5 minute read

Episode 607: Behind the Scenes of Mobile ID for Apple and Android

7/25/2023 7:00 PM

Smartphone use is ubiquitous, especially on college campuses. With nearly every student always carrying a smart device with them, it was only a matter of time before colleges began investigating whether mobile IDs could help enhance the student experience. Joe Harting, a leader in campus operations, joined the Focus podcast to discuss what he learned from pioneering Mobile ID for Apple and Android at Northern Arizona University (NAU) as the Director of Campus Operations.

NAU’s spirit of innovation

As one of three major higher ed institutions in the state of Arizona, the NAU Lumberjacks distinguish themselves by embracing innovation and pushing the envelope. After all, NAU was one of the first to introduce autonomous delivery robots with Starship Technologies on their campus. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the campus saw even further momentum to find creative solutions that would reduce public face-to-face interactions, increase convenience, and overall enhance the student experience.

The right opportunity at the right time

In 2018, Harting first partnered with TouchNet to implement a new system for their auxiliary services. Knowing that NAU were open to new ideas, Touchnet approached them with the opportunity to be the first school to pilot OneCard Mobile ID with their popular student ID, the Jacks Card.

In NAU student surveys, mobile IDs were the number one requested feature for the NAU Go App. Students who have grown up with mobile devices their entire life expect an app for everything and NAU jumped at the opportunity to deliver what students want.

Harting knew he had the right infrastructure already in place with TouchNet and the timing couldn’t have been better; the University was especially motivated to bring new and creative ideas to the table during the global pandemic.

Putting the pieces in place

The first step in the process was putting the budget in place to pay for the new program. Harting found success by presenting mobile IDs as an exciting new technology that could prove disruptive in the market.

Harting also embarked on a communications campaign, bringing all stakeholders to the table and building the support necessary to move the project forward.

Finally, NAU completed an internal discovery process and mobile readiness assessment with the help of TouchNet.

“Touchnet provided us with the initial foundational documentation that was necessary for us to go through our campus, identify what we had in place, and how well positioned we were to introduce this new technology,” said Harting.

Overcoming obstacles

In implementing the Mobile Jacks Card, NAU had to consider every touchpoint the existing physical card was being used: dining, door access, transportation, recreation, etc. Harting’s staff uncovered more than 1,000 places the card could be engaged and had to find suitable alternatives where mobile IDs couldn’t be easily applied, like when the Rec Center held a student ID in exchange for renting sports equipment. In some cases, the Mobile ID proved to be an even better solution than what the physical Jacks Card could provide.

NAU also engaged a dedicated communications specialist from the beginning trained in change management and ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement). This specialist helped streamline the transition process through strategic messaging. Their efforts were backed by extensive focus group testing to help ensure the provisioning process was easy for students.

Measuring success

In a post-launch poll, 70 percent of NAU students gave the Mobile Jacks Card five stars out of five. More than 90 percent rated their satisfaction with three stars or more.

Additionally, mobile IDs solved the problem of bottlenecks while issuing IDs at the start of the school year. While physical IDs are still available, NAU is taking a “mobile first” approach, encouraging students to create their mobile IDs at orientation, making it one less thing students need to worry about when they come to campus as an official Lumberjack. No more long lines to get student ID pictures taken or pick up the printed ID.

An unexpected positive consequence of mobile IDs, NAU also saw increased participation in meal plans and campus transactions. Since students are never without their phone, they’re never without their ID.

“I've been fortunate to be a part of many, many, many projects and initiatives here throughout my 20 year career at NAU,” said Harting. “And I really have to say, this was, this has got to be in the top two or three, if not number one projects. It took a lot of time and energy and effort, but it was absolutely worth it.”

The future of Mobile ID

“As exciting and novel and as new as something like a mobile ID card is, I think, eventually, it's going to become [a matter of] making sure that your institution shows that you understand what student expectations are,” said Harting. “And that we are dynamic, innovative here and willing to deliver those experiences.”

While mobile IDs may become business as usual across campuses, NAU is already looking at what comes next. Harting sees mobile ID as a way to create additional revenue opportunities – not just on campus, but also at local retailers, restaurants, movie theaters and more. Ideally, mobile IDs can be a catalyst to incentivizing those retailers to provide student discounts and rewards programs.

Learn more about the TouchNet OneCard Mobile ID here, or contact us for a complimentary assessment of your campus technology to see how close you are to implementing Mobile ID on your campus.