Campus cards at home and abroad: International credential trends

Universities in the United States and Canada are very familiar with one-card systems for closed-loop payment and access services based on official ID cards. What are the international trends in credentials that could affect universities in North America in the near future?


Universities in the United States and Canada are very familiar with one-card systems for closed-loop payment and access services based on official ID cards. What are the international trends in credentials that could affect universities in North America in the near future?

One-Card Systems

One-card systems are more commonly employed by universities throughout the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, than by universities in other parts of the world. Eugene McKenna of the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) in Ireland was one of the founders of the European Campus Card Association (ECCA) in 2002, patterned after the North American Campus Card Association (NACCU). WIT has one of the most comprehensive one-card systems in Europe and has won EU funding to develop the European Education Connectivity Solution, a system that would enable a student ID to be used interoperably at universities across Europe. Universities in Sweden, Austria, and Hungary have also developed their own one-card systems for a variety of applications. In other countries, where student ID cards also serve as banking cards and national IDs, one-card systems have usually been independently developed on an as-needed basis.

Contactless Cards

Card technologies for access control (opening doors) vary somewhat by location. In North America, the older prox technology by HID is still prevalent, though it is quickly being replaced by HID’s newer iCLASS contactless smart card product line. Throughout most of the rest of the world, cards based on the NXP MIFARE family of contactless chips have predominated for access control. MIFARE DESFire EV1 cards, the latest version of MIFARE, are typically used in systems that take advantage of the full security offered by the newer chip. Coincidentally, cards with MIFARE chips are becoming popular in cards used by schools in North America. Legic is a Swiss maker of contactless smart cards and readers used by European schools that has yet to gain much traction in North America.

MIFARE cards were originally designed for public transit fare collection applications and are still used throughout the world for this purpose today. Schools in North America that would like to use their student IDs on the local transit system often find they must add a MIFARE chip to their cards.

EMV—Chip and Pin

For general payments, cards with mag stripes are by far the most convenient and inexpensive credentials available. More than 1 trillion mag stripe cards are estimated to exist worldwide. Data on most mag stripe cards are not encrypted, so the cards are easy to clone and present to POS terminals for fraudulent purchases. To address the vulnerabilities of mag stripe cards, Europay, MasterCard, and Visa developed a secure chip and PIN-based card standard in the 1990s, called EMV. These cards have a rectangular gold-colored contact on the face of the card by which the IC chip in the card can communicate directly to a smart card reader when the card is inserted. EMV cards are widely used for payments throughout Europe, Canada, and many other parts of the world. Visa and MasterCard have instituted a liability shift policy to incent card issuers and merchants in the United States to distribute EMV cards and readers. Closed-loop university one-card systems will not normally have to accept EMV payments. However, in order to accept open-loop (MasterCard, Visa, etc.) payments, EMV-enabled terminals may be required.

Near Field Communication

Japan leads the way in Near Field Communication (NFC), with over 80 models of NFC mobile phones being used by more than 20 million people to make payments. NFC, the payment standard for contactless communication between a card reader and an integrated circuit chip, is embedded in most Android smartphones and now the iPhone 6. Apple is creating a lot of buzz for its own version of NFC payments, but many merchants have not yet installed NFC-enabled POS terminals in the United States. It is expected that new EMV-enabled readers will also be able to read NFC.

Several access control reader makers have introduced applications and digital credentials that enable a phone to open a door. Some of these use NFC, but others are exploring encrypted Bluetooth communication.

Biometrics

While biometric technologies are widely used by governments to identify travelers and population groups, commercial use of the technology is gaining popularity in North America. Biometrics employs sensors and systems to identify a person by measuring some part of the body. Fingerprint and iris are often used for physical access, while vein pattern recognition is commonly used in conjunction with cards at ATM machines in Japan. Universities in the United States are beginning to look at biometrics as an alternative way of identifying people, especially where high security (server centers) or high throughput (dining halls, rec centers, athletic facilities) is required.


David Stallworth
David Stallsmith is director of product management for ColorID, a leading provider of identification systems and components across North America.

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