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
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 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.
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, 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 smart phones 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.
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 Stallsmith is Director of Product Management for ColorID, a leading provider of
identification systems and components across North America. By communicating
complicated technical information in understandable terms, he has helped hundreds of
health care institutions, universities and government agencies with their decision-making
processes regarding contactless smart card and biometric technologies. He is an annual
presenter at the National Association of Campus Card Users conference and has
presented at other card and identification-related conferences in the United States,
Canada and Europe.