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Wearable ID: Is it a fit for your campus?

Tom Stiles, Executive Director, Identification Systems Group

We often hear that campuses have trouble getting students to remember their ID cards, but those same students would never forget their phone. Wristbands that contain proximity or contactless smart card technology have attracted attention for a similar reason – they are hard to forget. While perhaps not a viable replacement outright, this product can be a great supplement to the standard ID card.

You are familiar with the vast and varied reasons given by those claiming that ID cards are not convenient. They’re difficult to get out of a wallet, not practical when going for a run or visiting the fitness center, can be easily broken in or out of the wallet and easily lost. And we’ve all heard the stories about cards failing after being used to scrape ice off a windshield or going through the laundry.

I am not advocating replacement of the ID card. At the Identification Systems Group (ISG), I intently monitor the use of smart phones, biometrics and wearables, but I believe ID cards will be here for quite a while.

That being said, wristbands are convenient, and I can see why they are growing in popularity. For starters, they’re easy to locate and use, hard to misplace, easy to carry and difficult to break.


If you use proximity or contactless smart card technology, you can use a wearable ID anywhere a reader has been installed. Think about the benefits of speeding up processes, increasing throughput and adding convenience for door access control, dining, library, bookstore and fitness center use.

Issuing the wristband

The process to tie the wristband to cardholder data should be the same as when you issue a proximity or contactless smart card. The ID wristband number needs to be “read” into the enrollment screen and saved. The “reading” can be done with an inexpensive USB reader. This enrollment is typically done in the photo ID software  –  if there is integration with the other applications that need the number  –  or through separate enrollment processes. You may be thinking, “I already have the card number in the database.” But check with your door access control system and other applications, as most have a field for a secondary ID number.

Contactless smart cards

If you use contactless smart cards rather than proximity, you still use an ID wristband. This is because the same chip that resides in your smart card can also be embedded in a wristband. There are, however, some factors to look into. Does your current system read the Card Serial Number (CSN) or a secure sector or application on the card? Use of CSN makes things very easy. However, if secure sector or application is read, then you will need to coordinate the programming of the wristbands with the security key. Your Identification Systems Group dealer can help you with this, somewhat complex, task.

Branding and convenience

ID Wristbands can also be a branding opportunity for a campus, as they are available in various colors and support custom printing. It makes a lot of sense to customize the wristbands with your university’s color and logo because wearables can be a great tool for increasing brand recognition and school spirit.

Moreover, with the increased convenience you can offer to your cardholder base, wristbands can also be offered as a buy-in option. By charging a fee, the campus can cover costs or even make some profit. Flyers on campus, student competitions, giveaways or social media outreach can be great ways to spread the word about wearables, as well as explain their benefits, cost and uses.

Report lost or stolen

It may go without saying, but the wristband is another ID. For this reason, it needs to be treated as securely as the ID card itself and must be activated when issued and de-activated when lost or stolen. It is important that you stress to your cardholder base that they must report if a wristband is lost or stolen.

The wearable is another ID and needs to be treated as securely as the ID card itself. cardholders need to understand that it must be reported if lost or stolen.

Charting a course to wearables

A great example of an ID wristband product is the UBand. It is manufactured by Brady People ID, an authorized manufacturer partner of the ISG.

Brady People ID works with dealers to provide UBands for access control, contactless payments and other applications on college campuses and a host of other markets. College students have been especially receptive to the wearable ID’s comfort and convenience, easing everyday tasks like paying for a meal or opening a dorm room door. Depending on the implementation, wristbands can even enable off-campus purchasing at merchants that are a part of a university’s off-campus program.

Your local ISG dealer can help you through the process of issuing ID wristbands or exploring other wearable options. If a wristband isn’t right for your environment, consider a key fob or sticky disc.

Your local ISG Dealer can not only provide pricing on the options, but they can provide the enrollment USB reader, validate your current card to assure you get the correct numbering format, provide samples for testing and provide overall guidance.

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