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For over 2 decades UniGuard has been supplying Robust wands and iButton checkpoints to the Australian market. With a variety of staff attendance tracking systems available, and new technologies entering the marketplace all the time, a good question to ask is, why do some people still like using the Robust system? This is answered in the following paragraphs, but first it’s good to know a bit of the background.

What are iButtons?

Essentially, an iButton is a computer microchip encased within a small 16mm diameter stainless-steel case. iButtons (which also go by the name Dallas Key), are a type of 1-Wire device in a self-contained format. 1-Wire is a simplified data communications system between compatible devices, that allows low-speed data, signalling, and power over a single power/data wire, although technically the device also has a ground wire.

Both 1-Wire and iButtons were originally developed by the Dallas Semiconductor Corporation several decades ago.

How Do iButtons Work?

iButtons are similar to NFC, RFID and BLE checkpoints in that the iButtons contain a small memory chip where a small amount of data, usually a unique ID number is stored. The main difference is in the way iButtons transfer information to the recorder.

This is achieved through a physical connection that is initiated when a user touches an iButton with the reader head of the recorder, long enough to hear an indicator beep and blue light. While connected the battery in the recorder powers the chip inside the iButton that then sends the ID number to the recorder for storage within the recorder memory chip, along with the time and date. A similar process can be used to transfer this information to a computer for analysis and reporting, or alternatively the data can be sent in real time using the cellular telecommunications networks.

The case of the iButton acts as both a strong protective shield for the memory chip and the terminals that connect and transfer power and data between the chip and the recorder device. The lid acts as the data/power terminal, the base acts as the ground, and are separated by a polypropylene grommet.

Due to the presence of a chip some iButtons have the ability to both read and write as well as sorting different types of data, however the iButtons used for the staff attendance tracking checkpoints only need to read-only.

Why Are They Still In Use?

Basically, because they are very tough. Of all the different types of staff attendance systems available, iButtons and the Robust recorders are the most durable and long lasting.

The iButton casing is designed to withstand harsh and demanding environments and can survive large mechanical stresses such as being dropped, scratched, stepped on or repeatedly hit. Additionally, it is also water resistant and can endure being immersed in sea water and most common chemicals. Robust recorders are equally tough. Due to the rugged design the iButton is guaranteed for 10 years but in reality, last much longer.

Being built to operate in a temperature range of -40 to 70°C, the metal casing protects the ID number on the microchip from damage or changed due to radiation from magnetic fields such as from metal detectors. This also includes radio and microwave signals. Along with the mechanism of use, this means that the iButton is not prone to potential interference from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

What Are Some of the Uses For iButtons?

Because the chip within the iButton has a unique identifier code or number, is secure and small enough to fit on a key fob, the iButton can be used for a range of applications. Uses include access control, locks, manufacturing controls, time clocks, smart transport tickets, and checkpoints for time and attendance verification.

The Good and the Bad of iButton Checkpoints

As has already been explained, the biggest advantage of iButtons over other checkpoints is durability. Apart from being almost indestructible, the checkpoint does not require a battery and is very secure because they can only be read by specialist equipment. This also means that it is functionally impossible to copy or spoof the checkpoints, something some staff do to avoid having to do their rounds.

The need for specialist hardware can also be seen as a downside for people looking for a staff attendance tracking system that can be run on the staffs’ smartphones. The other potential disadvantage is that the hardware must make contact with the checkpoint to be read. This also mean that the reading may not work if either the checkpoint or recorder are wet or dirty, therefore the checkpoint may need cleaning occasionally.

Summing Up

Robust recorders and iButton checkpoints are the ideal attendance tracking system for business operating in harsh environment and are particularly suited for mobile security patrols of isolated outdoor locations. UniGuard also offers a real-time system for managers wanting to transition from a Robust system without the hassle of replacing all the iButton checkpoints with RFID or NFC checkpoints.

If you are looking for the toughest staff attendance tracking system in the marketplace, contact our sales team today.