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Blackboard Q&A: Student ID cards on Apple iPhone and Watch

The big news in the campus card space this month is the announcement that the Apple iPhone and Watch will support use of student ID cards on campus for access and payments. The reveal happened during Apple’s keynote at the company’s recent Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and will see the campus card made an option to be added to Apple Wallet.

We’re predictably bullish on adoption, but it’s pretty early to speculate on specific timing. However, we expect that once a client makes the Blackboard Mobile Credential available, the natural tendency for the mobile-centric student will be a rapid adoption.

The addition of the student ID card to Apple mobile devices has been a pipe dream for some time, with the company’s tight grip on the iPhone’s NFC capabilities previously acting as a barrier for use of anything beyond Apple Pay. That trend has now changed, and joining Apple on its student ID card initiative is Blackboard, after it was revealed that the two companies have partnered on the project.

With the new contactless credentials via iPhone and Watch primed for action this coming fall at a host of Blackboard client campuses, CR80News was able to gather some additional details on the new solution in a recent Q&A with Blackboard’s VP of Global Market Development, Jeff Staples.


CR80News: Which Apple devices and software versions will support student ID card access and payments?

Staples: Using contactless credentials, students will simply present their iPhone with iOS 12 or Apple Watch with watchOS 5 to enabled readers on campus.

CR80News: Can any current Blackboard client participate in the mobile credential initiative? What are the base hardware/software requirements on the Blackboard side needed to support this?

Staples: Initially, our Transaction System On Premise solution will support the Blackboard Mobile Credential, and our roadmap includes support for our SaaS clients, as well. Regarding enabled terminal devices (readers), our clients are well prepared as all Blackboard devices shipped since 2010 feature NFC capability. In addition to our own Blackboard readers, we will continue to expand support for enabled third-party devices, as well.

CR80News: How about new clients that sign with Blackboard? Will this be an out of the gate option for all new clients?

Staples: Absolutely! Our new clients are great candidates for this offering. We have a variety of Blackboard NFC devices that campuses can use to update their infrastructure, leveraging a client’s hardware investments when possible. In addition to interior locks from ASSA ABLOY, we’re working with a growing list of third-party hardware providers to enable their devices also.

CR80News: What is the process for on-boarding a campus card credential to Wallet? Does a student need to interact with the campus card office directly, or can they add the credential on their own?

Blackboard iPhone credential flowchart

Staples: It is critically important to provide the user with a simple and efficient experience from the start, and certainly our means of providing convenience in credential delivery meets that criteria. The users will take advantage of Blackboard platform services and self-service mobile solutions to enable a simple and quick experience for obtaining the credential and downloading it to their iPhone or Apple Watch, and interaction or visits to the card office will not be required. We will share more details on this point following the launch this fall.

CR80News: Can you walk me through the student experience? Will the student need to call up the Wallet app prior to reaching the door?

Staples: We have been preparing ourselves and our clients for this capability for years (since 2010), and we have taken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to enabling this user experience. This experience has to be ubiquitous across campus, and incredibly easy and intuitive to use. That means that a student should expect to go from buying lunch, to making copies, to buying a soft drink and then opening a door, all with the same user experience and ease of use. Our leverage of NFC is perfect for this as it facilitates a very secure, fast transaction without the need to open apps, select a door or machine, etc. Just present the iPhone or Apple Watch, and get on with the task at hand.

It’s important that the Mobile Credential not add any friction to the process, or somehow offer less utility than the traditional ID card. That won’t be an issue, and we are working hard with the Apple team to ensure that the user has a great experience. As we are in a pre-release state, we will offer more details after the launch this fall.

CR80News: How does the user experience differ with the Watch vs the iPhone?

Staples: It’s really about convenience and ensuring the user experience is simple, elegant and matched to their needs in each use case. Regardless of the form factor, whether an iPhone or Apple Watch, we will enable the same drop-dead simple user experience mentioned above. Again, look for more details after the program goes live this fall.

CR80News: How will transactions on iPhone and Watch differ from the experience for students using Android devices? Will both ecosystems be supported seamlessly?

Staples: There may be differences, however, the way in which a user transacts at a reader-level will be similar. Both credential types will be supported, along with NFC-compatible cards, which we have supported since 2010.

CR80News: Can other vendors offer a similar mobile ID experience using iPhone and Watch? Is there any exclusivity between Blackboard and Apple for the student ID card offering?

Staples: We generally don’t comment on our relationships with Apple or other companies before a solution is generally available, but we are unaware of any other solution provider that can offer this capability at this time. Blackboard is in this unique position for a variety of reasons, including a long-running commitment to deliver NFC-capable devices, and major investments in platform development, all of which have resulted in a very large base of enabled campuses who also happen to have a majority of users carrying iPhones and Apple Watches.

CR80News: Can you fill us in on how other vendors may participate and add value to Blackboard schools?

Staples: We are pleased to be working with a number of companies as we complement our own array of solutions to help our clients address every credential use case on campus, from payment to privilege management to access control, and that list will continue to grow. We are pleased to continue our long-running engagement with the electronic locks team at ASSA ABLOY, and I know that our clients and users will appreciate the seamless use of the Blackboard Mobile Credential for all transaction types, on and off campus.

Of course, we also have a variety of Blackboard NFC-enabled devices, such as our USB and mobile readers, door readers and point-of-sale devices, deployed in large numbers on our clients’ campuses, making a variety of third-party solutions capable of accepting any of our contactless or mobile credentials.

CR80News: How will credential pricing be handled with mobile IDs compared to physical cards?

Staples: We are providing specifics including pricing to our clients, but as we are in a pre-release state, we can’t offer details publicly at this time.

CR80News: How do you see the utilization curve growing over time?

Staples: We’re predictably bullish on adoption, but it’s pretty early to speculate on specific timing. However, we expect that once a client makes the Blackboard Mobile Credential available, the natural tendency for the mobile-centric student will be a rapid adoption. Incoming freshmen will adopt very rapidly, and existing cardholders are likely to seek out this option for its convenience when they need a replacement card. Given the widespread use of iPhones and Apple Watches, the pace of adoption will now increase dramatically. Our clients will continue to have other options available, including NFC-compatible contactless cards and our Android Mobile Credential, to ensure they address the needs of all students and users.

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