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HID’s iCLASS™ cards make their campus debut at Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania

Nearly everyone anticipated proximity card technology would be utilized when Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA began evaluating a new access control system for the 3700 student campus. A new academic center was under construction and campus officials wanted this building, as well as the five freshman dormitories, to be secured via a card-based access system. But by the time the campus began issuing the new cards in the fall of 2002, prox technology had been leapfrogged in favor of the more advanced contactless smart card technology. In the process, Mercyhurst became one of the first campuses in North America to implement contactless smart card technology.

Andover Controls of Andover, Mass. was selected to provide the security system and hardware and the project, as designed, was to utilize prox technology from HID. As the planning for the project continued, however, discussions of the ID card and its other uses on campus surfaced.

The traditional campus card functionality, such as library material checkout, food service control, and an array of payment needs were discussed. HID’s new iCLASS™ technology seemed to be a more appropriate long term fit. iClass™ is based on an industry standard contactless chip technology, And unlike the proximity technology, contactless technology enables the addition of other applications to the card. It also can provide a higher level of security and flexibility.

Late last year, Mercyhurst’s security office began issuing the new cards. Today, nearly 6000 cardholders have received the contactless smart cards. They are used for access to the original four card-controlled buildings as well as several other locations that have come online since the original installation.

Today, the campus card’s magnetic stripe is used for all applications except access control. In the near future, however, applications will be transitioned to the contactless chip. According to John Patterson, Police Sergeant and Coordinator of Technical Services, this migration is high on the priority list. “We meet on it once a month,” he mentions. “I suspect that we will have all applications running on the contactless chip within two years.”

Says Sergeant Patterson, “the plan is to apply readers to every point on campus–every door, every vending machine, every point of sale.” He stresses that he is impressed with the technology. And the Mercyhurst students seem to recognize the benefits too. “When I lean up near the door and the card is read from inside my pocket,” he says, “they see the convenience and value.”

“To serve the educational market, HID is committed to manufacturing a wide range of iCLASS™ products,” says Debra Spitler, VP Marketing and Business Development for the ASSA ABLOY Identification Technology Group. “We will also supply OEM modules to third-party manufacturers and establish partnerships with peripheral application providers such that we can truly serve the educational campus. The Mercyhurst card program is a groundbreaking installation that will serve as a model for campuses across the country and around the world.”

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