More and more university services are being facilitated by mobile devices and software apps. With this in mind, it’s important to understand how these services work and what technologies will underpin them. One technology that’s driving a number of mobile services is Bluetooth Low Energy, otherwise known as Bluetooth Smart or BLE for short, and it’s a technology that Heartland OneCard director of sales, Fred Emery has discussed in a recent post on the company’s website.
As Emery explains in his column “Bluetooth Low Energy: Improving the Campus Card,” BLE is a wireless technology designed to facilitate communication between devices with reduced power consumption. BLE also allows for a communication distance to be set or altered and allow for the exchange of data from a distance of one inch to 200 feet, depending upon the application and device. As Emery explains, the ability to connect devices and exchange information is virtually endless.
“On college campuses across the country, many students are already using BLE as part of their daily lives through fitness devices, headphones, and to exchange data between their mobile devices,” he says. “There are so many areas of campus card technology that can be improved using BLE.”
Emery sees campus marketing as an area that could stand to benefit from BLE. “Imagine that, as a student enters the cafeteria, they receive a push to their phone with today’s soup of the day or are prompted to send their campus card credential for quicker check out,” he says. “Or as they pass by the campus box office, they could receive a schedule of upcoming concerts or athletic events.”
Access control is another prime use case for BLE. In fact, Emery explains that Heartland has been working with BLE Beacons, in conjunction with the company’s OneCard Mobile app, to allow students to passively deliver their credentials to a door reader and unlock it as they approach.
HID Global has released a BLE-enabled solution of its own that allows the use of a mobile credential within the student’s smartphone to unlock the door by simply tapping the door reader or giving a twist of the phone from a distance.
The introduction of BLE will almost certainly raise questions over its predecessor, NFC. Emery doesn’t see this as an either/or situation, however, as the technologies complement each other. “When a student wants to have more control over when they receive information, they can select NFC because devices need to be in a close proximity, which requires a more active role by the student,” he says.
Ultimately, the conversation around BLE is a positive one, as the technology holds the potential to support a wide variety of functions on campus. The folks at Heartland certainly aren’t the only ones working with BLE, but Emery concludes his column by urging the campus card community to watch the BLE space and expect new products and enhancements in the near future.