What You Need To Know Regarding: Campus Card Migrations to Contactless Cards & Mobile Credentials

The topic of campus migrations, contactless cards and mobile credentials can seem overwhelming and offers unique challenges for a University infrastructure.  There seems to be so many opinions and options that no one wants to be the one to make a technology decision just to find out in the next few years that decision has already been rendered obsolete.  When contemplating a campus migration from magnetic stripes or proximity “125 kHz Prox” cards to an advanced technology contactless card or mobile credential, there are many things that must be taken into consideration including security, convenience and scalability.

The following are a few topics to keep in mind when starting this kind of project.

How will my new contactless card or mobile credential affect other stakeholders on campus?

One of the largest issues we see within the University sector is the fractionalization that exists within the institutions.  Typically, people in the card office, housing, physical security, dining, etc. don’t take into consideration how their decisions will affect other parties on campus.  ColorID has worked with hundreds of Universities to carefully navigate this migration process. Contactless migration should be a campus wide initiative, so one of the first things we recommend when starting the process is to call a meeting with all of these stakeholders.  It is important that the contactless card or mobile credential must work with all of the different systems and readers on campus and therefore the best approach is to start with that end in mind. 

 During these stakeholder meetings, the terminology is extremely important and can be very valuable.  What one person thinks or understands of a technology could be entirely different from another colleague in a different department.  Getting everyone on the same page early can avoid headaches, misunderstandings and costly delays down the road. 

 What are some factors from other stakeholders that may narrow my technology options?

 One of the most important decisions related to campus migrations is the preference of offline and/or wireless lock models.  Housing typically has a very strong opinion about their residence hall locks and that will play a key role in the type of contactless technologies that are available. 

 Another important factor will be the Campus Card Integrator.  Many of the popular integrators support specific contactless technologies and readers for their POS and other systems. Knowing answers to these questions can quickly narrow your focus to certain contactless technologies, readers, and manufacturers.

 How does a contactless card affect my card issuance process?

 Now that I have my new contactless card, there are many card issuance decisions that need to be addressed to streamline the card office operations. 

  1. Contactless Card Programming -- pre-encoded cards vs. encoding in the printer or at the desktop

It is typically easier to purchase pre-encoded cards and then capture the number during the printing process, but some specific formats and number types aren’t suitable for this process.  For instance, schools utilizing randomized ISO numbers for access control may need to encode their own card data. 

  1. Encryption Keys -- manufacturer’s encryption key or custom key

Most manufacturers provide contactless cards with their standard encryption keys unless custom keys are requested.  Over the last year, we have seen a trend toward institutions wanting to manage their own encryption keys versus using the manufacturer’s standard key.  Managing your own custom keys can add another layer of security to your credential, but it also brings along a management burden.  What happens if you lose the key or it is compromised?  Who has access to the encryption key?  How is it stored and protected?

  1. Printing Method – Reverse Transfer vs. Direct-to-Card (DTC)

With contactless cards, it is recommended to use reverse transfer type printers to reduce the risk of ghosted images where the chip is located.  Reverse transfer printers print to a thin film instead of directly onto the card surface like direct-to-card (DTC) printers.  DTC printers can still be used to print contactless cards, but it is advisable to use pre-printed cards or modify your artwork so that it doesn’t include the chip location.

  1. ID Software – Does your ID software support contactless cards?

Typically with contactless cards, the ID Software must be matched to the printing platform for encoding high frequency chips.  For instance, if you have a Fargo printer you will most likely need to use AsureID to encode the cards or capture the pre-encoded numbers in the printer (although there are some exceptions).  The same is true for other manufacturers.  Also, your Campus Card Integrator may only support a certain type of ID software and printer for card issuance. 

 What are the most future proof solutions helping meet an institution’s needs?

Probably the most important decision when migrating your campus to contactless is to keep the future in mind.  You will want to choose a platform that will provide the greatest ability to keep your campus secure into the future.  The latest technologies include AES encryption or asymmetric encryption utilizing digital certificates.  These encryption methods provide added security and to date have no known vulnerabilities.  Some manufacturers are even providing solutions that can be updated in the field if the encryption methods are ever compromised.

Choose a platform that will allow you to utilize mobile credentials in the future as most students are now carrying smart phones.  In the past year we have seen a steady adoption of mobile solutions and we believe that will continue to increase in 2016. There are many mobile solutions available utilizing NFC, Bluetooth Low-Energy, and Geo-Location.

So now that you are aware of some of the key points to cover when beginning a contactless migration, it should be straight forward to start the process.  Organize a plan to get your necessary stakeholders on board, understand your technology options, determine the constraints that are in place with other 3rd party hardware and software products, and choose a technology partner that is knowledgeable in the latest identification platforms who can help guide you through the process and are vendor neutral yet vendor experienced.


About ColorID, LLC

Founded in 1999, ColorID is one of the world's largest integrators of identification technologies and solutions for security, identification, access control, biometrics and transaction management.  Though primarily focused on specific North American markets, ColorID also provides these solutions to organizations around the world. The company’s highly knowledgeable and customer-focused sales and product management teams help customers select and integrate the best products and services from well-known and innovative manufacturers.  Also, the company’s engineering team provides exceptional support for the life of those products. Contact ColorID at 704-987-2238 or toll free in Canada and the US at 888-682-6567. Visit ColorID on the web at: www.colorid.com or email ColorID at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


About Us

The mission of the association is to assist the institutions of higher education in the Member States of the European Union and other European Countries to implement and operate campus card programmes by facilitating information exchange, by developing European standards where appropriate and by acting as a forum for interaction between the institutions and other agencies with an interest in campus card applications in Higher Education.


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