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Northern Arizona University mobile ID

Mobile ID drives massive growth in mobile app usage at Northern Arizona University

Downloads and visitor sessions skyrocket, exposing students to additional in-app functionality

Chris Corum   ||   Nov 28, 2023  ||   ,

Northern Arizona University’s JacksCard went mobile two years ago and never looked back. The mobile credential was initially released to students in Apple Wallet, but one year later in August 2022, Android availability was added to the mix.

With the help of their transaction system partner TouchNet, they accomplished the initial launch of the mobile ID in just eight months, explains Patty Allenbaugh, Senior User Experience Analyst for NAU.

The JacksCard and mobile credential serve as general identification, building access, health services, university transit, meal plans, as well as JacksDebit Express payments for vending, bookstore, postal services, and dining locations.

Provisioning of the credential is done through the institution’s mobile app, NAUgo. The app preexisted the mobile ID project, so students were accustomed to using it. Thus, integrating credential provisioning in NAUgo helped expedite adoption.

Differences between iOS and Android

iPhones account for about 90% of users on the NAU campus while the remaining 10% use Android devices, says Allenbaugh.

“We have slight differences for Android and iPhone,” she explains. “For the iPhone user, they go through the provisioning process and add the card to the Apple Wallet on the iPhone and Apple Watch.”

For Android users, the credential is held in the NAUgo app rather than Google Wallet.

NAU mobile ID provisioning“Our security protocols on campus determined that the Google Wallet was not secure enough for our JacksCard to live there,” she says.

To solve this situation, NAU’s app provider, Modo Labs, developed a solution to enable the credential to be stored in the NAUgo app.

With the iOS version, students simply hover the handset or watch over a reader and all their access privileges are provided.

With Android, however, they must actively wake the phone to use it. Additionally, they must stay logged into the app, and because the mobile ID is stored in the app rather than natively in Google Wallet, when the phone’s battery dies the student ID cannot be accessed.

Mobile credential drives app usage

The app has been key to the mobile ID’s success, and in turn the mobile ID has proven key to the app’s success.

In the year before the launch with Apple Wallet, NAUgo had 60,000 visitor sessions. Today, the app draws nearly three times as many sessions. According to Allenbaugh, “students who would not have necessarily downloaded the app now had to download it to get their card and were delighted by some of the other features and services that were in the app.”

NAU mobile ID statisticsThe app is extremely robust and even award-winning.

For the second year in a row, NAUgo won Modo Labs’ Best Campus Mobile App award. In 2023, the array of integrations, including PeopleSoft, TouchNet, HID, and Apple was cited as a determining factor.

The announcement of the award also noted features that enable students, “to see their class schedule, grades, and advisors; use their phone as their digital ID; track campus shuttles in real-time; use the dining module to see menus, order food, and check dining balance; access maps to find parking, printers, restrooms, etc.; reserve study rooms and much more.”

NAU mobile credential stats

Nearly 20,000 people in the NAU community have a plastic or mobile JacksCard. Roughly 70% have opted for the mobile ID. Of those with mobile ID, more than 90% use the iPhone.

Graduate students have taken to the mobile ID as well with 65% provisioned across the campus.

As you would expect, the highest level of usage comes from on-campus students with more than 90% using the digital version.

Lessons learned regarding MFA

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an Apple requirement for provisioning a mobile ID to Apple Wallet.

“One of the hang-ups we had in our first year of the release was at that time, students were not required to use MFA enrollment like DUO to access their student data,” says Allenbaugh. “But it was required to provision the card, so we had to work with students to get them enrolled in DUO and provision the card. It was two very large steps.”

Now students start using DUO when they are accepted to NAU, so the card team doesn’t have to worry about that side of the implementation and education process with incoming students. They can focus solely on student ID provisioning.

She recommends that other campuses consider this, and if they are not already providing MFA for students, consider getting it in place before launching mobile ID provisioning.

She says that thanks to key partners like TouchNet and Modo Labs, the project has been a success, driving strong adoption of the new digital ID with a bonus benefit of boosting usage of the NAUgo mobile app.


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