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Realizing value in the move to mobile credential

Mobile is more prevalent on campus than ever before, and here’s how to prep for a mobile ecosystem

Robert Lydic, vice president of PAC OEM business at Allegion

The mobile credential movement is rapidly being accepted in many higher education institutions and the speed of adoption is gaining significant momentum. Therefore, it’s important to understand the value of mobile and how to prepare for adoption on your campus.

Implementing a mobile ecosystem that includes electronic access control is a generational advancement for higher education campuses, as it offers higher levels of security, superior ease of use and seamless experiences for students, faculty and staff. Here’s how your institution can begin preparing.

Promising security

Migrating to mobile credentials on campus establishes greater peace of mind and security for faculty, students and parents. These individuals are comfortable operating in today’s digital realm. A majority use their mobile devices to conduct financial transactions, share location with trusted parties and safeguard valuable passwords and data.

Associating the same trusted device used across daily life to also provide a seamless access control experience has become a natural and comfortable evolution. Nearly every student and parent has had the experience of using a physical access control credential for school, work, hotels, automobiles and transportation.

They have seen the benefits and shortcomings of credential technology, and they want a solution that is easier to use and secure. The new near field communication (NFC) credentials being rolled out in higher education provide this experience while adding superior administrative and business tools to the experience.

A significant added security benefit to the mobile credential is how students and faculty regard their cell phone. Ask yourself, how likely are you to hand off your mobile device to a friend or relative to use for an hour, or even a few minutes? This question alone makes most of us shiver with discomfort. If that same question were asked about a physical credential, we wouldn’t get the same reaction.

For administrators of the mobile credential, the added security and ability to securely provision and deactivate a credential enables greater peace of mind. Pair this with multi-factor authentication on the device itself, like pin codes or biometrics, and it’s clear to see mobile provides a superior security platform.

A simpler user experience

As with any software, it’s all about the user experience and what the user gains from engaging with the new technology. With mobile credentials, students can utilize their phones to enter facilities, purchase books, pay for their lunch and so much more.

Depending on the technology in place, mobile credentials let students approach their entire campus routine with their mobile device. While a similar experience can be achieved with smart cards, mobile credentials take that convenience a step further. Students are now able to use the device that they’re already guaranteed to have on them versus a second form of credential.

Mobile credentials also allow for greater business practices to be implemented. From financial processes to marketing initiatives, the mobile app can simplify several processes for administrative offices.

With mobile, institutions can have better control over their credentials. They can be issued in a seamless manner to student, faculty or staff devices complete with automatically programmed schedules and access rights.

One of the biggest benefits is credential and access management. With mobile, institutions can have better control over their credentials. They can be issued in a seamless manner. An administrator can push out a credential – either Bluetooth low energy (BLE) or NFC – to a student, faculty or staff member and it will be sent to their mobile device to be enabled complete with automatically programmed schedules and access rights.

This automated process is a superior experience compared to individuals coming to the registrar’s office to take their photo and pick up their printed ID card. If a student decides not to continue or a professor switches departments, the ability to delete or change access rights is instantaneous.

Recognizing value

While upgrading to mobile credentials might seem daunting, it’s important to look at the bigger value. By moving to a mobile ecosystem, your university might be able to tie together systems that previously didn’t integrate.

With mobile, institutions can offer a more secure campus and superior experience;  add new users seamlessly; and reduce operational expenses like downsizing the amount of existing card issuance tools like printers and cartridges. Fewer physical cards will need purchased, and your campus can even reallocate staff and resources from the card office to other pressing areas of the administration.

One obstacle that higher education gives pause to institutions as they start considering mobile is the upfront investment in compatible hardware. The readers, electronic locks and other hardware in place need to read mobile credentials. Software platforms also need to be ready for the transition so they can issue and administer mobile credentials.

However, this shouldn’t discourage your campus from continuing to evaluate and plan for a mobile ecosystem. Think about the return on investment associated with reducing operational expenses, as well as the added benefits to the student, staff and faculty experience. It’s a superior endeavor for institutions and their stakeholders because it’s boosts security in the long run, is easier to manage and provides significant cross-disciplinary benefits.

Evaluating readiness

Many institutions aren’t ready to introduce a mobile ecosystem on campus overnight, but all should be planning for this transition. The value is clear from a financial standpoint for the college as well as the individuals on campus who seek seamless and secure campus routines.

Many institutions aren’t ready to introduce a mobile ecosystem on campus overnight, but all should be planning for this eventual transition.

That said, it’s going to be a process and a migration plan should be considered. It starts by understanding the hardware in place today and the best options for the future.

When higher education campuses first moved to electronic credentials, many began with magnetic stripe or proximity cards. Many still have that legacy technology in place, which makes upgrading to a more secure credential imperative. This transition will create a much more secure campus while preparing for a mobile ecosystem at the same time.

Take a physical inventory

The first step your university should take is a physical inventory of what electronic access control products it has in place. Consider these questions:

  1. Are the solutions secure?
  2. What products are ready to accommodate a mobile ecosystem and what products need upgraded?
  3. Are they compatible with BLE, NFC or both?
  4. Are the solutions in place open to new technology or are they proprietary?

Think long-term

Once you know what you have, you can begin to evaluate what you need. Will the investment give you the greatest opportunity to continue to adopt new technology?

As mentioned before, it’s important to understand if the technology you plan to adopt is compatible with mobile and specifically which mobile technology – BLE or NFC – you plan to implement.

Most importantly, I advise you to make sure your decision is non-proprietary. Make sure you’re not locked in to one provider, which will dictate your software, credential and hardware choices. I’ve seen institutions unknowingly choose a very proprietary world by selecting a specific credential technology.

As a result, they’ve made the decision that all of their hardware is also in a propriety fashion. Interoperable credential technology gives institutions flexibility as technology ebbs and flows to choose best-in-class providers while at the same time being fiscally responsible.

Consider integrations in play

Moving to mobile is more than just the credential; it’s even more than access control. The credential needs to integrate with third-party software.

How does this impact financial transactions, human resources, attendance and other administrative functions? There are integrations that occur to enable a more comprehensive student experience, ranging from how they print, do their laundry and buy sodas to how they change classes and get textbooks.

All of those things can be handled through an app, but the associated integrations must be supported by the mobile credential and the hardware and software needed to support the mobile ecosystem. This is another reason why open platform interoperable solutions are ideal.

Analyze phone technologies

What are the student body’s primary phone technologies? What will credentialing look like for those with mobile devices that don’t support the technology?

How and when to adopt the technology differs based on existing infrastructure and budget constraints, but mobile should be the goal.

Institutions needs to understand if the technology and hardware they select are going to work for the majority of the students on campus. Technology should be in place to support multiple types of credentials to make this possible, including NFC, BLE and smart card technologies.

Closing advice

Drive toward a more secure credential. Institutions want to provide greater levels of security, so explore how upgrading solutions across campus helps achieve that.

Plan for a mobile ecosystem. Students will soon expect it. Institutions should evaluate what they have today and what they will gain. I believe there is a need for mobile at most universities, whether a small community college or a massive public institution. How and when to adopt the technology differs based on existing infrastructure and budget constraints, but mobile should be the goal.

Don’t surrender to proprietary technologies. Protect your institution’s freedom to choose the solutions that it wants. Technology will continue to evolve, and it’s essential that the solutions you invest in encourage forward growth.

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