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Recarding the Bearcats

45,000 pre-printed contactless cards with transit tie-in issued at University of Cincinnati

Andrew Hudson   ||   Apr 14, 2016  ||   , ,

Recarding a campus is never a small task. It’s a process that takes time, demands the attention of multiple campus stakeholders, and requires careful planning to ensure that the change of credential goes smoothly for both students and the institution.

Thankfully, institutions don’t have to go it alone. That’s the major takeaway for the University of Cincinnati, who recently updated its campus credential with the help of ColorID.

Time for change

The campus wanted to move from a mag stripe only credential to a card with both mag stripe and a contactless chip. The primary reasons for issuing new IDs is to provide increased security and improved functionality,” explains Diane Brueggemann, technical services manager at the University of Cincinnati.

For Cincinnati, a university with a large population, challenges included logistics and staffing for mass card distribution events. “We were able to overcome these challenges because we included all major stakeholders  –  including student government representatives  –  on the recarding committee,” says Brueggemann.

The university wanted a more secure contactless technology card to upgrade physical access readers and integrate with the local Cincinnati METRO system, says Tim Nyblom, director of the education group at ColorID. “Their overarching goal was to find a single card that could accomplish all of this.”

[pullquote]They wanted contactless tech to better secure physical access and integrate with the local Cincinnati METRO system. The overarching goal was to find a single card that could accomplish all of this[/pullquote]

The new cards include DESFire EV1 contactless chips that facilitate access throughout the campus’ network of HID readers and Blackboard access control and point-of-sale readers, says Nyblom.

Team effort

Cincinnati enlisted the help of ColorID to provide cardstock and assist in the issuance process for the university’s 45,000 active cardholders.

ColorID worked with HID Global to provide pre-printed contactless cards that were pre-encoded with custom transit credentials to meet the SPX Genfare specifications for the SORTA system, explains Todd Brooks, director of product management at ColorID.

The ColorID service bureau personalized the initial 45,000 cards adding cardholder photos and personal information. Before shipping to campus, the mag stripes were encoded and two applications were programmed into the DESFire EV1 Chip. Cards were sorted and then shipped per preset preferences established to ease onsite distribution.

The full recarding process took about three and a half months and concluded in the fall of 2015, explains Nyblom. “There were many months of additional planning, testing and creating samples that took place well before the recarding project could begin,” he explains.

“The 45,000 cards preprinted by ColorID consisted of registered students, active faculty, staff and affiliates,” says Brueggemann. To ease the distribution burden, the university held two separate distribution events – one for faculty and staff credentials and a second for students.

In total, the university ordered 65,000 cards from ColorID, with 45,000 being used for the initial recarding project. “The remaining 20,000 cards are Cincy’s base, pre-printed cardstock that will be kept on campus for normal card office distribution,” explains Nyblom.

Following the initial distribution event, all cards are now produced on demand in the card office. For these cards, only the back portion is pre-printed while the front is personalized at the point of issuance. “Cincy chose a reverse-transfer printer, which allows them to print a very high quality card, similar to how a pre-printed card may look,” explains Brooks.


Projects the size of Cincinnati’s are rarely without their challenges, but with a comprehensive plan and the support of an experienced vendor, the challenges can be managed.

“The biggest challenge was correctly encoding the transit portion of the cards,” says Brooks. “We spent several months working with all parties involved – including the university, the card manufacturer, the transit equipment manufacturer and the transit authority – to make sure the encoding was done correctly.”

The new Bearcat Card.

The new Bearcat Card.

Another challenge was getting all of the credentials on to the card. “Applications have specific methods for encoding credentials on a chip and they may not coincide. You have to determine which applications can be pre-encoded versus encoded in the printer or at the desktop,” explains Brooks. “Since Cincy is issuing randomized ISO numbers, pre-encoding was not a viable option. We pre-encoded the transit portion and then added the access control and the Blackboard application data at the desktop.”

The final hurdle came in the form of working with older systems and processes. Cincinnati had multiple legacy access control systems so an individual’s images, biometric templates and ID numbers from the previous cards were held as records in different systems, explains Brooks. This created the need to encode the legacy access application using a desktop encoder.

Many hands, light work

“From a secure suite at our headquarters in North Carolina, our service bureau is equipped to personalize ID cards for projects large and small,” explains Brooks. “We are experienced with a wide range of card technologies, back end systems, hardware and software.”

At Cincinnati, the company facilitated and managed a great deal of the recarding project. “Their expertise and experience was essential to making this project a success,” says Brueggemann.

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