Mobile Access Brings Convenience And Safety To Campus Life

In this day and age of ever evolving security threats, safeguarding campuses and ensuring the well-being of pupils and staff is paramount. One way many universities ensure only authorised personnel and students can access specific areas of the campus is through access control devices like smart ID cards. The growing interest and use of smartphones as a credential is resulting in campuses embracing mobile access.

Campuses are increasingly interested in deploying digital credentials that extend to smartphones, wearables and other mobile devices. In today’s environment, students and staff are presented with more options than ever for opening doors and parking gates, paying for products and services, and accessing campus virtual private networks (VPNs), wireless networks, and cloud- and Web-based applications. Plus, because underlying access control systems are now based on interoperable platforms, open standards and ultra-high frequency (UHF) technology, there will be unprecedented innovation in how campus IDs are created, used and managed.

Many universities are already deploying campus IDs on smartphones. Students and staff are much more likely to leave their ID card at home or in their room compared with a mobile phone. With a card or token access to buildings and on-site premises, users are effectively burdened with the responsibility of constantly carrying an additional item they would not normally carry. As such, if their card is lost or stolen, they are less likely to notice it and hence are slower to report it. This leaves the campus physical infrastructure vulnerable, with a valid card potentially falling into the wrong hands. Conversely, students and staff instantly feel more attached to their mobile devices, so if a phone is lost or stolen, it is reported right away and the mobile ID can be immediately revoked, thus preventing unauthorised access.

Moving forward, campuses will also be authenticating identities for more and more activities, extending the value of their access control investments while further enhancing the user experience and overall security of users. Identities are not only being used today to open campus doors and purchase items, but are also being used for time and attendance, secure print management and other daily tasks. Future IDs – whether on plastic cards or mobile devices – will do even more, with increasingly important benefits.

For instance, consider the advantages of being able to encode information on a card or mobile ID regarding a student’s physical conditions or required medications. This is vital information that can be accessed in an emergency situation by authorised medical personnel following an injury or other accident that renders the user unconscious. Mobile IDs and smart cards can hold all vital information on a student or staff member within one easy-to-use device, helping to increase security, safety and overall user experience throughout a campus.

Identities will also be used to authenticate students in an increasingly digital campus environment, where virtually everything happens online – assignments, grades, medical results and fees, loan payments and other financial transactions. With a simple tap of the phone to a mobile-enabled reader, users can open doors, buy meals, check out books and equipment, and pay for parking, transportation and other services. To ensure identity security and privacy during these transactions, universities will need to adopt strong authentication solutions that move beyond simple passwords. By deploying a smart ID based system, universities can verify the individual identity directly from the card or mobile app, speeding up transactions between the student and the university whilst also ensuring identity security.

Despite the growth of mobile identity solutions, it is unlikely that plastic ID cards will disappear entirely. Some campuses will still want a visible ID badge, which will continue to transition from magstripe cards with little or no fraud protection to high-frequency contactless smart card technology that offers security as well as future data capture. To optimise badging, universities will select printers, card materials and software that enable them to incorporate both visual and logical anti-tamper elements into their cards for more trustworthy, multi-layered authentication. Inline personalisation will grow in popularity as well, enabling card offices to combine multiple processes into one automated step.

Mobile architectural access technologies have significant scope for development and expansion. One such advantage of mobile devices is the capability to dynamically update the security software, whereas updating data on cards takes more time and involves additional costs. As a consequence, the mobile environment allows quick response to security issues.

Universities must understand the requirement to provide secure identity solutions to staff and students on campus. Mobile ID solutions can be seen as a more cost-effective option, as there is no need to provide students with printed cards that can easily be lost and are often not returned or recycled when students or staff leave the university. By installing mobile ID solutions throughout a campus, many existing card readers and infrastructure can easily be retrofitted to accommodate the newer technology, helping to reduce what could be seen as a costly upgrade.

The range of hardware and technology currently available to ensure secure access control throughout a university campus provides site managers and security with plenty of options for deployment. Physical ID cards still have a place within physical access control, but given the everyday use of mobile phones for everything from banking to mobile ticketing, the current trend shows the move towards a more mobile identity solution that promises to offer much more than is currently available. Considering the rapid development of technology and the evolving nature of security threats, ensuring campus security is up to date is vital to the safety and well-being of all those on-site at any given time.

Jaroslav Barton is the Product Marketing Director at HID for Physical Access Control, EMEA.