Enhancing the Student Experience

Enhancing the Student Experience

Vanderbilt University enables faculty and student IDs on iPhone, Apple Watch

Embracing the benefits of touch-less access using smartphones, Vanderbilt University has expanded its investment into campus safety and security by leveraging HID Mobile Access® to deploy campus IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch through Apple Wallet.

The enhancement builds upon the university’s initial investment in mobile-enabled technologies from HID Global. These technologies capitalized on the ubiquitous nature of smartphones and mobile devices among students—90 percent of whom reside on campus throughout their Vanderbilt education— and faculty to create a campus-wide identity and access management program.

The investment continues to pay dividends.
“Keeping students safe is our top priority. HID Mobile Access was the optimal solution for protecting students and allowing Vanderbilt to move to a mobile solution for securely accessing our campus and services. The integration of campus IDs on iPhone and Apple Watch brings added convenience for our entire campus community,” said Mark Brown, Vanderbilt’s director of business services technology. “Beyond the convenience and security— two very important considerations—this mobile solution gives us the freedom to provision and modify credentials remotely, which has been significant for protecting the health of our students and staff during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.”

“This initiative has been of interest to both the student body and university administrators, as it supports both accessibility and convenience for our campus community,” said Eric Kopstain, who is the Vanderbilt vice chancellor for administration. “We are also excited about this new option because it provides an added health and safety benefit for students. The contactless payment option will allow students to not touch surfaces or other people, thus helping to prevent exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses when making purchases.”

Building on its Initial Investment in Mobile-Enabled Technologies
Vanderbilt initially tapped HID Global to implement a mobile credential solution that was compatible with Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth technologies. HID Mobile Access, powered by Seos® credential technology deployed alongside a reader infrastructure comprising HID® Signo™ readers, HID iCLASS SE® readers, and OMNIKEY® desktop readers to manage access to buildings. It complements the ecosystem by facilitating the usage of the already issued credentials for all other adjacent use cases. The solution allowed Vanderbilt administration to issue mobile credentials that let students, faculty, and staff access buildings and services with their mobile devices, as well as efficiently provision/deprovision credentials remotely without person- to-person contact.

The collaboration between Vanderbilt and HID Global began in 2014, when the university first validated the use of smartphones as a convenient and compelling new way to open doors. Pilot participants each used their smartphones for door access at one or more of a half dozen possible campus entry points, including a parking garage. The entry points were equipped with Bluetooth-enabled HID readers that configured to work with existing HID iCLASS smart cards as well as HID Mobile IDs.

In a survey of pilot participants, respondents cited convenience as the top attribute of the mobile access experience, since their are less likely to lose them as compared to their access card. Respondents further pointed out the benefit of using their phone as a backup in cases where their cards were lost or stolen.

At the pilot’s conclusion, the university began purchasing only readers with Bluetooth technology or later, NFC, so that it could roll out HID Mobile Access beyond faculty and staff to the entire student body. Approximately 90 percent of Vanderbilt’s contactless readers on campus were soon mobile-ready so that, “when we do get to that point, we’re ready to go,” Brown said.

Vanderbilt’s access control platform is CS Gold®, a higher education transaction system from CBORD for credential lifecycle management that integrates with the university’s HID Global access cards and door readers. HID wrote an application programming interface (API) for Vanderbilt so the CBORD platform could communicate with HID’s latest Seos credential technology that is powered by highly advanced encryption and a software-based infrastructure.

It secures trusted identities on any form factor, and can be extended for applications beyond physical access control. Brown said the plan was slowly phased in the Seos technology as it continued issuing cards, until it eventually removed the iCLASS chip from the card. This would enable it to migrate to the latest and most secure card format.

The simplified credential issuance of the mobile access solution began with new users receiving an email on their phone that included a link to the HID Mobile Access app. Once they accepted the invitation and clicked on the link, the credential pushed down to thier handset. This process also reduced the time it took the university to issue credentials.

“When it comes to issuing the identities to somebody, what was probably a 10-minute process before could now be done in literally 10 seconds,” Brown said.

Provisioning credentials to contractors or other parties needing temporary access was made simple, and secure with HID Mobile Access than with physical cards, Brown said. It was now possible to pull a credential off a visitor’s or contractor’s phone as soon as necessary, so that, as an example, they were not in possession of a credential that they had forgotten to return at the end of their visit.

Elevating the Convenience Factor
Next, the university wanted to add support for credentials in Apple Wallet without compromising the existing access infrastructure or its security. Using HID Reader Manager the task was completed to upgrade firmware on the university’s physical access control readers to extend support for NFC-based credentials in Apple Wallet. The university uses the flexible HID Origo™ Mobile Identities API integrated with CS Gold.

With campus IDs in Apple Wallet, students can complete any action that would have previously required a physical ID card — both on and off campus — with just their iPhone and Apple Watch. Students simply present their device to a reader to enter dorms, libraries, and fitness centers, buy lunch, make purchases at campus stores, pay for laundry and print documents.

The university’s Commodore campus ID cards on iPhone and Apple Watch provide an extra level of security and privacy, so students do not need to worry about misplacing their physical card when they are enjoying campus life. Transaction history remains private and is never shared with anyone. If a student misplaces their iPhone or Apple Watch, they can use the Find My app to immediately lock their device and help locate it.

Vanderbilt administrators said the university is working to launch a similar offering through Android devices. HID Mobile Access enables mobile IDs to send via an app to either Android or IoS mobile devices.

This will enable more users to benefit from the ability to not only enter residence halls, campus libraries and other physical locations, but also buy food at campus dining locations, make purchases at Barnes & Noble at Vanderbilt, the campus post office, the Student Health Center and the Sarratt Student Center Box Office without needing their physical Commodore Card.

Students can use their phones to purchase food at nearby off-campus locations that are part of the Taste of Nashville program.

In 2014, Vanderbilt University had a vision for creating a safe and secure campus using mobile-enabled technologies. What started as a successful pilot quickly transitioned into a full-scale development of mobile access to faculty, staff and the entire student body. Today, the university has achieved its goal of delivering this safe, secure and convenient mobile access solution with the added flexibility of supporting the Apple Wallet platform. With integrated HID Mobile Access, issuing credentials to new users is as easy as having them download the app, validate identity and seamlessly add their credentials to Apple Wallet.

This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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