After a relatively brief existence as a provider of smart card systems to university and corporate campus’ in North America, CyberMark ceased operation in June of 2002. A soft market, a difficult value proposition (tactful way of saying the product cost more than many could justify), mounting debt and extensive management departures all contributed to the company’s demise.
Ownership changes among campus card system providers are nothing new and have been well documented. Harco to AT&T Campuswide to Blackboard, Griffin to Diebold, and others have occurred but rarely has a provider simply gone away, leaving customers to determine their next steps without support from the original vendor.
Compounding the dilemma for some schools was the August 2001 agreement between Schlumberger and CyberMark whereby CyberMark picked-up support responsibilities for the existing install base of Schlumberger smart card schools. These schools, too, were left largely to fend for themselves (see Schlumberger’s campus unit to be acquired by ESD in this month’s issue).
So it was that dozens of CyberMark customers found themselves scrambling for answers and contingency plans last June when the company closed its doors. An announced agreement between CyberMark and ITC Systems offered few specifics and failed to assuage the fears of many of the CyberMark campus managers. Saddled with a significant investment in a system that required ongoing vendor support, many system managers began their quest for the next best scenario.
Shortly after the closing of CyberMark, the vendors who had been in the campus card market were joined by several newcomers. Diebold, Blackboard, CBORD and General Meters all sought to convert these campuses into magnetic stripe-only operations. Others, including Ingenico (formerly Debitek), HDO Card Systems, ITC Systems and Fujitsu positioned themselves to offer aid to the affected campuses by either supporting the existing chip program or replacing parts of it with another smart card offering. As shown in the table accompanying this article, the results have been varied. Each company has won some converts but none has dominated.
PROVIDER NO. OF AWARDS
HDO Card Systems 5
Ingenico (Debitek) 7
ITC Systems 3
Fujitsu is the provider of the essential chip and issuance software for Smart City, the smart card system that was deployed by CyberMark. Based in Dublin, Ireland, Fujitsu has been contracted by a number of Smart City campuses to provide training, upgrades and ongoing support. Since the CyberMark announcement, Fujitsu has in fact decided to actively pursue the campus card market in North America. “We spent the first four months stabilizing the former CyberMark Smart City customer base,” said Kieran Timmins, a representative of Fujitsu. “Now we are helping those customers expand their programs and are beginning to market Smart City to others.” Mr. Timmins mentions off-campus merchant terminals and network security as two areas that have undergone further development.
HDO Card Systems, located in Tallahassee, Florida, is a new company comprised largely of former CyberMark employees and owned by industry veteran and former CyberMark Vice Chairman Bill Norwood. HDO offers card issuance systems and a variety of card related services including transaction processing and consulting to the former CyberMark clients. According to Norwood, “our vast experience in the campus card market lends itself to a variety of services–from smart cards to mag stripe and all areas of campus system integration.”
Ingenico (formerly Debitek), the manufacturer of the original CyberMark vending terminals and revalue machines, has signed a number of former CyberMark schools to switch to its Moneyclip smart card platform. The platform utilizes the same readers with a firmware change but substitutes system management and card components for its own versions. In essence, MoneyClip enables a CyberMark customer to reissue a lower cost card, eliminate Fujitsu’s Smart City software replacing it with Ingenico’s own software, but keep all of the deployed base of readers and terminals. “Moneyclip offers a great balance of price and performance– we think it’s a better fit for the campus card market,” according to Stacy Cooper, Director of Product and Project Management at Ingenico.
ITC Systems offers former CyberMark customers two choices. They provide card readers that work with the existing Smart City system and they offer a replacement system, called EdgeWare, that can be installed in place of the Smart City software.
Choosing a Path
Now that the dust has settled a bit since the lights went dark at CyberMark, most campuses have determined either a means of change, how to tread water while further evaluating, or to continue to grow their current smart card program. Villanova University has found a way to multi-task, by signing with Fujitsu and HDO Card Systems to support their current program, while beginning a trial utilizing an on-line vending reader from Diebold. “By evaluating all of our options, we simply want to make sure that the path we are taking is the right one for the Wildcard program,” said Kathy Gallagher, Assistant Director of Campus Card Systems for Villanova.
Another school, the University of Kansas, is preparing to award a new contract via RFP. While this process has been underway, the campus card personnel have maintained their own system without the assistance of an outside vendor. Many suspect that other schools will choose to go to RFP to replace the previous system, selecting a vendor from the list above to buy time while the RFP process is conducted.
While the rate of replacement for campus card systems is typically methodical and slow, these campuses have all been through a process that is both extraordinary and indicative of the challenges facing institutions in their evaluation of campus card vendors. Much has been made of the fact that CyberMark’s program was chip-based, but this scenario is about much more than the debate between mag stripe and chip or on-line and off-line. Recurring analysis of available options and contingency planning for unusual but potentially catastrophic events should be the norm in all mission-critical areas. The CyberMark example shows just how critical that evaluation can be and–to their credit–how resilient the program administrators can be as well.
FORMER CYBERMARK CLIENT NEW PROVIDER(S)
Colby College Ingenico (Debitek)
Eastern Illinois University Ingenico (Debitek)
Florida State University HDO
Greensboro College Ingenico (Debitek)
Los Angeles City College
Madison Area Technical College
Miami-Dade Community College
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Med.
Pitney Bowes Corporate Campus
St. Johns University
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Truliant Federal Credit Union
University of Central Florida
University of Arizona
University of Kansas
University of North Carolina Greensboro
University of Toronto
University of Utah