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University of Washington Finds Solution for Authenticating Permits

Mariann Woodland

The University of Washington in Seattle faces parking problems similar to those of other urban campuses. One is ensuring that only vehicles with valid parking permits use our permit-controlled parking lots. Since the university charges an annual fee of about $850 for a single-occupancy vehicle, Parking Services personnel want to make sure that only paying customers use the designated lots.
In the Permit Issuance Manager's office, we are faced with the task of procuring parking permits that are easy for campus parking enforcement officers to read and difficult for counterfeiters to duplicate. In the past, we have had people attempt to reproduce our parking permits on their personal computers and use them to park illegally in reserved lots. In some cases, they would rub off the information from an existing permit and alter it.
One alternative that we tried was to use a holographic label, because it was difficult to duplicate or alter, and we hoped this would cut down on the number of forged permits. This solution created a different problem. Parking enforcement officers patrolling the lots had a difficult time reading the printed information on the permits due to the reflective nature of the holographic material.
Every year, we seem to be faced with a similar problem: researching various alternatives for materials that have an area for print that is readable; are unique enough to be difficult to alter or duplicate; and can be used with the university's existing label-printing system.
To determine what other label materials and suppliers were available, we did research on the Internet. We were looking for a label that incorporated a hologram that would be difficult to reproduce, yet had a plain surface for adding the required information: type of permit, date of issuance, parking lot number and sequence number. We found that most vendors could provide either a full hologram or a plain label, but not a combination of the two.
One of the vendors we requested information from was Brady Corp., a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of identification solutions and specialty materials, including high-performance labels. Mick Whettam, Brady Territory Manager, provided us with a solution. He worked with us to determine our requirements and specifications for the parking permit labels. Brady was able to customize a label that includes a unique hologram design, as well as the needed white space for pertinent information that is easy to read.
Another consideration was the printer, software and ribbon that we were using. The label solution was designed to be compatible with our printing system. Brady helped us switch from a wax ribbon to a high-resolution resin ribbon so that the information will not easily smear or rub off.
We received our first shipment of labels in May, and found them easy to use and very professional in appearance. Now, when security officers check the parking permits on vehicles in the lots, they can better distinguish the authentic from the counterfeit. It also is easier for them to tell if a label has been tampered with due to tamper-evident features incorporated into the label design.
Dennis Polinski, Sales and Marketing Manager of Brady's Brand Protection Solutions group, describes the company's policy in fulfilling orders for these products: "We implement a 'chain of custody' with customers ordering security products. Only authenticated buyers are able to place an order, to reduce the risk of these products falling into the hands of someone who is not authorized by our customer to use them. Chain-of-custody control is just one part of our secure production process. Brady has been certified by the North American Secure Products Organization as a reputable security provider."
We concur. If we increase our quantity of labels, or if anything else changes in our ordering procedure, we receive a call from Brady to verify the order. They keep close track of materials ordered to ensure that everything is legitimate.
We are pleased with the results of the solution so far, and we want to stay ahead of anyone attempting to make illegitimate reproductions of our parking permits. As part of that, we plan to change the design of the hologram each year. This will ensure that enforcement officers can easily spot an expired permit. We have to make sure to keep one step ahead of the counterfeiters.

Mariann Woodland is Permit Issuance Manager in the Parking Services Department at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Article Abstract from October, 2004




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