Campus Cards, College and University Identification and Security

Contactless: Can colleges be first in class?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Contactless technology is rapidly growing in adoption for all types of payment and ticketing systems. According to Eurosmart, 630 million secure contactless cards were shipped in 2008 alone and we have seen the number of trials for near field communication (NFC) products grown exponentially since the late 2000s.

When it comes to NFC-capable devices, ABI Research estimates that nearly 35 million NFC enabled handsets shipped in 2011, and nearly double that number will find their way to market in 2012.

Credit card companies are starting to issue contactless products and major cities are rolling out contactless mass transit cards. Governments safely use contactless technology to secure passports and other ID documents for citizens, while corporations provide employees with contactless cards to secure access to facilities, networks and more.


While magnetic stripes for electronic identification are typically considered cheaper to deploy and offer broad compatibility, NFC-compatible products are becoming the expectation. While not on the verge of extinction, magstripe-only cards are quickly becoming an outdated solution with the emergence of secure, standards-based contactless smart card technology.

Higher education institutions have an opportunity – now – to build the infrastructure to support NFC and be prepared for the new norm.

NFC compatibility doesn’t just offer opportunity for enabled mobile phones but for compatible credentials in various forms, for example cards, stickers, fobs, wristbands etc. NFC-compatible contactless technology offers significant benefits for applications involving payment, transit, security and general identification on college campuses. In addition to ease of use, these contactless credentials stand apart from other common identification card technologies because of their inherent security and speed.

While bar codes, magnetic stripes, and 125 kHz proximity (prox) technologies have shouldered the burden for years, a contactless card is much more. Its read/write capable microcontroller chip can manage simple tasks such as storing track 2 data, or more exotic tasking such as storing digital certificates or biometric data. Regardless of the transaction type, NFC-compatible contactless technologies bring unparalleled speed and security to the table and at increasingly competitive prices.

The prominence of such applications in a campus environment makes the NFC-compatible credentials a clear choice for improving the student experience - especially as enabled devices show up on campus in greater and greater numbers. Each year, more students are bringing extraordinarily sophisticated and capable mobile phones to campus at their own expense, removing the financial burden from institutions to provide their community with capable hardware devices already embedded with NFC technology. This leaves it up to the institution to drive the strategy and engage solution providers to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.

This simple value proposition to the administration and to the cardholder is something college officials are starting to realize, understand and take advantage of as we move into 2012. Will you be besieged with students telling you how awesome their day was because they got to use a contactless credential? Probably not, but more and more often they will simply come to expect it, and the institution has to be prepared for that.

At my son’s 5th grade career day two years ago, I spoke of a fantastic scene in the not-so-distant future where they could use their mobile device to buy a soft drink, ride a bus or unlock a door. Instead of the eye-wide-open response I was expecting, I was met with “Well, why can’t we do that right now?” This class will be on your doorstep in no time, if they aren’t already.

About the AVISIAN Publishing Expert Panel

At the close of each year, AVISIAN Publishing’s editorial team selects a group of key leaders from various sectors of the ID technology market to serve as Expert Panelists. Each individual is asked to share their unique insight into what lies ahead. During the month of January, these panelist’s predictions are published daily at the appropriate title within the AVISIAN suite of ID technology publications: SecureIDNews, ContactlessNews, CR80News, NFCNews, DigitalIDNews, ThirdFactor, RFIDNews, EnterpriseIDNews, FinancialIDNews, GovernmentIDNews, HealthIDNews, FIPS201.com, IDNoticias es. [end] 

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NFC implementations on campus have been anything but perfect. In fact, between the fractured nature of NFC adoption as a technology, the relatively few university-specific NFC pilots and the rejection by Apple, NFC is far from making the grade.

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The Pathum Thani Provincial Administration Organization (PAO) has issued a new electronic identification card for students that will enable the school to send SMS text notification directly to parents if their student skips class.

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