One Campus, One Card

In a world of simplified technology, people are becoming predisposed to carrying less in their pockets, purses or bags. And this is no different on a college campus. By implementing a one-card system, students are able to use their campus cards and smart phones for more applications than ever before.

Campuses have been using one card, or campus card systems for many years, but with changing technology and the increased number of applications available as part of some systems today, many colleges and universities are exploring opportunities to upgrade their systems and move to newer card technology to better serve their students and campus staff. Plus, with the introduction of smart card technology – either in card or mobile ID form – it’s easier than ever to increase the number of applications the campus card can be used for, is more secure than older card technology, and is easier to manage in a single system.

Budget is a common sticking point when it comes to considering whether or not to make upgrades on campus, and one-card systems are no exception. However, due to recent innovations with these systems, there are choices that make the business case stronger, and the transition easier. There are a few things to consider when making the case for a new system and choosing a system which we will explore in more detail.

Student Convenience

From identification and cashless vending to point-of-sale and cafeteria purchases, the student’s campus card used in conjunction with the one card system gives students the convenience of using a single card (or their smart phones) for many uses, making it easier and more manageable for them on a daily basis. This also extends to security and access control on campus. Using their campus card, rather than a key, for access to buildings and their room in the residence hall is another added convenience, but also increases the security level – not only for the student, but also across the entire campus.

Such levels of convenience can be used to promote enrollment to prospective students when the system is well-rounded and properly showcased. While it might not be apparent or top-of-mind, campuses with one card systems can use it as a selling point on campus tours. It’s an added benefit students will quickly learn to appreciate, but one they likely won’t think about before a campus visit.

Administrative Benefits

While students experience the convenience of using smartcards and the one card system, campus card administrators, security directors and facility managers benefit from a variety operational efficiencies. From reduced purchasing and printing costs to simplified management of student IDs, payment plans and access rights, efficiencies will be noticed almost immediately.

It is important to take advantage of efficiencies and the return on investment (ROI) associated with upgrading to a newer one card system and the use of smart card technology for campus cards, which is an important consideration throughout a transition. Providing proof of ROI will simplify the approval process and conversations with campus officials when justifying a need for a system upgrade. Students will want to purchase one card because it enhances their campus experience. For facility managers, it will simplify card management. The time saved by simply removing and replacing a lost key card from an access control system versus the time and materials it takes to replace traditional keys and rekey locks to maintain the integrity of the key system are night and day.

In addition to operational efficiencies, using a one card system can become an incremental source of revenue on campus in a couple of ways. By implementing vending and other points of purchase for the card, there are often a portion of purchases that are returned to the school. The more points of purchase and the more convenient the purchase, the higher revenue can be realized. Plus, although this is meant to deter card loss, issuing replacement cards at an increased cost for students who have lost or broken their card can also provide a source of revenue.

Security and Applications

As a smart card or phone is being utilized for additional applications, it also requires more information to be stored on the card. For this reason, these credentials must contain encryption and security features beyond that of a typical student ID. By implementing smart cards with the latest technology, the personal and financial information of students and staff will be better protected against those with dishonest intentions in the long run.

A campus can drastically improve the security of its residents and staff by choosing smart cards with the latest encryption technology, and actively managing access permissions. When a key is lost or stolen, it may take a locksmith time to receive the work order and re-core or replace a lock. With a one card system, reissuing a credential can be done in a matter of minutes – deleting the previous card simultaneously. The enhanced security provided by smart cards within the one card system can also add peace of mind for parents when sending a student away to school.

Addressing Campus Staff Concerns

There are a number of common concerns among members of campus staff that should be addressed when implementing a one-card system or transitioning to new technology. Each issue needs to be addressed in its own way dependent on campus dynamics.

Establishing a timeline of implementation: Implementing a one card system, switching card technologies or replacing access control devices can seem daunting and complicated. But working with providers to establish a phased approach and reasonable timeline, taking all campus activities into account and communicating this plan to the appropriate parties will put campus staff at ease.

Choosing the right technology: The transition to new technology is never seamless, but there are solutions available that can simplify the process. Look for systems and devices that are “open architecture” in nature – meaning that they can work together or can be easily integrated with each other. By choosing proprietary versus open systems and devices, a campus can limit itself in functionality and long-term adaptability to future needs.

Also, it’s important to identify solutions that can make current implementation run more smoothly and protects against future upgrades. For an access control system, consider installing multi-technology readers and electronic locks. These devices read more than one card technology (such as magnetic stripe, proximity, smart card and mobile IDs) at the same time – allowing for a phased approach to card technology migrations which is often needed because of resource and budget restraints.

Are we doing the right thing? While exploring options and moving towards a new system and associated devices, supplier partners can assist in educating campus staff to make an informed decision. An integrator, consultant and manufacturer representative should work together to provide the system and technology needed, keeping budget in mind – for both the short term and future.

Possibilities are Endless

Opening a door with anything other than a metal key was once unimaginable, but then electronic access control was introduced and changed the way we enter secure buildings. Now, the use of smart cards, and mobile IDs on our smart phones, along with the campus one-card systems, is giving the ability to do much more with a single credential, in a more secure way than ever before. While operational benefits are often a main driver of system implementation, don’t forget about the value of student convenience, parent confidence and staff efficiency when making the case to implement a one-card system using smart card technology.

About the Author
Ann Timme is Allegion Marketing Manager-Higher Education. She can be contacted at Information about Allegion is available at