1. The Sentinel smartcard
All competence information is stored electronically on the smartcard’s electronic chip (within the card) and can be updated using a variety of approaches. The card also has a unique QR code printed on the front and when this is scanned, it automatically accesses part of the cardholder’s record in the Sentinel database.
The smartcard is compatible with some Near Field Communication (NFC) devices. NFC is a set of communication protocols that enable two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone – the other, in this case, being the Sentinel card itself – to establish communication by bringing them into close proximity with each other. Sentinel uses NFC-enabled portable devices and specially designed Apps to read and update information held on the cards. The NFC aerial on most phones is on the rear of the device; though most have a sweet spot were the card should be placed to read reliably (each model differs in where this spot is so some trial and error is required). The card should be held in contact with the rear of the device whilst the card is reading/updating the information held on the chip within the card.
Your choice of card readers (and whether you need to buy additional hardware to make the most of Sentinel) will depend on your preferred swipe-in method. Your organisation might choose to combine more than one Approach, depending on your work for Network Rail.
You can find further information below on how best to swipe-in, what hardware you can use to read cards and information about holders of the Sentinel card.
2. iPhone and Sentinel
If you have an iPhone 4 and above running on iOS 7 or later, you can use the Sentinel App – this offers the highest level of swipe-in. If you are a Network Rail employee, you can install this App on your iPhone through the usual Network Rail channels. If you do not work for Network Rail and wish to download the App, you need to go to the App Store.
2.1 What about my iPad?
You can still install the Sentinel App. Please note that the Sentinel App is an iPhone App and therefore the size on screen is not optimised for the iPad – so it will only take up part of the screen.
3. Android smartphones and Sentinel
If you have an Android smartphone running v4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) or later, you can use the Sentinel App from Google Play. This offers the highest level of swipe-in and is free to download. If your phone has NFC, this offers you the gold standard in resilience at the time of swipe-in as you do not need internet access to read cards. If you do not have NFC, you can still use the Sentinel App, but using QR code scanning instead. Due to the way the Google App store works there are actually 2 distinct versions of the App available for download, one which support NFC and QR scanning and another which supports QR only. When a user registers on the store with their particular device, the store will only then show Apps that are supported by the features available on that phone such as NFC.
Note: Please be aware that NFC standards on smartphones are not universal and some smartphones use NFC far more reliably and consistently than others.
Here is a list of tried and tested Android smartphones that work very reliably with NFC and Sentinel smartcards.
- Motorola Razr I XT890
- Samsung Galaxy SIII – NOT the Mini
- Samsing Galaxy Note 3
- Sony Xperia LT30p
- Sony Xperia S
- New Nexus 7
- Google Nexus S
- HTC One X
- Galaxy Nexus
The Samsung Galaxy S III Mini is not recommended as its NFC functionality is inadequate for Sentinel. HTC Desire C – this device is fine with NFC on Sentinel smartcards but is not recommended, owing to its limited autofocus camera, which prevents it from reading card QR codes. Old Nexus 7 – this device is fine with NFC on Sentinel smartcards but is not recommended, as it does not have a rear-facing camera, which prevents it from reading either card or TVP QR codes.
There are others which might work just as well (and we do update our list accordingly), but we would suggest that if you consider a phone that is not on our tried and tested list that you do some homework first, checking forums on feedback of NFC usability or trying one out in-store before purchasing; this is especially important if you are considering buying devices in volume.
If your phone doesn’t conform to these requirements, you can still use a QR code scanning App to access a more limited set of Sentinel features. The QR only version of the App which only requires a rear-facing auto-focus camera or.. (a QR scanning App)
3.1 What about my Android tablet with NFC?
You can install the Sentinel App. Please note Android it will automatically resize to fit the screen although this is just a ‘zoom in’ and isn’t optimised for this display type.
4. Windows Phone and Sentinel
You can find information on the Sentinel App for Windows phone here: http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/store/App/sentinel-qr/5299cce7-9eb8-417d-ba0e-c86e72720b5f
Alternatively you can locate the App by searching for “Sentinel QR” via the Store App on your phone. A version of the Sentinel App for Windows Phone which supports the NFC functionality is also in development (we currently expect to deliver this either at the time of or shortly after the Site Access release of Sentinel).
5. PC-connected Readers
If you want to use a PC-connected smartcard reader for use with Sentinel, you must use one of the recommended devices below. These have been tested and work with the technical specification of the smartcards used for Sentinel. We cannot provide any type of support for clients who buy alternative readers.
You need to install the software that has been specially written for Sentinel with Approved PC-connected readers. This offers the highest level of swipe-in and is free to download below.
5.1 Approved Smartcard Readers
These are the Approved PC-connected contactless readers for use with Sentinel.
Network Rail users should order the PC card reader through iProcurement in the IT Consumables and IT Peripherals category. This will take you to the ComputaCenter homepage, where you will need to search for ‘PC Card Reader’, selecting the HID Omnikey 5021CL Smart Card Reader.
- HID Omnikey 5321 v2 CL
- HID Omnikey 5021 CL
- Identive SCL011
- Gemalto Prox-SU
Once purchased, the correct driver for the device needs to be installed on to your PC. Depending on the IT structure within your organisation, you will either be able to install the driver yourself or you will need to contact your IT department. To install the manufacturer’s driver yourself: use Microsoft Windows Plug and Play. Alternatively, pass the technical document below to your IT department so that they can do this for you.