Today, the great majority of colleges still deploy picture ID cards, magnetic stripe cards, mechanical keys and barcodes for access control on campus versus newer, more secure technologies such as proximity and, especially, biometrics and smart cards.

Indeed, 76 percent of colleges still use a magnetic stripe card, even though students are the leading first adapters for new technologies. Only 31 percent of them are using proximity cards, 16 percent are using proximity fobs/tokens, ten percent are using biometrics and nine percent are using smart cards.

What do students want? Convenience is the ultimate student goal. Students want safety and security on campus to be as unobtrusive and transparent as possible. They do not want campus safety measures to interfere in normal activity. Tools that support this goal must enable without intruding. Technology should make their lives more convenient. If technology only “connects” them with the school, they find it not very valuable.

Their One Card systems are perceived as convenient and an enabling connection to accomplish their goals. Access to buildings, identification, cafeteria/food courts, library, bookstore purchases, printing and vending, in that order, are the leading applications for which American college students use their school-issued cards.

The Future Credential — Students Are Already Carrying It

How about leveraging, as a credential, something students already have? Nearly half of all students identify their cell phones as their favorite personal electronic device. Indeed, 91 percent of all mobile users keep their phone within arm’s length day and night. Already, nearly half of all students are using cell phone apps provided by their universities.

And, when it comes to credentials, two-thirds are interested in using their phone in place of an ID card. Why? They feel that they are less likely to lose their phone than an ID card, plus they know that ID cards are shared; phones aren’t.

That day is not that far off as students’ desires for using a cell phone as a credentialties in nicely with the budding discussion of NFC (near field communication) which will inevitably end up on cell phones. No Visa card, no MasterCard card, only their cell phone will be needed for cashless payments or to show their identity.

The smart card, as used in today’s One Card smart card system, would be in the cell phone. For those who worry about batteries running out or the Internet dropping, the smart card technology eliminates such fears. A contactless smart card does not need power or the Internet. As long as the cell phone providers will let the technology work as it can, the two biggest concerns could already be alleviated.

Think about it. We’re already going down the cell phone trail. When you’re not home, home security systems make it easy for you to monitor your home through your Web-enabled computer or smart phone. You can check the status of your door locks, grant entry to your home and turn your lights off and on. And that's only the beginning.

You can receive text or email notifications when family members access the lock, see what’s happening in and around your house, even when you aren’t there. You can conserve energy and save money when you’re away from home by controlling the lights and thermostat.


Reality Check on Cell Phones as a Credential

Emerging technology demonstrations of such Mobile Keys at the upcoming ISC West Exposition show the possibility of things to come from an access control standpoint.  Attendees can see a smartphone being used just like a contactless smart card, placed next to the reader and opening a locked door.  

The Mobile Keys innovation uses NFC technology within smart phones to emulate smart credentials, allowing use of a mobile phone for entry to secure areas. This functionality relies on phones that are produced with an NFC chip included (or a specific accessory case including this circuitry). With such a phone, the student will simply download an app to create the ability to use the phone as a credential.