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Smart lockers: A smart extension of HID’s campus technology

Andrew Hudson   ||   Sep 09, 2022  ||   , ,

Smart lockers are finding their way onto campus in areas from libraries and res halls to science labs and dining facilities. With the advent of new service capabilities like order ahead and mobile ordering, a growing number of universities are implementing smart locker technology to bring the pick-up phase of the ordering process up to speed. HID Global’s card and credential solutions can help universities deploy smart lockers in a seamless fashion using its existing transaction environment.

Use cases for smart lockers have only grown in recent years. The technology is cementing itself as an effective and efficient way to support a wide range of business operations.

“Smart lockers are great for any sort of personal storage or exchange of goods,” says Mohit Khoda, Senior Manger Product Marketing, Extended Access Technologies, HID Global. “We’ve seen applications for library, retail, food pick up, temporary use and day-use lockers in gyms, and more.”

“Smart lockers are great for any sort of personal storage or exchange of goods. Instead of regular keys and padlocks, you’re using RFID badges, the campus card, or a mobile credential."

“Instead of regular keys and padlocks, you’re using RFID badges, and in the university space, they’re ideally using their campus card, or its virtual representation on the phone” adds Khoda.

A ‘smart’ investment

“Smart lockers are a great fit on any campus, but universities need to be able to justify their investment in the technology,” says Helmut Dansachmüller, Vice President Product Marketing and Innovation, Extended Access Technologies, HID Global. “Universities will need to ask 'where and when will I have my return on investment?'”

“It depends on the use case of the lockers, the operating cost, and installation – the total cost of ownership needs to justify the investment,” says Dansachmüller. He says smart lockers will save money in the mid to long term.

"If universities can virtualize the issuance of keys and don’t have to provide services for replacement of locks or lost keys, then the cost savings is evident."

“I believe universities are very well positioned as customers for smart lockers. They have high turnover with students leaving or joining every semester,” says Dansachmüller. “And if universities can virtualize the issuance of keys and don’t have to provide services for replacement of locks or lost keys, then the cost savings is evident.”

Supporting card technologies

Smart lockers can be a great complement in campus ID environments that are built to leverage smart credentials, explains Dansachmüller.

There are, however, some workarounds for universities that don’t have contactless cards or mobile credentials and still want to leverage smart lockers on campus. For things like food order pickup, campuses can choose to leverage anything that can be securely provisioned over the air.

“Whether a QR code, OTP (one time password), etc. -- anything that doesn’t require the student to be in front of a service desk to interact with the locker system -- will be an effective means for locker access,” says Dansachmüller. “The drawback to something like OTP is that it requires the student to have an active interaction with the locker – inputting their code. So for user experience and simplicity, we believe that RFID is the most convenient means to access the locker.”

HID’s role in the smart locker equation is the vital, backend support. The company provides locker manufacturers with the means to integrate with a university’s campus card system to make locker access as convenient as possible.

“The credential system for the door comes first,” says Dansachmüller. “We provide the locker company a seamless integration between the same credentials the university uses for access control and use them to access the lockers.”

"HID provides locker companies with a seamless integration between the same credentials the university uses for access control and use them to access smart lockers.”

“The only thing the university needs is the locker hardware, the RFID lock enabled for RFID, and an SDK integrated into the locker management software,” says Dansachmüller.

HID can directly provide the SDK and locks and then work with trusted integration partners with it comes to smart locker management.

“Each locker management provider has its own software, so we are providing the tool to integrate RFID intelligence into their systems,” says Dansachmüller. “We work with our integrators to enable them to leverage our technology.”

As for transaction technology, the full range of HID credentials – HID Prox, iCLASS, MIFARE, DESFire, Seos – are all supported. “We of course prefer Seos so that you also have the option for mobile credential use,” adds Dansachmüller.

Smart lockers in the wild

One of the best examples of HID technology underpinning a smart locker deployment on campus can be found at Wake Forest University.

Wake’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library (ZSR), serves more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The library had a system for fulfilling reference material requests, but it required significant human contact and movement. The library would deliver books and materials to faculty offices across campus, and students would come to the circulation desk, to interact with a staff member and retrieve their items.

When COVID hit, the library initially utilized a bank of day-use lockers with pin pad locks for equipment and paper bag delivery for requested materials. Library staff quickly realized those solutions wouldn’t work in the long run.

They turned to smart lockers from MetraModo, installing the locker bank in the library’s 24/7 accessible foyer.

“When COVID happened, one of the libraries thought to use smart lockers to support book and academic materials pickup in a contactless fashion,” says Khoda. “MetraModo is our hardware partner at Wake Forest, and they are using HID technology to underpin the smart locker deployment.”

The smart lockers use Wake’s contactless campus cards to create a means for students, faculty, and staff to retrieve their ordered materials on their own time.

Other highlights of the Wake Forest smart locker deployment:

Locker management. All smart lockers in one building or multiple buildings can be remotely managed from a single point of access.

Contactless experience. Access to the smart lockers is supported by a campus card or via a smart phone app, creating a touchless experience.

Reporting and data. Reporting can be granular, looking at access to all transaction data, locker utilization data, and capacity by location or by individual locker.

On-the-fly changes. Changes to the locker configuration can be made at any time.

Once the requested item is placed in a locker to be picked up, the locker system sends an email to the student or faculty member. Wake’s card system is integrated with the smart locker system, so it communicates to the locker system who is coming to pick up the materials. When the student or faculty member approaches the locker bank, they scan their card at the built-in monitor at the locker bank, and the door with their reserved items pops open.

The smart lockers have also created the possibility of a more flexible schedule as the library starts to open for broader use.

For more on smart lockers and how HID Global can provide solutions for your campus, visit HIDGlobal.com

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