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10 Predictions for Campus Card Technology

Seeing what future trends may bring
University Business, Jul 2010

Campus card technology is a fast-changing world. From the early days of magnetic strips to the RFID tags and "smart chips" of today, cards have evolved into intelligent, multi-purpose tools that make campus life safer and more convenient. Based on current industry trends, here are 10 predictions for the future of campus card technology.

After magnetic stripes have dominated campus card systems for 40 years, advanced "contactless" smart chip technology (high frequency 13.56 MHz) rapidly ascends as the preferred identity and reader technology due to its high data security, read/write storage capability, non-mechanical reader design, expansion scalability, extended reader life, increased communications security, and rapid customer appeal with "Tap & Go" functionality via a variety of patron credentials (i.e., cards, badges, keyfobs, tags).

Parallel contactless and wireless innovations surpass early low frequency (125 kHz) "prox" technology with advanced data security, faster installations, reduced wiring and maintenance costs, 2x reader life (non-mechanical design), emergence of multiple host shared readers, PoE (Power over Ethernet), phase out of building controllers and costly home run wiring, and increased web-assisted facility and perimeter security.

Increased consumer mobility, student proclivity for endless variety and convenience, incremental revenue sharing opportunities and outsourced merchant management services will escalate merchant applications as an expected element of all diversified and contemporary campus card programs.

Except for initial security verification, most campus card patron management services will increasingly be customer managed via 24/7 online and imaginative kiosk devices.

The failure to preserve and promote brand continuity, obscured by the excessive use of online graphics and without an applied correlation to a structured, academic, and strategic marketing plan, may result in many tactic-based, campus card marketing programs that fail to achieve enduring and affirmative results expected by administrators.

One of the benefits of contactless technology (13.56 MHz), actually pioneered with low frequency contactless, is the convenience of several simultaneous credentials per patron (i.e., cards, badges, keyfobs, tags) that are already built in to most campus card systems.

A pronounced increase of contactless memory-enabled patron credentials and concurrent development of third-party biometric readers, fused with government research site requirements, healthcare privacy, costly laboratory equipment, sensitive animal research labs, and protection of vital data centers, will see a rapid increase in biometric facilitated multi-factor authentication facility access.

Potential new off-campus merchant revenues, increased campus safety and identification issues with a highly fluctuating population, and verified access to buildings, doors, labs, restricted areas, and parking facilities in a more traditional open public campus environment, will drive accelerated interest and corresponding government funding assistance for campus card systems at community colleges throughout the United States.

The increase of national server farms and state contracted data centers for management of many administrative database and enterprise resource planning systems will encourage CIOs at institutions to recommend use of increased vendor hosted services for labor, economies of scale, and harbored resources strategies.

The retirement of long-term industry professionals, increased financial scrutiny by corporate boards, and the ever increasing charisma of the campus card industry will inevitably shift market share and vendor ownership of campus card industry vendors on a continual and evolutionary basis.

For nearly 30 years, Robert C. Huber, CMC has assisted more than 200 colleges, universities, healthcare institutions, and corporations with strategic business guidance for campus card systems throughout North America. He can be reached at