Tulane University and Quinnipiac University are piloting a complete near field communication system on campus. The Blackboard Transact system uses NFC-enabled Android handsets and students can use the devices for physical access control, payments at the point-of-sale, vending, laundry, copying and printing.
The pilot is using Samsung Galaxy S3 handsets that are being provisioned over the air using a trusted service manager, says Dan Gretz, senior director at Blackboard. Blackboard is working with one of the largest mobile carriers in the U.S., which the company has declined to name.
Tulane and Quinnipiac were chosen for the pilot because of the large installed base of contactless readers. Blackboard’s contactless readers are capable of working with standard contactless cards as well as NFC-enabled devices. “It’s not just about door access, it’s about using the mobile for everything,” Gretz says. “It really covers the entire campus ecosystem.”
Pilot participants have to swap out their device’s existing SIM with one enabled for NFC, Gretz says. These SIMs are available at the campus card offices and are activated with a call to the mobile provider. The student then logs into the Blackboard Transact system on their mobile and the credential is downloaded to the device.
Then the student can choose how they want to use the credential, Gretz says. There’s a manual mode where the student activates the app and it stays on for 60-seconds. There’s also an automatic mode that enables the device to communicate with the reader whenever it’s presented.
“The student never has to interrupt what they’re doing,” Gretz explains. “They approach the residence hall and just present the phone and within a second they’re through the door, even if on a call. With automatic mode the phone doesn’t have to be turned on, as long as the battery has a little bit of juice the student will be able to interact with a reader.”
Blackboard hopes to get around 100 students on each campus to test the system, says Jeff Staples, vice president of marketing and business development at Blackboard. “We have a range of criteria we want feedback on,” Staples says. “But the biggest thing is how it works from a user perspective – is it compelling and can we shape it right for the students?”
The pilot is scheduled to run through May but other institutions may be able to join sooner. Blackboard Transact NFC-enabled contactless readers are installed in more than 250 campuses throughout North America.