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A Look Beyond Campus Cards

University Business, Jan 2012
A cell phone being waved in front of a door for entry
On the road to a fully mobile platform, ASU students will be able to wave their mobile phones instead of a card for door entry.

Given the pervasive use of mobile devices, could handheld technology replace campus card programs altogether? After all, aiming a device at a residence hall keypad, or paying for vending snacks by waving a cell phone at the machine, are already possible, as is automated check-in at events, purchases at tech-savvy retailers, and connection to banking services.

With all that functionality, it just makes sense to consider a switch, believes Laura Ploughe, director of business applications and fiscal control in the university business services department at Arizona State University.

In a recent pilot program with 35 participants, 90 percent of them said they’d want to use a mobile phone instead of a card to open doors on campus, as well as for meals, event admission, merchandise purchases, transit passes, and other services.

Ploughe says, “Mobile phones are at the heart of campus life and play a major role in facilitating student social connections. Mobile phones are 60 times more likely to interrupt a student’s day if they lose it than a plastic card.”

Because of that high level of mobile usage, ASU has a vision for the future of moving to an all-mobile platform, where a student is issued a virtual identity at registration. The university would provide a secure means to enable provisioning of the identity via a mobile application. Already, the university is working with its card vendor, HID Global, on the transition to using mobile phones for door access control, and encouraging mobile app development among students and faculty.

“The move away from a campus card is a natural progression,” says Ploughe. “We’d like to have full roll-out within a few years, but it’ll depend on how the tech industry is driving decisions in terms of standards. Still, we see this as the future.”