In 2010, the University of Massachusetts upgraded student ID cards to include a technology known as "iClass," which made the devices contactless, allowing individuals to tap their IDs onto readers instead of manually swiping them and wearing down the magnetic strip, according to a report by independent newspaper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.
Today, nearly all student ID cards contain the technology, enabling more efficient access control in dormitories, academic facilities and other buildings that require individuals to authenticate their identity to gain entry. The school's campus card - called a UCard - was designed to act as the only card necessary on campus. As a result, administrators are also eliminating card swiping readers at cafeterias and retail services around the community, the newspaper reported.
"The [old] system was at the end of its life," said Jacqueline Watrous, the executive director of administrative services in UMass' administration and finance department, according to the Daily Collegian. "It was time to go out and see what else was out there."
The benefits of going contactless
Storie Libby, a senior English major at UMass and a supervisor at the UCard Office, said students would often complain about their traditional ID cards falling apart or the magnetic stip wearing away from overuse, the news source said. The new system will hopefully eliminate this problem.
"Switching over to a system where there is no contact involved will help keep the cards in better condition longer," Libby told the Daily Collegian.
Furthermore, the way in which students stored their ID cards also put a toll on the magnetic strip, Libby told the news source. Since many individuals would keep their IDs in their wallets, for example, the strip would deteriorate through constant contact with rough surfaces.
A separate report by Blackboard echoed the fact that contactless ID cards are often more convenient and secure than their traditional magnetic strip counterparts. Since contactless badges contain a data chip, they are able to store more information, enabling the devices to be used for a wider range of purposes, including everything from residence hall access control to making purchases at local convenience stores.
As the smart card market matures and evolves, these tools will likely be used more often in school systems around the country in an effort to enhance efficiency and convenience of day-to-day operations.