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New MIT mobile ID gains popularity as transactions mount

A new mobile ID is helping students, staff and faculty at one of the most technically-advanced schools in the U.S. – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – deal with a variety of daily campus tasks. The Boston-area university has officially launched the digital ID for smart phones and watches for on- and off-campus transactions, building access and other tasks.

The MIT mobile ID started development prior to COVID-19 but was only recently released by MIT’s Information Systems and Technology department for mainstream use at the university.

MIT’s mobile ID will provide users with a digital version of the physical ID card, storing that digital credential in smartphones and smart watches. Students and other members of the campus community conduct transactions by waving their device in front of readers to buy snacks and beverages, to access buildings and rooms, to control secure parking and to pay for copy and print jobs.

The mobile ID can be used for payments anywhere that accepts the university’s TechCASH, including off-campus merchants. For now, though, holders of the new mobile ID cannot use their mobile ID to pay for public transit in the Boston area, according to the university.

University officials are touting not only the efficiency of this new mobile ID but also the safety of the program.

“Throughout the pandemic, our community has been absolutely incredible as they have embraced a variety of new protocols that have helped to ensure the health and safety of the MIT campus,” Mark V. Silis, vice president for information systems and technology, told MIT News upon the public debut of the ID. “The MIT Mobile ID was developed in an accelerated effort as part of the MIT Atlas program’s continuing commitment to transforming the campus experience for our faculty, students, and staff.”

The mobile ID project required an overhaul to the card reader infrastructure on campus, as well as the need to install additional readers.

University officials say that the project upgraded more than 4,700 card readers, along with hundreds of access control panels and intrusion alarm systems. The project spanned more than 120 buildings across campus.

MIT is using HID iCLASS SE readers, which support mobile credentials, as well as traditional ID cards, for physical access control on campus.

MIT News also reports that adoption of the mobile ID has been “swift,” with about 50% of first-year students switching to the digital form factor on day one. By then end of 2021, more than 14,000 mobile credentials were enabled. Early usage data also gives cause for optimism, with more than 50,000 mobile ID transactions – not including building access – processed to date.

Future enhancements to the MIT mobile ID are already in the planning stages, including use of the mobile credential as a transportation pass for Boston area transit through the MBTA. MIT community members and affiliates can currently use their physical ID cards for identification when riding on the MBTA system.

Separate to the mobile ID initiative, MIT has implemented a self-service card printing kiosk for members of the campus community to replace their physical ID cards that have been lost or damaged.

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