Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, which enables short-range communication or “tap and go” transactions between compatible devices, is steadily making headway as the preferred way to manage credentials on college campuses. This technology allows students to tap and go for class check-ins, dorm access, paying at laundry facilities, redeeming meal plans, and more.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But Micah, I’ve been tapping and going with my credit card and iPhone to pay for stuff for years now.” And you’re right. From a payments perspective, it’s not new technology. But in the realm of student IDs and college campus access, NFC is still in its early days.
While tap and go, also referred to as “frictionless,” payments are ubiquitous, harnessing the technology for everyday uses such as keyless hotel access or NFC transit passes is still a novelty in most of the world. When you think about the various entities that comprise a typical college campus, offering students a consistent access experience, whether it’s entering a lab, hopping a bus to a satellite campus, or attending a sporting event, it requires an entirely different level of planning and execution.
Is the challenge worth the payoff? Absolutely. The frictionless aspect of NFC transactions engenders adoption and usage, which in turn gives schools greater visibility into student activity on campus. The value of those insights — paired with the improved student experience from NFC — will spark even more utilization of wireless technologies as they emerge.
Mobile makes everything easier, more secure
The DMV, big box wholesale clubs, and schools all have one thing in common: you have to go to a physical location to have your ID picture taken. But if an ID is stored in a student’s mobile wallet, this pilgrimage is no longer necessary. With mobile credentials, a selfie is enough to get the ball rolling. (Some schools that require government-issued documents for ID verification are also now accepting them through mobile credential apps.) In fact, mobile credentials could soon eliminate the expense of maintaining the equipment and supplies to generate physical IDs as well as the time involved to create them.
Plus, contrary to common concerns, mobile IDs are actually more secure than physical cards. The security to protect the ID is already built into the phone, since mobile credentials lie behind numerical lock codes or biometric security features such as face or fingerprint recognition. In addition, the protocols used by NFC credentials are modern and less susceptible to being hacked or duplicated. Finally, many phones can be configured to allow access even on limited battery power to prevent students from being locked out. Features like these convince schools to look into incorporating mobile NFC technology into their overall credentialing and access approach.
NFC requires significant investments in money and time
Swiping cards for building access has been around for decades. The biggest difference with NFC is the ability to tap and go — whether that’s with an ID card or with a mobile device. Adopting this technology requires new equipment, which is why cost is the biggest hurdle schools face when looking to upgrade their access hardware to mobile NFC capabilities. Pairing the right hardware and interface system requires planning and budgeting that can take several years to complete. Moreover, such a shift often requires advocacy from campus leadership to unify the many silos on campus under one shared vision for NFC technology and the benefits that come with it.
We are constantly looking into new ways to incorporate NFC technology. Not only does NFC offer advanced security, but it also provides actionable data and seamless access and transactions across campus for students and staff. If your institution is interested in making credentials safer and simpler, NFC provides compelling reasons to bring frictionless transactions to your campus.
Senior Product Strategist
Micah Tremain's entire career has close ties to education. Working on solutions with students from Kindergarten through continuing education, Micah has strived to understand the needs of learners, educators, and administrators at every stage of the student lifecycle. In his current role as TouchNet's Senior Product Strategist, Micah consistently focuses on improving the student experience and researching new ways to streamline campus business operations. He frequently speaks on topics such as these — as well as technology trends in higher education — at TouchNet events such as COMTEC and Straight Talks. Micah earned his bachelor's degree in communication from Pittsburg State University.