ColorID - How an Identity Roadmap can avoid outdated, misfit technology

ColorID identifies common campus identity pitfalls

Solidifying your campus Identity Roadmap is an important first step toward deploying the modern technology that students have come to expect from their universities. Planning for the future today is vital but knowing where to begin, and more importantly what to include in the Roadmap, can be difficult.

An Identity Roadmap helps both the institution’s and vendor partners’ boots on the ground to better and more efficiently get to the root of a problem. If a campus has a Roadmap in place, everyone can benefit from having clear marching orders when it comes to migrating technologies and making refinements to a campus environment.

“Establishing an ID Roadmap helps everyone understand exactly where the institution is going, what its technology standards are on campus, and what they can do going forward,” says Todd Brooks, Director of Product Management at ColorID.

In addition to his responsibilities at the company’s North Carolina headquarters, Brooks spends considerable time in the field, on campuses across the country as part of ColorID’s Summit Conferences and stakeholder meetings. It is from this ground-level experience that Brooks has been able to identify some of the most common pitfalls that campuses face when there’s not a strategic, guiding document in place.

“On campuses that don’t have a Roadmap in place, we often see decisions happen without proper consultation across the stakeholder groups,” Brooks says. “Things like installing a brand new access control system, but hanging Prox readers. In that case, they’re installing tech from 30 years ago that’s no longer secure – it’s puzzling.”

What Brooks and the rest of the ColorID team routinely preach to universities is that a knee-jerk decision today could have far reaching ramifications. “Once you install some of this hardware on campus, it can last for upwards of ten years, and those decisions can be hard to go back on,” he says.

A plan for access

Perhaps the most important area for a campus to have an established Roadmap is physical access and security. In addition to being vital for student and campus safety, physical access is also where some of the most expensive mistakes can happen.

“Campuses need to be thinking about technologies when making a decision on reader hardware. You want to be sure the readers you put in now will support your credential needs down the line,” says Brooks. “Generally with hardware once you put it on the wall, you’re keeping it for a long time.”

Brooks sees campuses facing the same challenges time and again. “The main campus could be using HID readers on the wall at exterior doors, for example,” he says. “If all of a sudden a new residence hall is built and Schlage locks are hung on the doors, it’s the card office that has to face the conundrum of making all that work together.”

Were the campus to establish a standard and working document to dictate the hardware selection process, these types of challenges could be avoided. “Selecting the wrong hardware often leads to a recard event or buying more expensive credentials to support multiple technologies in the card,” explains Brooks.

Sometimes it can be difficult to avoid knee-jerk decisions. “Seeing a lockset that you really like that may work for most of your needs – but not thinking about the credential technology that drives that hardware – can be costly,” says Brooks. “We see that in housing a lot.”

Another department on campus that often goes to its own industry conference is parking. “They could see a long-range reader that allows them to do some really cool things,” says Brooks. “But rather than going back and consulting with the other identity stakeholders – or having that Identity Roadmap in place to work from – they’ll just purchase that parking-specific system without thinking about how it will interact with everything else.”

“In some cases, poorly planned decisions leave campuses with only one option: issuing multiple credentials, be it a key fob, a second card, or something else,” says Brooks. “You could be talking about an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“I think campuses need to address the exact credential technology they want to support, know exactly how they want to use their card today, and what they may want to add over time – such as transit, parking, etc.,” explains Brooks. 


On the cutting edge

The idea of moving to bleeding-edge technologies like mobile or biometrics can cause reticence for some. But even if a campus isn’t ready to deploy today, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t still consider these as part of the overall Roadmap.

“One of the things that’s on a lot of people’s minds is mobile, and moving credentials to student smartphones,” says Brooks. “Starting to interact with that and determining how your campus wants to handle the technology is important, so that when it comes up there isn’t a scramble.”

It’s important for campuses to have biometrics on the Roadmap, as well. “You wouldn’t want one department deciding to implement biometrics their way with its own database, as opposed to a central repository that all departments can use,” says Brooks. “It’s important to set up a policy that dictates ‘this is how we feel about biometrics on campus’ and ‘these are the modalities we want to implement.’”

That said having multiple biometric modalities on a single campuses isn’t a bad thing. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. There are different needs for each of those applications,” Brooks explains. “You need to look at cost, as well as things like weather resistance and security threshold needs. It varies from campus to campus and what the players on each campus believe.”

As for the long-held misconception against biometrics being a security risk for personal biometric data, there’s a clear line in the sand. “Typically students are open to biometrics because they’ve now grown up with it, but adults are a little more stuck in their ways and think the government is after them,” says Brooks. “We just try to break down some of those preconceived notions through education on campus, talking about how data is stored and how the technology works.”

Contemporary students now carry a certain expectation when it comes to their universities with regards to technology.

“We’re seeing that it’s almost like a recruiting war out there for students now. And we’ve heard from campuses that they want to be technology leaders and do things that other campuses aren’t doing,” Brooks says. “So when they implement biometrics, yes it’s fast and convenient because it doesn’t require a card, but it also delivers on the ‘cool factor’ that campuses are going for.”

Mobile, too, is part of the cool factor that students have come to expect from their universities. “What we’re seeing from most campuses at the moment with regards to mobile is that in the short term it’s going to be used a secondary credential to be used more for convenience than anything else,” says Brooks. “For an Identity Roadmap, a campus needs to start laying out policy ideas stating if it wants to charge a fee for that and how it will issue that mobile credential.”

Another vital policy to include in the Roadmap is how your campus plans to implement mobile. “From a reader standpoint, you need to look at what version of mobile you want to use,” Brooks explains. “Will it be NFC based or Bluetooth based, or will it be something that is software based that a campus integrator is providing?”

Even if a campus doesn’t want to implement biometrics or mobile at all, then it’s equally important for a campus Identity Roadmap to dictate that. “Again, it’s about having all identity stakeholders on the same page when these technology decisions inevitably reach your various departments,” adds Brooks. 

Office renovations

A Campus Identity Roadmap can address more than just credentials, readers and card technologies. Card technology has changed over the years, but so too has the way cards are issued. As a working document, the Roadmap should include these card office processes.

“Right now we’re seeing a bit of a paradigm shift in how campuses are issuing cards. Specifically, campuses are moving away from the old bank-teller model with lines at individual printer stations,” Brooks says. “Now we’re seeing the emergence of the Apple Store model and feel, where students come in grab a cup of coffee, wait in the lounge, employees come out to greet students and take the photo.”

Campuses across the country have already taken to this new service-centric model for card issuance, and it’s a trend that will only continue to gather steam.

“A lot of the new ID softwares are moving to the cloud, which gives you a little more freedom to move around your card office space and not be stuck in one stationary area,” explains Brooks. “We’re seeing card offices becoming more of a service provider to students, using that same space for more than just card operations. This also opens the door to issuing at other satellite locations around campus.”

It’s important, then, to include in the Roadmap a vision for where your card office wants to be in the future, and what that office should look like. “To accomplish this, card offices need to look at network-capable card printers, as well as the cloud-based software,” explains Brooks. “Decision makers should also look at office space and layouts to have a plan for how they may want to reconfigure their space in the future.”

Be ‘all in’ on decision-making

Along Brooks’ considerable travels to campuses across the country, there’s a noticeable difference between campuses that have engaged in the road-mapping process and those that make disjointed, department-based decisions.

“We recently worked with one university that had disparate departments that were free to do whatever they wanted. They just installed whole new access control system with prox readers,” recalls Brooks. “Other campuses that we’re working with have formed committees in advance as part of their migrations and they’re going to know what they want and time frames for implementation. The latter campus is going to save a significant amount of money by comparison.”

ColorID routinely hosts sessions on campuses giving highly technical presentations on what’s state of the art in the industry, and what’s trending. “Then we’ll talk through what the campus has deployed presently, and lay out the correct migration path based on existing technologies and budget requirements,” says Brooks. “From that stakeholder meeting, we can help to develop the makings of a Roadmap to clearly define decision making.”

Typically the company will pull in decision makers from every department on that touches the credential – auxiliaries, dining, housing, IT, physical security and of course the card office. “We also try to include business owners from higher up the university hierarchy, director of auxiliaries or student affairs, to act as a sponsor that can draw all of these groups together,” Brooks adds.

Beyond hardware and technology restraints, people can act as blockers to migration, as well. It could be a lack of awareness of new technology, or a desire to hold onto legacy processes and technologies, but nevertheless a single mentality can hold an entire campus back from embracing new technology.

“We’ve seen it all over the map. For as long as we’ve done stakeholder meetings, we’ve experienced human blockers,” Brooks says. “The stakeholder meetings help because they remove the ability to hide. Everyone is brought up to speed at the same time and makes decisions collectively.”

It can be difficult for any university, but particularly larger institutions, to gather all relevant stakeholders to make a unified decision. But planning an Identity Roadmap as a collective unit will pay dividends down the line.

“It’s very common for an IT department to have a roadmap, dining to have a roadmap, auxiliaries, and so on. It’s very rare for a campus to have an idea of where they’re headed from a global identity standpoint,” says Brooks. “Many haven’t done the group work and strategic meetings. We have seen a few campuses on that path, but most are very siloed.” 

Much of that disjointed mentality comes down to the fact that many departments run separate businesses within the university.

“They have their own profit and loss, their own budgets and they’re really only worried about themselves at that point,” says Brooks. “But that’s the power of the Roadmap, it brings these decision makers together so that they don’t fall victim to the identity pitfalls.”

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