly that your employee is a bona fide representative and fully qualified? The traditional way has been to reprint a wallet ID card, or credential card. But since the card must be reprinted every time there’s a change in training records, this is slow and inefficient.

Smart phones and ubiquitous wireless networks present a paradigm shift in credential verification. There’s an opportunity for companies to use these technologies to implement easier-to-use services that allow their operations to run smoothly, and not be held up due to a question on someone’s qualifications.

Cloud-based technologies now allow savvy Training managers to consolidate all certification and qualification records online and make them available to any authorized person with a smart phone—or computer or tablet. Start with the familiar photo ID card most companies issue to employees. Then network it to a database. Now, the card can create a physical link from the person to the virtual records of that individual in the cloud.

Technologies to Consider

There are two technologies to choose from: smart-card technology that includes a chip, or Quick Response (QR) code technology. Since the latter requires just printing a bar code, and doesn’t require specialized readers, it’s much less expensive than the former.

A QR code is the black-and-white square that now is commonly seen in magazine advertisements. But rather than just pointing to a fixed location, when printed on an ID card with a unique identifier, such a code can allow anyone to scan the card and pull down training records from the cloud.

QR codes can be printed on photo ID cards at little added cost. It’s a non-proprietary scanning technology, open to anyone wishing to use it. The QR code was invented in Japan by Toyota subsidiary Denso Wave in 1994 to track vehicles during manufacture. It has since become one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes.

The codes can be read with any smart phone: iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. They can be set up to allow rapid verification of personnel data, going well beyond simply checking identity. For example, a scan of the QR code immediately can display up-to-the-minute rights and authorizations for that employee and/or list his or her qualifications, training records, and credentials.

Real-World Example

For example, a major construction company specializing in building wind turbines now prints all its employee ID cards with a unique QR code for each employee. Its utility industry clients and engineers from the turbine manufacturers can verify on-site the training and qualifications of any installer, since advanced skills are required to guarantee maximum energy output. Anyone with a smart phone can scan an employee’s QR code and immediately check his or her qualifications. This reduces the risk of substandard performance and any potential liability issues.

Now, when a worksite manager needs to check the current up-to-date training records of an individual, all he or she has to do is scan that person’s photo ID card, and access the information securely and reliably.

Most ID printing systems are not yet able to print unique QR codes. But printing photo IDs with QR codes can be outsourced, avoiding the need to invest in expensive equipment that produces durable, tamper-proof solid plastic cards. A few online services have understood the potential of QR codes on ID cards, and are able to offer this turnkey service on an on-demand basis.

An expert on photo ID cards and smart cards, David Finkelstein is president of InstantCard (www.instantcard.net), an online provider of photo ID cards and credentialing services. He can be contacted at 301.216.3846 or dfinkelstein@instantcard.net.

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