Campus ID News
Card, mobile credential, payment and security

By: Willem Ryan, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, AlertEnterprise

College campuses are bustling hubs of activity, with thousands of students, faculty and staff members breezing in and out of countless doors every day. With so many people, campus buildings and an expansive network of systems, security is becoming more and more of a challenge—especially in a mobile-driven world where convenience simply can’t be compromised.

Mobile phones are ubiquitous in today's society, and most students carry them everywhere they go. The pandemic accelerated the adoption of mobile computing and the expectation of mobile convenience, and when it comes to younger generations in particular, there is virtually nothing they wouldn’t expect to be able to do on their mobile devices.

The use of smartphones is becoming increasingly integrated into daily life, and students are expecting this same level of integration in their educational lives. In fact, for many, mobile-driven experiences are becoming a deciding factor in the process of choosing which schools to attend. But how do we cater to this relentless demand for convenience as we simultaneously try to dodge ever-growing security threats?

A new technology has recently emerged that is helping make college campuses more secure with a seamless, more integrated user experience: NFC wallet mobile credentials.

Digging into the benefits

NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a wireless communication technology that allows two devices to exchange information when they are close together. NFC has been around for a while, but only in recent years has it has become widely used in mobile phones. Today, many smartphones come equipped with NFC technology, which means that users can use their phones as contactless payment devices or to exchange information with other NFC-enabled devices.

NFC wallet mobile credentials take this technology a step further by allowing users to store their identification and access credentials on their mobile phones. Instead of carrying around a physical ID card or key fob, students, faculty and staff members can use their smartphones to access buildings, rooms and other restricted areas on campus. This has a number of benefits, including increased security, convenience and cost savings.

Perk #1: Convenience

By using their iPhones or Apple Watches as access cards, students and faculty no longer have to worry about losing or forgetting their plastic cards, which can be a hassle to replace. Additionally, they can use their phones to access multiple facilities, eliminating the need to carry multiple cards. With an NFC wallet mobile credential, users can keep their phone in their pocket and simply tap it against an NFC-enabled reader to gain immediate, secure access to dorm rooms, campus buildings, printers, vending machines, libraries and more.

Perk #2: Front and backend IAM

NFC wallet mobile credentials are far more secure than traditional ID cards and key fobs, which creates a game-changing user experience. With a physical ID card or key fob, there is always the risk of loss or theft. If someone finds or steals your ID card or key fob, they can potentially gain access to sensitive areas on campus. With an NFC wallet mobile credential, however, the risk of loss or theft is greatly reduced. People typically keep smartphones with them at all times, and they can be secured with a password and dual authentication to prevent unauthorized access.

But the back-end administrative management experience isn’t taking a back seat. In a matter of seconds, security personnel can easily issue and revoke credentials “over the air” rather than requiring face-to-face meetings to hand over or pick up physical cards. Automated end-to-end lifecycle management and governance of identities instantly enforces policies while getting rid of human error and security gaps. Manual data entry and reporting is completely eliminated, reducing days of work to mere seconds. And AI-powered analytics provide immediate insights to access-related events that may need further investigating.

Perk #3: Major cost savings

With the increase in college acceptance rates, NFC wallet mobile credentials can also save colleges and universities substantial money. Think of it this way: In addition to opening dorms and classrooms, a smartphone can also enable students to make purchases at dining areas and school stores. Plus, many universities have grown accustomed to receiving revenue from issuing card credentials, which they can dial up exponentially by incorporating mobile activation into their student technology fees to cover things like printing kiosks, department-specific items and credential packages.

Perk #4: A smaller carbon footprint

Minimizing or eliminating plastic cards can have a major effect on reaching ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) goals. By implementing mobile credentials, institutions can significantly limit the amount of plastic and paper waste generated from traditional ID cards, which often end up littering our streets or piling on top of landfills.

In addition to the benefits of NFC wallet mobile credentials for physical security, they also have the potential to improve cybersecurity on college campuses. With so much sensitive information stored on college networks, it is essential to ensure that only authorized users are able to access this information. NFC wallet mobile credentials can be used to authenticate users when they log in to college networks and online services, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

The pros of NFC wallet mobile credentials are clear. They offer increased security, convenience, cost savings and environmental benefits, and are becoming increasingly popular on college campuses across the world. And when integrated with a cyber-physical identity access management platform, every compliance and governance step becomes automated, every process gets synced up and every security gap remains closed.

Contact AlertEnterprise to discover how you can create safer campus entries, and mitigate theft and security breaches, by taking a converged approach to security—powered by the latest advancements in mobile and AI, of course.

By Tyler Webb, Director of Sales, Campus EAC, ASSA ABLOY

Embarking on a system upgrade or new deployment? It can be challenging, but with proper planning, you can minimize the risks and come out smiling on the other side.

In my experience working with campuses across the country, here are some key things to keep in mind:

1. Communicate with stakeholders

As you begin the project, identify campus business units that will be directly impacted by the process and contact key stakeholders in each unit. Talk through the process and get their feedback so you can address concerns and integrate them into your planning. Keep these stakeholders informed as you move through the various stages of the upgrade process.

2. Create a detailed roadmap of the upgrade process

It should go without saying but build a detailed project plan. You need a roadmap to keep your team on track. The plan should include initial meetings, vendor partner selection, product identification, ordering, pilot testing, deployment, testing, and everything in between. Write it down, share it, and be flexible, as your plan will adjust over time.

3. Work with system providers to ensure a smooth transition

Your providers should be partners, and a good partner is there to help you succeed. Rely on your vendors to help guide you. While this is likely your first major integrated access upgrade, we have done it many times and can help you avoid pitfalls.

Though it has gotten more challenging since COVID, managing product lead times has always been a crucial component to a system upgrade. With lead times often maxed out due to chip shortages, shipping delays, or other component issues, it is more important than ever to build forgiving lead times into your plan.

Transparency between your team and your vendor partners is essential.

4. Test, test and test again

At various stages in the upgrade process, testing is imperative. Early on, sample cards encoded with your institution’s specific format and data structure should be tested by your vendor partners to identify potential issues.

At a mid-point in your journey, I recommend a small pilot project using a few doors in a highly controlled environment, such as a contained administrative office or a select number of residence hall doors with pre-selected participants.

Finally, as the actual upgrade process begins, don’t forget to test as you deploy each area. It is always better for your team to identify a problem before a user finds it.

5. Prioritize areas on campus to upgrade first

When it comes time to begin the installation, the order in which you upgrade should not be left to chance. Don’t leave it to the squeaky wheel to determine the order of upgrade. I recommend prioritizing mission-critical areas first, leaving secondary demand areas for later in the process.

Check out the other installments in the “Tyler’s Tips” series:

By Tyler Webb, Director of Sales, Campus EAC, ASSA ABLOY

Access and security are essential to a modern campus, but limited funds often hamper an institution’s ability to expand these systems. Students, parents, and staff expect and deserve a safe environment to study, live and work.

In addition to life safety issues, integrated access control systems can serve as a marketing differentiator for an institution, aid in enrolment, and provide a host of other benefits. So, figuring out creative ways to pay for the technology is often a requirement.

1. Federal funding sources

Periodically, national priorities have aligned with campus security needs, providing funds via dedicated grants. For those that qualify, apply, and are approved, these funds can help cover all or part of the costs for a security upgrade.

In recent years, COVID funds have helped many institutions improve security. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was approved by Congress on March 2020. It authorized $2.2 trillion in economic aid to people and organizations negatively impacted by the pandemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, approximately $14 billion was dedicated to campuses via the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, or HEERF. Additional funds were allocated for the program in subsequent years, and in 2022, the use of HEERF (a)(2) grant funds for construction and renovation projects was authorized.

Late in 2021, the $2 trillion Infrastructure Law was passed. One part of the law is the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which includes key opportunities for higher education institutions. Though not all the opportunities are known at this time, it specifically includes $12 billion to update infrastructure at community colleges.

2. Phased approach using multi-technology readers

When you have a vision and a plan for where you are going, incremental steps toward that goal always make sense. If you know you want secure contactless credentials and/or mobile credentials, make the commitment to start now.

I cannot think of a time when I would not recommend this phased approach. It can be critical in immediate progress toward your goal.

When it comes time to replace a broken reader, renovate an existing building, or build new construction, you’ll want to begin the process of upgrading to more advanced contactless readers. If your current ID card uses mag stripe or 125 khz prox, you can issue dual technology cards to support cardholders who need to access both old and new readers.

I cannot think of a time when I would not recommend this phased approach. It can be critical in immediate progress toward your goal.

3. Partner with alumni associations or other organizations

Explore opportunities with other campus constituencies that may see the benefit of an integrated access system that increases life safety and can boost enrollment. Perhaps the alumni or student association has funds to allocate toward projects.

4. Public private partnerships (P3s)

In many cases, institutions are opting not to secure funds to pay for the construction of new facilities, specifically residence halls, on their own. Instead, some look to private companies to manage the construction and costs, charging the institution rent or fees to repay the construction, maintenance, and management costs. P3s often enable a campus to fast-track construction projects because they do not have to wait for state infrastructure dollars or internal funds to be allocated.

P3s often enable a campus to fast-track construction projects because they don't have to wait for state infrastructure dollars or internal funds to be allocated.

In any P3 project, specifying your integrated access system makes sense. Make the new project a part of your comprehensive program and have reader deployment baked into the project cost.

5. Technology fees added to student fees

Many campuses use technology fees to fund projects that are important to the student experience. If your institution already issues a technology fee, explore whether a portion of this fee could be allocated for security infrastructure. If you don’t have a technology fee, start the conversation to see if this could be a good fit for your campus.

Check out the other installments in the “Tyler’s Tips” series:

By Tyler Webb, Director of Sales, Campus EAC, ASSA ABLOY

On many of the campuses I’ve had the opportunity to work with, a fully integrated access and security system is not a hardware deployment, but rather an enterprise level software solution. Investments in these systems pay dividends in student and staff life safety, but they also deliver additional benefits.

Understanding these benefits and how to articulate them to key campus constituencies can help ensure others appreciate the investment. But you must be proactive and tell your story to make these less obvious benefits known.

1. Boost enrolment

Security is a core priority for many students and parents when selecting an institution. You cannot sit back and assume that word of your hard work on the security front will simply be noticed by prospective families. Tell the story of the investment in security and explain that it is an institutional priority to keep students safe. Work with orientation leaders and campus tour guides to help them craft a compelling message. Offer to educate campus marketing leads to integrate it into marketing materials.

Tout the convenience and security benefits of advanced ID technology including contactless cards and mobile credentials. Students love innovative technology, and it can weigh into their enrolment decisions.

2. Educate staff at all levels on the investment

It’s not just about students. Faculty and staff need to feel safe and know that the institution is working on their behalf. Often a staff member sees an access control reader on their building’s front door, but they don’t realize the pervasive nature of the campuswide deployment.

Work on programs to help them understand. Staff bulletins, email newsletters, and orientation sessions are opportunities to get the word out. Consider offering to give a quick presentation at a faculty-wide meeting or a series of departmental meetings.

When your faculty and staff understand the value of the investment and the commitment of the institution, they can appreciate it personally and be an advocate to others on campus.

3. Go beyond residence halls

I often see campuses focus on residence hall security but neglect other aspects and areas. The student experience with security technology frequently includes academic and administrative buildings, athletic and leisure facilities, libraries, and more.

Turnstiles may control access to dining locations and libraries. Biometric readers may provide added security in labs as well as added convenience for pools and rec centers.

An integrated approach to access on campus also enables you to tie in parking, visitor management, CCTV, parking lot availability, and a host of other peripheral systems. I encourage campuses to consider the full range of offerings that an integrated security system can deliver, and tout all those you have – not just residence hall security – to your various audiences.

4. Data analytics for life safety, wellness checks

Access control systems produce a massive amount of data. Start the discussions on campus about utilizing this data to support your students and staff.

Experiment with some basic reports you could drive that might indicate a student at risk. I have worked with clients that look for students that have not accessed their res hall for an extended period, that use parking garage cameras to identify abandoned vehicles, or that look for other patterns that diverge from norms. If you can show some sample reports, it can facilitate the discussion with your campus community.

5. Streamlined management across the enterprise

An integrated access system alleviates the common institutional problem of supporting multiple PACS. Over the years, many – if not most – campuses saw different departments investing in different access control systems. This decentralized, siloed approach made management a challenge and left some areas more vulnerable to breach than others.

Consolidating these systems facilitates management and operations, as well as issuance and revocation of credentials. If someone’s access privileges need to be revoked, this can be done quickly and safely via one system.

Across the board, this approach to access and security provides far better visibility into system data.

Check out the other installments in the “Tyler’s Tips” series:

By Tyler Webb, Director of Sales, Campus EAC, ASSA ABLOY

These days, everyone seems to be talking about mobile credentials. The technology brings efficiencies for the campus, convenience for students, and security across the board. But it’s important that everyone is aware of all the potential challenges involved with their adoption.

So, I’d like to share some tips I have learned during my days deploying mobile credentials as the director of the Sooner Card program at the University of Oklahoma and from helping other campuses do the same in my position at ASSA ABLOY.

1. Understand your current situation

It is essential to understand your campus environment holistically. Too often, we lose sight of the big picture and focus on the things we see every day, like issuance, access control, and dining. But there are many, many more touchpoints for most programs.

I recommend creating a document that outlines where your cards are used today. Next to these uses, note the systems that are leveraging the technology. For example, one use area might be the residential room assignment during orientation, and the system would likely be the housing management system.

Across the areas you identify, you’ll need hardware to read the NFC or Bluetooth credential from the mobile phone. If you have already been rolling out modern readers to read contactless IDs, you may be partway down the road. Still, on every campus I have worked with, many readers required replacement or upgrade.

If you have already been rolling out modern readers to read contactless IDs, you may be partway down the road. Still, on every campus I have worked with, many readers required replacement or upgrade.

Next, examine the current situation as it relates to personnel. Do you have the resources to make a migration to mobile credentials possible? It will entail long hours and dedicated effort from your IT department, as well as your card office team and its leadership. You’ll want to ensure that it is a priority for everyone who needs to be involved to ensure that they are able to dedicate the time and resources necessary.

2. Evaluate mobile credential technology options

When you decide to make the leap to mobile credentials, there is a series of decisions you must make. Your choice of vendor may mandate some things for you, but similarly, your technology decisions could influence which vendors you choose as partners.

There are two distinct ways to get the credential information – such as the ID number – from the mobile phone to the reader. Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are both wireless communication standards that transmit data through the air. NFC is more commonly used in the higher education market. It transmits over a shorter distance than Bluetooth, which is actually a benefit as it keeps the data within inches of the reader. It is also considered by many to be more secure. NFC also provides greater interoperability with other systems now and in the future, whereas BLE is used solely for access.

Your choice of vendor may mandate some things for you, but similarly, your technology decisions could influence which vendors you choose as partners.

The major transaction system providers offer a mobile credential solution. I recommend educating yourself on these offerings and how they differ. If you already work with a transaction system provider, start there and see what infrastructure, software, and institutional knowledge you already have in the proverbial bank.

Because life safety is the most crucial function of a campus ID, I always suggest talking to access control providers at the start of this process.

Technology options extend far beyond the wireless technology and the vendor selection. Be proactive and ask questions about credential provisioning, revocation, and encryption key ownership.

3. Get executive buy-in from the necessary stakeholders on campus

It is almost a cliché to say that you need executive level buy-in for a project to succeed in higher ed, but that doesn’t make it untrue. For a major technology initiative like mobile credentials – one that requires major commitment, staffing and financial resources – it is imperative.

I suggest starting with forward-thinking colleagues in IT, security, housing, and high-level administration. With support from within the various departments, it can be easier to get the okay from the department heads and the dean/provost. And don’t forget the students. They can be a major ally in the process.

4. Determine the business model for your program

Operating a mobile credential program is like running a business. You may not need to turn a hefty profit, but you do need to run efficiently and – especially if your office is a self-sustaining auxiliary – cover your costs. You also need funding to procure infrastructure and build the program.

Let’s assume your administration has approved the funding to launch the program (if not, there is no reason to proceed to these other tips). The first thing I ask card program directors is if they are ready to change roles and responsibilities – and potentially replace staff – as the need to print cards is reduced or eliminated.

Card offices traditionally cover a sizable part of their ongoing costs via lost card fees. In the mobile credential world, these fees go away. Get creative and explore ways to replace these fees with other revenue streams.

The nature of the work will change, so you and your team must change with it. If the workload diminishes, staff may have to be reallocated. If you have employees nearing retirement, you may be able to eliminate the positions and replace them with part-time student staff.

Many card offices traditionally covered a sizable part of their ongoing costs via lost card fees. In the mobile credential world, these fees go away. Get creative and explore ways to replace these fees with other revenue streams.

Additionally, as lost card fees do dry up, you will also incur an annual license fee for each person issued a mobile credential. In the past, a card issued as a freshman arrives to campus might last four or five years until graduation. After the initial cost of the card and its issuance, there were no more fees for that credential. Be prepared for this change to your program’s business model.

5. Create your launch plan

If you have made it to this point, give yourself a major pat on the back! But get ready for more work and late nights. I find that a well thought out launch plan is key to keeping things smooth in these final stages.

First, be sure to establish a realistic launch date. It is not realistic to pull off a project of this magnitude “over the summer break.” Take your time and do it right.

You may feel external pressure from constituencies on campus to launch ahead of some milestone event or date. You may also feel internal pressure to meet your own established timeline. Be certain that you are really prepared to hit the launch date, and if not, don’t be shy. Be transparent, make your concerns known, and hit reset.

Provide mobile credentials to students before they come to campus for the first time. With a little marketing, you can get mobile credentials onto student phones before they leave home. That is the beauty of over-the-air provisioning. They do not need to be in your office to receive their ID. The more you can issue ahead of time, the smoother the first days of the launch will be.

Test, retest, and test again. This includes all parts of your ecosystem. Look back at your initial outline of all the areas using your credential and let it guide your testing.

Test, retest, and test again. This includes all parts of your ecosystem. Look back at your initial outline of all the areas using your credential and let it guide your testing. Leverage a group of full-time employees and students as test subjects. In addition to providing real word feedback, they will become some of your greatest advocates, helping spread the word to others.

Have a defined, comprehensive marketing plan in place to make sure your populations know what is happening and why they should participate. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. Call on marketing professionals and staff, as well as students and your vendor partners to assist.

Manage expectations surrounding the launch. Participation levels may not be where you want them to be on day one, but with continued effort you will get there. Make sure that others on campus understand that the migration can be a slow roll, so don’t expect 100% enrollment on day one.

Check out the other installments in the “Tyler’s Tips” series:

By Sean Houchin, product manager, ELATEC

Campuses seeking an open alternative to traditional access control platforms such as LEGIC or HID have an increasingly accepted option to consider: LEAF. LEAF is an open, interoperable platform that allows end users to use their LEAF ID card, key fob or smartphone to unlock access to various campus applications through any LEAF-enabled reader. As more campuses look for ways to streamline and simplify access control, LEAF-compatible RFID readers can offer an advantage to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and system integrators selling into the campus market.

Conceived by DSP and cryptographic engineer Hugo Wendling, the LEAF standard is based on MIFARE DESFire EV2. Today, it is carried forward by the LEAF Consortium, a group of industry partners representing hardware manufacturers, software developers and identity media manufacturers. LEAF offers several critical benefits:

LEAF-enabled products include door locks for building access and RFID readers that can be integrated into various devices for physical access control and digital access management. In a campus environment, applications could include elevator panels, turnstiles, multi-function printers, computer workstations, vending machines, smart lockers, retail registers, EV charging stations and more.

This creates the opportunity for a genuinely unified access control system. Instead of managing multiple user identities and identification media for different applications – such as campus transportation, building and parking garage entry, single sign-on (SSO) to campus networks, and access to amenities such as the cafeteria or gym – users can use their LEAF identity credential for everything. That same credential card carries over to other LEAF-enabled applications off-campus, too. As a result, LEAF provides an easier way for end users to manage their digital identities to access locations, physical assets and services in both the consumer and professional realms.

The open platform makes LEAF exceptionally easy for equipment manufacturers and system integrators to implement. With the LEAF standard, access control from the front door to the printer can be unified under one universal standard—even when using readers from different manufacturers. A simple firmware update can make suitable readers LEAF-compatible.

As the “smart office,” “smart city” and “smart campus” become a reality, user identification and access control are more critical than ever. LEAF makes it possible to create unified access systems with more user convenience and a lower entry barrier for system owners, integrators and equipment manufacturers.

Curious about implementing LEAF? ELATEC can help you decide whether the LEAF standard is right for you.

Sean Houchin is the product manager for ELATEC in Palm City, Fla., and is part of the global ELATEC GmbH product-management team. He has over 20 years of experience in product development, management and applications engineering. Sean is an expert in RFID technology, optoelectronic and fiber optic video, audio, and data transmission equipment for military and commercial applications, and is a veteran of the United States Navy.

By Jeff Koziol, Allegion’s business development manager of campus software partners

Credential technology has come a long way since the first electronic card access system was developed in 1968. For decades, universities have used some form of campus card. Yet many campuses have made few changes to the legacy technology they adopted years ago.

While many understand the risks of outdated technology, they haven’t made the change to something more secure, like smart cards or mobile student IDs. And those who had plans in place likely saw them shattered when the pandemic struck last year, forcing universities to pivot their 2020 initiatives.

Ironically, the pandemic uncovered the benefits of a contactless campus, leaving many to revisit the need to invest in smart cards or mobile student IDs.

Luckily, there is funding available to help colleges and universities prepare to bring students back to healthier campuses. Because contactless credentials can help limit the spread of COVID-19, Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF) might be able to help your campus make the transition.

What is HEERF?

Wondering how to fund higher education plans that will allow you to resume a somewhat normal campus experience? Coronavirus relief funding might be the answer.

HEERF was established as part of the CARES Act to provide fast and direct economic aid. Since then, new funding has been issued through the CRRSA Act and ARP Act to provide more relief from financial losses resulting from COVID-19 and support safe reopening of campuses. The NASFAA created this comparison chart to explain the three HEERFs.

“There are two parts to the higher education funds: student relief and institutional relief,” says Dr. Paula Love, President of “The institutional portion of these funds can be used to implement evidence-based practices to monitor and suppress spread of the coronavirus in accordance with public health guidelines.”

“These funds are flexible to allow schools to use the funds where they are needed most,” Love adds. “For some, that might be implementing contactless transactions and touchless access control on campus.”

"Bottom line, there is a lot of money available for higher education institutions that can be used to help implement strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

During the NACCU session, “Demand for Frictionless Technology: The Silver Lining of a Global Pandemic,” the speaker shared how the University of Montana used stimulus funding for new readers on each building to support its move to contactless credentials. The move increased security, reduced the time it took campus police to manually lock and unlock doors and helped them prepare for the next pandemic.

Bottom line, there is a lot of money available for higher education institutions that can be used to help implement strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It’s time to reconsider contactless credentials

“Regardless of cost, campus leaders are certainly thinking a lot about ways to make life involve less contact with surfaces and people, as COVID is here for now and will impact future behaviors,” writes Melissa Ezarik for University Business in November 2020. The article outlines six areas of campus to make contactless, including mobile credentials.

I’m hopeful that the end is in sight. Yet, the behavioral changes that we inherited during the last 14 months aren’t going to evaporate overnight. I’d still prefer a touchless door over mechanical operation. I’d rather use my phone to tap-and-go versus handing over my credit card for a cashier to swipe. Bottom line, I don’t want to put my hands where who knows how many hands have been before.

While I’m hopeful, I also recognize we are still in the pandemic and caution must be taken to limit the spread on campus. It appears that campuses across markets agree. Research from Campus Safety’s “Access Control, Lock and Lockdown Special Report found that there was interest among higher education, K-12 and hospital campuses in hands-free (17%), touchless (14%) and antimicrobial door hardware (13%) to stem the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Three ways contactless credentials can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus:

Deploy remotely. Mobile student IDs offer the same contactless and security benefits as smart cards, plus they can be remotely deployed to avoid in-person contact. Wave goodbye to the long lines at the card office. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, experienced this last summer when it had to pause it’s in-person summer orientations, the time students traditionally receive their VolCards. Students with Apple devices were able to take advantage of virtual deployment so there was less person-to-person contact at the card office.

No swiping needed. Students only need to present their mobile device or campus card in the RF field emitted by the reader for building access, dining, library transactions and more. They won’t need to hand over their credentials to a cashier to swipe or touch any objects. Nor will they have to swipe the magnetic stripe on their card, where they are essentially rubbing their hands on readers that are being touched by all campus personnel.

“At most universities and colleges, the campus card is the lifeblood of a student’s daily routine,” says Brad Sweet, when explaining how to safely improve campus security. “It’s how students access buildings, eat at dining halls, check out books from the library, print term papers, do their laundry—the list goes on. With so much relying on that card, it’s safe to assume it’s being touched multiple times a day. Therefore, upgrading to a contactless solution limits how frequently the student needs to swipe a card on campus, which involves coming in contact with the reader.”

Contact tracing. “As schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) resume in-person learning, case investigation and contact tracing with staff, educators, and students are effective strategies to identify and isolate cases and test and quarantine close contacts to reduce transmission,” per the CDC guidelines.

Many universities, like USC, have already piloted contact tracing programs. With the right technology, it can be as simple as presenting a mobile student ID or campus card upon entering specific locations on campus. This video shows how University of Vermont implemented campus contact tracing using an iPad, mobile credentials and Schlage MT20 readers.

Preparing for the future

Universities are focused on getting students back, and to do so, they need to prepare a campus that is suitable for keeping students and faculty healthy and safe. Actions taken today will better prepare campuses for future public health crises. Many are already incorporating lessons learned during this pandemic into their emergency preparedness plans.

The reason for upgrading campus cards might be different than a couple years ago, but the goal is the same -- contactless smart or mobile student IDs. With the renewed focus on going contactless, now might be the time to revive plans or kick off a move from magnetic stripe to contactless mobile credentials using HEERF funds.

"The reason for upgrading campus cards might be different than a couple years ago, but the goal is the same -- contactless smart or mobile student IDs."

Not sure where to start? Check out these four common scenarios that campuses face when upgrading credentials and get tips for each. There are more options available than the four in the article.

Allegion experts are available to develop a tailored path if you would like to explore your campus’s migration plan.

By Jeff Koziol, Allegion’s business development manager of campus software partners

2020… What a year it has been. December is the time of year when we start discussing what the next year will bring. While we’re all excited to close the door on the last several months and look ahead to 2021, I know that there’s also a lot of uncertainty in our future. That said, I am hopeful. I think we will learn from this year and evolve to create better, safer campuses for students, faculty and staff.

Of course, technology and innovation doesn’t stop. Even during the pandemic, new software was introduced to help with contact tracing while access had to be reimagined all over campus. Here’s a glimpse at a few trends that I think we can expect in 2021 and beyond.

Continuation of mobile adoption

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that mobile will continue to be a hot topic in 2021. I anticipate that we will continue to see adoption for improved convenience, efficiency and security. Leveraging NFC technology gives users a more seamless experience from access and transactions, to distribution and management.

Enhanced security is a significant benefit of upgrading to mobile credentials, especially for those still using unencrypted technology. In fact, Mark McKenna, director of the CATcard Service Center at University of Vermont, shared during a webinar that the main reason his team converted to mobile credentials was to eliminate the use of mag stripe on campus for more secure transactions.

Mobile credentials themselves are more secure than older technology like magnetic stripe or proximity cards. On top of that you have the fact it’s on the student’s smartphone. When was the last time you saw a young adult go anywhere or do anything without their device? They’re less likely to loan it out or lose it. And if they do lose it, I’d give it less than an hour before they notice and lock the device or locate it.

Colleges and universities understand the value of mobile credentials, and I anticipate more will move from discussions to adoption in the coming year or two. And soon the Android solution for the Google Wallet will be available and will only help to further advance the adoption.

"Colleges and universities understand the value of mobile credentials, and I anticipate more will move from discussions to adoption in the coming year or two."

Doug Vanderpoel, manager of enterprise services at Mount Holyoke College, also sees a bright future for mobile adoption. “One of the things that excites me most about the future of credentialing is not just mobile itself but the possibilities it opens up, like geo location and geo marketing. Apps and the credentials will merge. A class schedule will be able to guide a student to her classroom, while the credential lets her in the door.”

Another benefit of mobile technology is that credentials are remotely deployed. It’s easier for your staff and it eliminates the need for students to pick up cards in person. Given the risks, your institution doesn’t want students lining up, risking students and staff.

Similarly, mobile is contactless, which is a hot topic when considering the overall health of a campus. The less students, faculty and staff are touching, the better.

Universities take control of credentials & deeper conversations about interoperability

Interoperability enables various technology systems to communicate, exchange and interpret information. With campus cards, interoperability enables a credential to work across multiple hardware manufacturers spanning access control, point of sale and other third-party applications.

Today, open interoperable solutions are optimal to the dated proprietary model that has long existed in the industry. When I look in my crystal ball to predict the future, I see universities taking a more active role in their technology choices. That starts with considering manufacturing partners who embrace open, non-proprietary flexible solutions.

“In North America, high frequency, or smart card technology, has long been dominated by a proprietary encryption key technology and business model,” says Paul Iverson, credential solutions business leader at Allegion. “As the industry evolves to non-proprietary and open architecture solutions and partnerships, end users are beginning to evaluate the dated proprietary model, which creates leverage and control for the manufacturer.”

"I see universities taking a more active role in their technology choices. That starts with considering manufacturing partners who embrace open, non-proprietary flexible solutions."

While some campuses might have hardware from a single manufacturer on campus, it’s more common that there is a mix, creating a more complex medley of credentials, readers and electronic locks. These solutions need to work together harmoniously, where the credential can open every door and interface with other readers for dining, bookstore purchases, laundry, vending and other applications on campus, regardless of where the lock or reader came from.

Manufacturers aligned with partners like NXP embrace the scenario described above utilizing custom encryption keys. Custom encryption keys are secure and create control for the university rather than the manufacturer. Should the end user’s technology or strategic needs change, they enjoy the flexibility of taking possession of the key at any time and can seek additional manufacturing relationships to serve their technology and business needs.

“There’s a choice of manufacturers in the market,” says Iverson. “Some use a proprietary model creating manufacturer control in the relationship while others embrace non-proprietary models and the new paradigm of the future.”

“I encourage you to ask the manufacturer, ‘If at any time I elect to take possession of the key, will you provide the key to us?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ it sounds like you’re working with a manufacturer offering a non-proprietary custom key as an option,” Iverson says. “If the answer is ‘no,’ you’re likely working with a manufacturer aligned with a proprietary encryption key offering. This can limit your freedom to choose hardware manufacturers down the road.”

Invest in the freedom of choice and put control in your hands. Ask questions and choose wisely so you don’t box yourself in.

Investing in the student experience

Now more than ever, it’s important to focus on the student experience. Colleges want students back on campus, and they want them to choose their campus. Entice students with your offering and stand out.

What value does your campus bring to the student? How can you reassure parents’ safety and security concerns? Your campus card could be the answer.

If you’re going to market your campus card as a perk for students, it’s important to ensure it really is going above and beyond. This doesn’t mean you have to have mobile, though students are going to start expecting that in the coming years. Start by expanding your campus card capabilities.

“Students are the reason we’re here. They’ve been using mobile devices from a young age and we need to keep up with the technology that their expecting.”

--Doug Vanderpoel, manager of enterprise services at Mount Holyoke College

When universities move to smart card solutions, regardless of provider, they often stop at access control. They tend to overlook things like vending, dining and POS readers. When the mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet came around, universities were forced to address all areas where cards were being used. Now we’ve seen universities expand the use case, even those not using the Apple solution. They want their contactless card to go beyond door access; they want it for transactions and more.

While you can still attract students with a full-service campus card, I wouldn’t completely overlook mobile. Students will start to expect this option in the future. We’ve had an evolution over last 20 years moving from key rings to plastic ID cards. Now we’re seeing a similar migration away from the traditional wallet with credit cards, membership cards and now keys all moving to the digital wallet.

“Students are the reason we’re here,” insists Mount Holyoke’s, Vanderpoel. “They’ve been using mobile devices from a young age and we need to keep up with the technology that their expecting.”

Technological advancements beyond 2021 & the expansion of software capabilities

Technological advancement isn’t a trend as it’s constantly evolving to further our industry. That said, I think it’s worth noting a few ways that technology will impact higher education institutions in 2021 and beyond.

In 2020, campuses were able to use credentials to provide in-demand services to deal with the pandemic, like contact tracing. Moving forward, universities can benefit from using that same data for capacity management and situational awareness.

While it all centers around the credential, a higher adoption of readers and wireless locks will increase the amount of data that a campus can access to better implement these capabilities. It becomes more valuable because it’s being used in more places.

"In 2020, campuses used credentials to provide in-demand services to deal with the pandemic, like contact tracing. Moving forward, universities can use that same data for capacity management and situational awareness."

Of course, when gathering data, the quality of that data matters. When using a card technology that can be easily duplicated, that data suffers. You don’t want someone to be able to take a card to a Key Me station and duplicate it, so it’s important to have encrypted technology in place first.

Cyber security and privacy concerns have been in the spotlight this year, and I don’t anticipate that will change in 2021. At Allegion, we have teams dedicated to addressing both topics. Looking beyond 2021, I see a lot of opportunity for our market. One example of this is the emergence of Ultra-Wideband (UWB).

“We’ve already seen how NFC and BLE have made access control more seamless through mobile devices,” says Brian Marris, product manager of Allegion connected accessories. “In the next five years, UWB will take this to the next level.”

“Location precision is improved, and it will recognize intent in a way that isn’t possible today.” Adds Marris. “Say I have my phone in my pocket and I’m approaching a door. UWB is tracking me within a few inches, and it knows by the way I’m facing and when I’m within a certain range that my intent is to walk through that door. It then authenticates my credential without me having to take it out of my pocket.”


While 2020 wasn’t the year we expected, I believe this is an exciting time for our industry. We learned a lot this year. For example, I bet pandemic planning is going to be key for universities, even after there is a vaccine. Campuses have done a good with their strategies to keep students safe on campus. And now they’re going to be prepared for health-related emergencies moving forward.

We’ve also seen technology help us in ways we might have overlooked in the past, like remote deployment and contact tracing. I think this innovative spirit will continue across our industry as we strive to design better campus experiences. More schools will introduce mobile credentials, while others expand the capabilities of their current technology.

When you look to the future, what do you see? Let me know by connecting with me on LinkedIn.

By Jeff Koziol, Allegion’s business development manager of campus software partners

How many of us still use a Franklin Covey planner or address book? What about a Garmin? If you’re like most, you now rely on your mobile device. Now imagine a generation of students who grew up with that technology, never knowing the pain of using a foldable map on a long drive. It’s understandable why today’s tech-savvy students are seeking the convenience of mobile student IDs.

Universities of all sizes and demographics should take note. If you’re not moving toward more convenient ways to interact with students, they will soon find campuses that are catering to their expectations.

Mobile credentials are still new to our market, and I’ve heard some hesitations from schools who are debating whether it’s time to make the switch to digital IDs. Among the potential barriers include the use case coverage requirements, implementation costs and the desire for a comprehensive offering that doesn’t exclude students with Android phones. I’ll take a deeper look at each of these and explain why these are important factors when considering mobile adoption on campus.

Does the mobile credential really need to work everywhere on campus?

I love Apple Pay. It’s so convenient to tap my phone—which I always have in my pocket—and go. When I first began using Apple Pay, that convenience was only enjoyed at a handful of places near me, however. Adoption is expanding.

As of January 2019, 65% of retailers were said to accept this form of payment. But as long as one or two of the businesses I regularly visit don’t accept Apple Pay, I have to defer back to my debit or credit card, which means I still have to carry my wallet as a backup. If this happens frequently enough, my debit or credit card might become my go-to even when Apple Pay is accepted because I’m used to pulling it out everywhere else. That convenience of the mobile payment diminishes.

"Since launching its mobile program about a year ago, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, surpassed 5,000,000 mobile transactions. About 70% of the transactions on campus are made with a mobile phone versus a plastic credential."

My early experience with Apple Pay illustrates the reason for a 100% use case of mobile student IDs in the Apple Wallet on campus. When I use the phrase “100% use case,” I mean that anywhere a student could use a physical student ID card they need to be able to use their mobile credential. If students have to switch between a plastic card and their mobile phone, they might opt for the option that’s guaranteed to work everywhere.

To avoid this and improve adoption of mobile credentials, make sure the mobile credential is accepted all over campus. For example, since launching its mobile program about a year ago, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, surpassed 5,000,000 mobile transactions. About 70% of the transactions on campus are made with a mobile phone versus a plastic credential.

I recommend putting together a plan to ensure everywhere on campus is prepared to accept the mobile students IDs within a few years. Here are some examples to consider:

What will mobile credentials cost our university?

Upgrading from a magnetic stripe card to a mobile credential can come at a premium, just as you would expect to pay more for a contactless smart card over a magnetic stripe option. The reasons for this is that it’s a more robust and secure credential and it’s easier to use. How those costs are covered is up to the university. Some schools cover the cost as a necessary expense to keep students and the school secure. Others have students cover the expense.

Additionally, there are costs of updating the hardware that’s needed to work with the mobile student IDs. This will vary depending on what’s already in place on campus.

There are costs of not upgrading that need considered as well. There are risks of using older credential technologies that can be easily copied. If a proximity card is copied using a device that can be purchased online by anyone, the offender can obtain access to various places across campus—the student recreation center, dining hall and even high-security areas. Newer technologies are encrypted and less vulnerable to security breaches.

"I recommend schools show off their mobile credentials during orientations by using mobile devices on campus tours. Right now it’s a way to stand out to students, but soon it will be table stakes."

Universities also need to prioritize the student experience and student expectations. Keep in mind, this generation of students is more dependent on their phones than others. Mobile credentials build on the convenience that the one-card system introduced to campuses several years ago. Access, dining dollars, printing privileges are all accessible through a single credential—but now that credential is the mobile device.

Students already are highly dependent on these devices, so it’s a logical transition to keep up with the tech-driven generation’s expectations. In fact, I would recommend schools show off their mobile credentials during orientations by using mobile devices on campus tours. Right now it’s a way to stand out to students, but soon it will be table stakes.

There are also cost-saving benefits for universities that adopt mobile credentials. Deployment can be done over the air so there is no need to mail cards ahead of the semester or distribute in person. Plastic is reduced along with printing costs.

What about Android users on campus?

At first, the NFC mobile student ID was only available on Apple devices, which is why some schools delayed adoption. It’s understandable to want an inclusive offering that doesn’t exclude students with Android devices.

That said, an Android solution is available today through some mobile student ID one-card providers and more will offer the solution by early 2021. By the time campuses complete the upfront work needed to transition to mobile credentials—planning, upgrading hardware and testing—the Android solution should be available from all the mobile student ID one-card providers.

Mobile credentials are more convenient -- for you and your students

While being able to do everything from your phone and not have to worry about carrying another card is ideal, there’s value beyond this convenience. Mobile credentials can be provisioned remotely.

If a student loses their card, they have to go to the card office, which can be an inconvenient walk between a busy day of classes for some. This also means the card office needs to be open and staffed during the week and sometimes on weekends. With mobile technology, students can deploy their own credentials without having to step foot in the card office. The self-serve option is more efficient for students and staff.

And it’s not just students. Think about the faculty and staff that misplace credentials. They aren’t as dependent on their IDs as the students, so they can go weeks—or longer—without replacing their cards.

Path to mobile credentials

I believe most universities and colleges will find the benefits outweigh the challenges, but not all will be ready for a direct path to mobile at this time. That said, I hope all understand the value of upgrading to newer, more secure technology now.

The way I see it, mobile should be the end game. If your university isn’t ready for mobile, upgrade to smart cards first. This is a common path that will take you in the right direction.

The upgrades from proximity or magnetic stripe credentials to smart cards can set up your campus to easily transition to mobile down the road. It’s best to choose multi-technology readers and credentials as you transition, and always investigate the interoperability.

Mark McKenna, director of the CATcard Service Center at the University of Vermont, and I will discuss his university’s implementation of mobile credentials during an upcoming webinar in December. Join us to learn more about the benefits, challenges and what’s next for Vermont's campus.

By Jeff Koziol, business development manager of campus software partners, Allegion

Nearly 29,000 students arrive at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, each August for the start of fall semester. With VolCards in hand, these students set out across 294 buildings on Tennessee's 910-acre campus. In October 2019, that experience changed.

The university introduced mobile credentials last fall to keep up with growing student demands for a digital VolCard experience on campus.

The benefits of a mobile student ID are always significant, and the need for them now is even more apparent. As campuses plan to reopen after being shut down since the spring, they need to welcome students back to healthy environments.

This comes at a time when people are more aware of the surfaces they’re touching. Mobile credentials can be issued digitally. Furthermore, remote distribution reduces the number of students that need to pick up replacement cards in person. And since mobile credentials are contactless, transactions and secure access can occur without an individual needing to swipe or hand over a physical card.

The decision: A digital student experience

When University of Tennessee, Knoxville, decided to transition to mobile credentials a few years ago, its focus was on improving the student experience and operational benefits. Bill Strickland, director of operational services at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, started receiving requests for campus cards on a mobile device from the university's Student Government Association.

Mobile credentials make it easier and more convenient for students and faculty to access buildings like residence halls or the library, as well as to make payments on and around campus. From coffee to laundry and other purchases, students just need an iPhone or Apple Watch to go about their daily routines.

The university also knew it would benefit from being able to cut down on its plastic card production, printing and other operational efficiencies.

“As an institution that values innovation, it’s important to us that we are always adapting to the way students use technology to enhance the campus experience,” said Chris Cimino, Senior Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. “Being able to access the VolCard on your mobile device is another way UT is continuously improving to meet expectations for a modern campus.”

The solution: Mobile student IDs in Apple Wallet

The mobile student ID leverages the industry-leading global standard NXP DESFire security technology to provide higher education campuses with an easy-to-implement solution to enable contactless student IDs for iPhone and Apple Watch.

“As an institution that values innovation, it’s important that we're always adapting to the way students use technology to enhance the campus experience. Accessing the VolCard on your mobile device is another way UT is continuously improving to meet expectations for a modern campus.”

-- Chris Cimino, Senior Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The user experience with NFC on Apple devices enables a seamless and secure user experience. The user presents their iPhone or Apple Watch near the reader without the need to unlock the device or open an application. With the mobile student ID, users now have the convenience of using their phones for everyday transactions. Schlage AD electronic locks, NDE and LE networked wireless locks and MT multi-technology readers support contactless student IDs in Apple Wallet using CBORD’s CS Gold software.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville was the first campus to implement the mobile solution from CBORD and Allegion in Apple Wallet.

The process: The road to a mobile credential

One of the first steps for Strickland and Mike Henderson, VolCard technology supervisor, was defining use case across campus. To move forward, it’s important for colleges and universities to understand every single way a student uses a card on campus. Entering the dining hall, accessing the fitness center, opening residence hall doors—all of it needs documented for the rest of the process to go smoothly.

“Essentially, we had to find every reader on campus where a student could use their VolCard and figure out a way that a mobile credential would work there,” said Henderson. “That was challenging because there were places that we didn’t even know about at first. There were some external systems, like at the recreation center, that were a little more challenging than others, but we got everything squared away with the support of our teams from other departments.”

The next task was replacing hardware.

“When migrating to a newer technology, like mobile credentials, there’s work to do on the front end, like with any campus security update,” said Mark Werner, end user sales consultant at Allegion. “The team at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, did a tremendous job of coordinating with their teams and updating thousands of readers.”

Roughly 5,000 readers throughout campus needed to be upgraded or replaced to support the new mobile credential solution with Allegion. Henderson’s team replaced a majority of the readers while students were away over summer break.

They converted competitive card readers to the Schlage MT wired multi-technology readers and updated the reader modules in their AD-400 networked wireless locks. Designed for flexibility, Schlage multi-technology readers allow campuses to easily transition from proximity or magnetic stripe technology to more secure, encrypted credentials, like mobile credentials in the Apple wallet or smart cards. The university also upgraded its physical campus card technology to Schlage smart credentials using NXP MIFARE DESFire EV1. Students still needed to use a physical card until the mobile credential solution was available.

Once the readers were installed, CBORD updated Tennessee’s one-card software to CS Gold, a customizable solution supporting campus auxiliary services. CS Gold helps colleges and universities build a connected campus through integrated systems including security and access control, attendance and activity tracking, meal plan and stored value management, on- and off-campus commerce, and more.

Implementation will look different for every college or university depending on the hardware and technology in place and the compatibility and interoperability of solutions. Strickland said they hit some hurdles from time to time but ultimately paved the way for more seamless adoption. “We were the first CBORD school to have the digital ID, and I think it will be much easier for other schools to get there.”


“Students that I’ve encountered absolutely love it,” Henderson said. “The ones who have the mobile credential don’t even carry their cards anymore. I haven’t swiped my card for building access since October 2019, and I use my Apple Watch 99% of the time; I don’t even need to get my phone out.”

In approximately six months after the mobile credentials launched, 10,000 unique devices were provisioned for the mobile credentials. Those devices completed more than 2 million transactions. On average, the university was seeing between 15,000-20,000 transactions per day with the mobile credential—sometimes as high as 30,000. This data was collected before the campus shut down last spring. It expects these numbers will increase as students are welcomed back in August.

“It’s very convenient to be able to present your phone to a reader for access and transactions,” said Larry Delaney, vice president of strategic alliances at CBORD.

“Those who have the mobile credential don’t even carry their cards anymore. I haven’t swiped my card for building access since October 2019, and I use my Apple Watch 99% of the time; I don’t even need to get my phone out.”

--Mike Henderson, VolCard technology supervisor

“Apple improved the user experience by adding a feature that pops up, even if a phone is locked, to show the student his or her balances in different campus accounts," said Delaney. "It sounds trivial, but the way students had to get that in the past was to talk to the dining hall attendant or open a separate mobile application. They automated a previously manual task, which adds value for the students.”

Aside from the student experience, the mobile student ID is going to benefit the university as students are welcomed back this fall. Due to COVID-19, summer orientations couldn’t take place in person, which is when students would have picked up their physical VolCards.

The university expects many students will take advantages of mobile credentials during the start of the Fall 2020 semester. This will reduce the number of students gathering in the card office to pick up their IDs at the start of the year as everything can be handled digitally. The university is looking forward to adding the Android solution in the near future to enhance student use with both iOS and Android smartphones.

There is some peace of mind knowing that most students will be able to come back to a campus that is contactless in terms of transactions. They don’t have to touch a keypad or pass their card to someone else. It’s easy and more hygienic.

Furthermore, mobile credentials have cut down on the number of plastic cards the office must reprint for students each. It saw a drop last year, and the university expects to see extraordinary reduction moving forward as students go mobile during future orientations.

"There's some peace of mind knowing that most students will be able to come back to a campus that is contactless in terms of transactions. They don’t have to touch a keypad or pass their card to someone else. It’s easy and more hygienic."

The mobile credential solution has also improved security on campus. “Phones are personal; people want to keep them in their possession. As a result, people aren’t giving away their phones like they might an ID card," Henderson adds. "This has lowered fraud and given us better insights into who is actually using the credential for access.”


Since launching mobile student IDs in October 2019, VolCard holders enjoy even more seamless transactions and access as they go about their daily routines. By implementing a mobile credential solution, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, met the demands of its tech-savvy students while improving operational efficiencies. Furthermore, the university is now better prepared for students to return to campus in the fall following recent COVID-19 guidelines.

If you’re interested in learning more about mobile credential options, visit or contact Allegion.

CIDN logo reversed
The only publication dedicated to the use of campus cards, mobile credentials, identity and security technology in the education market. CampusIDNews – formerly CR80News – has served more than 6,500 subscribers for more than two decades.

Join us, @NACCUorg, and @TouchNet to explore how campus card programs can successfully navigate the sales and procurement process. Join the webinar on June 6, 2 pm EDT.

Webinar: Learn how the University of Arizona uses campus cards, mobile ordering, kiosks, lockers, and robots to revolutionize campus dining. April 7, 2-2:30 EDT. Register Now at

Load More...
CampusIDNews is published by AVISIAN Publishing
315 E. Georgia St.
Tallahassee, FL 32301[email protected]
Use our contact form to submit tips, corrections, or questions to our team.
©2023 CampusIDNews. All rights reserved.