Vertical Market Focus: Education--‘Why Use a Card When I Have My Phone?’

Nov. 19, 2012
One card campus access control closer moves to Near Field Communications

In a study conducted among more than 980 American four-year and two-year colleges and universities, including leading institutions such as the University of Michigan, MIT, UCLA and Columbia, students told us what are using now and what they want to use in the future.

Today, the great majority of colleges still deploy picture identification cards, magnetic stripe, mechanical keys and barcodes for access control on campus versus newer, more secure technologies such as proximity and, especially, biometrics and smart cards.

 What do students want? Convenience is the ultimate student goal. Students want safety and security on campus to be as unobtrusive and transparent as possible. They do not want campus safety measures to interfere in normal activity. Technology should make their lives more convenient.

 Their “One Card” systems are perceived as convenient and an enabling connection to accomplish their goals. Access to buildings, identification, cafeteria/food courts, library, bookstore purchases, printing and vending, in that order, are the leading applications for which American college students use their school-issued cards.

The future credential—students are carrying it

How about leveraging, as a credential, something students already have? Nearly half of all students identify their cell phones as their favorite personal electronic device. It, too, is their “everything.” Indeed, 91 percent of all mobile users keep their phone within arm’s length day and night. Already, nearly half of all students are using cell phone apps provided by their universities.

And, when it comes to credentials, two-thirds are interested in using their phone in place of an ID card. Why? They feel that they are less likely to lose their phone than an ID card plus they know that ID cards are shared; phones aren’t.

 That day is not that far off as students’ desires for using a cell phone as a credential ties in nicely with the budding discussion of NFC (near field communication) which will inevitably end up on cell phones. No Visa card; no MasterCard card…only their cell phone will be needed for cashless payments or to show their identity.

 The smart card, as used in today’s One Card smart card system, would be in the cell phone. For those who worry about batteries running out or the Internet dropping, the smart card technology eliminates such fears. A contactless smart card does not need power or the Internet. As long as the cell phone providers will let the technology work as it can, the two biggest concerns could already be alleviated.

Reality check on cell phones as a credential

NFC provides simplified transactions, data exchange and wireless connections between two devices that are in close proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few centimeters. It is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by smartphone in North America. Many smartphones currently on the market already contain embedded NFC chips that can send encrypted data a short distance ("near field") to a reader located, for instance, next to a retail cash register. Shoppers who have their credit card information stored in their NFC smartphones can pay for purchases by waving their smartphones near or tapping them on the reader, rather than bothering with their actual credit card.

 Many smartphones currently on the market are already NFC-enabled with more models being launched every month. More than 40 million phones are expected to be NFC-enabled by the end of 2012 and over half the phones sold in 2015 will be NFC-capable.

NFC-enabled phones can send encrypted data a short distance to a NFC-enabled reader located next to a retail cash register or a door lock. To turn smartphones into an access control credential, users simply download the aptiQmobile app from Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies to their smartphones and use it to retrieve their secure mobile key that was set up by their access control site administrator. Once the mobile key is downloaded, users open the app and tap it to the reader just like using a smart card. It’s very secure and extremely easy to use.

Villanova and the University of San Francisco

The most comprehensive implementations of NFC in access control environments have been at Villanova and the University of San Francisco (USF). Both feature aptiQmobile and, in both cases, CBORD was the integrator.

CBORD’s CS Gold, the one-card system in use at both schools, fully supports NFC credentials and seamlessly integrates with the aptiQmobile web service, so the credential download process is easy. Students download the aptiQmobile application from the iPhone App Store to install One Card credentials to their phones. To use the credentials, they simply open the app and present the phone to the reader. Access and spending are quick, easy, and secure.

Villanova has learned that using smartphones as badges saves time that can be better spent on other issues. Assigning the credential to the students’ smartphones takes less work than printing and delivering a badge. If a phone is lost or broken, a new ID can be reissued to the new phone without even having the students come to their office.

 “Today’s students are so technologically advanced that it is second nature for them to put everything on their phones and, most of the time, it’s already in their hands while walking across campus,” explained Kathy Gallagher, Villanova University director of card services. “We want to provide our students the utmost in security, convenience and flexibility through the technology we offer. It’s easier for students to use an app on their phone versus digging for their card.”

“We want our use of Near Field Communications to enhance the USF One Card experience on many levels, which is why we introduced it for both door access and laundry payment,” said Jason Rossi, director of One Card and Campus Security Systems, University of San Francisco. “Our students have embraced it, telling us they prefer the convenience of their iPhones to digging for their One Cards. This convenience is important to us, but equally important is the security of using their existing contactless credentials, keeping our transactions secure. The combination makes for a first-rate experience for our students and our staff.”

An added benefit of the aptiQmobile NFC solution is that the organization may not need to change out their locks to use it when it becomes commercially available. If smart-enabled Schlage AD-Series locks or Ingersoll Rand smart readers are already installed, they are already NFC-enabled. It’s simply a matter of downloading the credentials to the students’ phones and they are ready to go. If non-smart access technology is being used, multi-technology readers can be installed to help ease into the transition by reading both the ID badges and the smart phones.