From universities to primary schools, a revolution in technology is taking shape. Twenty-first-century innovation is bringing automation and improved security to school campuses world wide with school security systems. With education costs skyrocketing, departments at all levels are looking for ways to do more with less, trimming expenses while maximizing staff productivity. Add the looming threats to campus security, and educators must make decisions that balance quality of education with protecting the safety of their students and staff. The 2011 Campus Safety magazine’s “How Safe Is Your Campus?” report revealed that 52 percent of faculty said their institutions fail to dedicate sufficient resources to campus safety and security.
The same technology that corporations use for access control system: secure smart ID cards, can be used to improve school campus security as well. Embedded with “smart” features such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and tamper-resistant overlaminates, education campuses can realize a wide range of benefits, from tightening security, to streamlining admissions, to improving paid services with these types of ID card technologies.
Education is Ready For The Smart Card Revolution
Educators at all levels are seeking ways to leverage current technology to improve the quality of learning, simplify administrative tasks and protect students. However, leaner budgets, growing numbers of students and rising costs per student mean that schools must improve efficiency. Answering this challenge demands innovative solutions that will automate facility and class access, improve campus security and streamline campus services such as meal and library programs.
In many ways, schools have been slow to adopt technologies commonly used in the private business sector to streamline their operations. Student admission is still a manual, time-consuming process at the majority of primary education school campuses. Institutions of higher education campuses have adopted online admissions and class registration, but students still must stop by a main office in person and stand in line to pick up their student identification cards. Inefficiencies resulting from manual processes extend beyond the first week of school as student tardiness is an ongoing issue. Often students must stop by an office to pick up a handwritten tardy slip, wasting time better spent doing class activities. Many school districts depend on attendance numbers to maintain their funding levels and lower student attendance means fewer school budget dollars, but advances in smart ID card technologies and the surrounding infrastructure offer educational institutions the optimal solution for streamlining school administrative tasks.
Smart Access Cards What They Are, How They Work
The Intelligence of Embedded RFID
The term “smart access cards” in education, business and government applications encompasses a wide range of technologies. The common feature of most contactless, proximity card based solutions relies on embedded high-frequency (HF) RFID technology. Most contact type ID cards use magnetic stripe technology, which in this context requires students to manually swipe their ID cards through an ID card reader, slowing down student access and creating bottlenecks in the flow of people entering and exiting. Magnetic stripe cards are also a less reliable ID card technology as they can be easily de-magnetized.
Education access ID card applications can benefit from UHF Gen 2 RFID’s ID card long-read range and fast identification capabilities. Schools can eliminate single-file, one-at-a-time ID card reads. Using Gen 2 RFID ID cards and card readers, groups of students can move through large, open entry and exit points, rather than having to pass through narrow doorways, gates or turnstiles single file. While conditions change in the business world, education facilities need solutions that can stand the test of time, future-proofed to last a student’s campus tenure. Made from durable materials such as polyester and PVC, secure ID cards can last the entire term of a student’s education, saving the institution and students the recurring costs of annual ID card replacement.
Security Efficiency and Cost Reduction
Just imagine: one ID card for everything! Smart cards can serve as the foundation for a wide range of ID card security applications, providing opportunities to streamline security and administrative tasks across an entire campus. The process starts during student admission or when faculty/staff receive their new hire orientation. It is here that the school issues a durable, smart ID card embedded with RFID technology. Once an education district implements smart ID cards, the technology serves as the ideal foundation for ongoing benefits, campus wide.
Tighten Physical Security and Facility Access
Student, Staff and Visitor Management
Security is more than just ensuring that visitors casually check in at an office. Protecting the safety of students and staff has become increasingly important. Other than hire enough security guards to police every facility and access point, what can education departments do to improve security today? Throughout the nation, many colleges and universities use visitor management systems to improve security and protect students against unauthorized visitors and people posing as students. While visitor management may seem like an issue only for K-12 facilities, college campuses are an open environment, making it difficult to monitor activity. School security departments must know who is on a campus at all times. The first step to doing this is to strictly enforce visitor sign-in and issue the visitor a temporary RFID-enabled ID smart card with track-and-trace technology capabilities. Upon sign-in, school visitor software can also determine if a visitor is wanted by law enforcement or if the person in question is registered in the sex offender database.
Access Control for Secure Buildings or Rooms
RFID enabled smart cards present the optimal solution not only for visitor management, but for access control for all people campus wide. Issuing a smart ID card to all faculty, students, staff and visitors allows security departments to control who has access to what, where and when. Campuses can improve dormitory safety, secure labs with high-value equipment and ensure research departments performing specialized projects only provide access to those with authorized credentials.
Optimally, schools can integrate their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with their ID card system, and in doing so, provide a single point of management for allowing or denying physical access to students attending classes in different buildings.
Time and Attendance Tracking
For many school districts, tracking the amount of time students spend in class is vital for planning and funding. To improve security and increase attendance rates, the Spring school district in Houston, Texas has distributed RFID enabled ID badges to 13,500 of its 36,000 students since December 2008. The technology replaces the manual attendance tracking that faculty previously had to perform for each class session and for each student. With RFID-enabled plastic ID card personalization and integration of digital ID camera photo identification solutions, schools can move from a handwritten to an automated approach. Smart access ID card solutions deliver a new level of accountability and enforcement that can help reduce the number of tardies. This wise investment of the school budget directly gives students more in-class time, while saving administrative time and money.
Streamline Library Access and Inventory Management
Campus libraries, printers and copy rooms should remain exclusive to students. With RFID ID card readers at the door, students entering a library or copy room can use their student ID card to gain access to the facility. Students can then check out books automatically, with all information recorded and loaded into the student database, eliminating the need for library checkout cards while also providing real-time information on the status of overdue books. Schools can use this information to lock students out of privileges until they return the books or deduct the book cost from the student’s debit fund.
Expand Paid Services
Electronic Payment for Food, Beverages and Bookstores
While on campus, students not only fill their minds, but also their stomachs. Students can load their multi-use ID cards with meal credits, allowing the use of ID cards like a debit card, at vending machines and in dining halls. ID cards can include a pre-paid spending account that students can use to make purchases at student stores and food service locations, as well as at school events. Parents and students can access accounts online to view transactions, add funds and establish automatic allowances. The benefits extend well beyond food and beverage purchases. Students can also use their smart ID cards to purchase books, pay for temporary parking on campus and resolve parking citations.
Expand Off-Campus Affiliate Programs
The large student populations at universities and college campuses fill the surrounding community with a captive consumer audience. Smart ID cards bring the campus and community together to generate value-added opportunities for local stores, restaurants and service providers when students use their school ID cards as retail and restaurant loyalty cards. Students can use their ID cards on or off campus and accrue credits and incentives for further purchases. Affiliate programs can also extend outside the local community into large franchises. When coupled with customer relationship management (CRM) databases, smart card purchases can provide valuable data for marketing metrics, enhancing affiliate programs even further.
Smart Card Printing Technologies
All the access card technologies described in this paper, including barcode, RFID, magnetic stripe, smart card, graphics and photo security features, can be printed on demand, wherever and whenever. Switching from pre-printed access cards, temporary ID cards and passes to on-demand ID card printing systems provides an immediate benefit by removing the worries related to managing and securing costly materials.
A barcode is the most widely used data storage format for security printing applications, and RFID is the fastest growing one. Common linear barcodes easily meet most needs for encoding visitor and employee ID cards. Two-dimensional (2-D) barcodes can encode significantly more text than linear codes and store digitized photos, graphics, fingerprint files and other biometric data. Smart card RFID ID card printing solutions provide multiple encoding and security technologies, including ID card holograms and magnetic stripes.
ID Card Printers
Digital plastic ID card printers offer the ability to create custom ID cards tailored to any application, at the point of issuance. System administrators can invalidate lost or stolen cards and issue replacements immediately. Unlike traditional ID card systems that lacked customization and which required time consuming photo processing, cutting and laminating, today’s digital print-on-demand (POD) ID card systems enable completely automated production of highly customized, secure ID cards. A wide variety of ID card printers exist to meet user needs, including high-duty cycle models for applications that require the printing of thousands of ID cards annually, such as at large universities and institutions.
Digitally printed plastic ID cards provide numerous technological features but start with a blank plastic ID card customizable with any combination of artwork, graphics, text, digital photographs, barcodes, logos and more. The ID card printer can encode additional machine readable information such as magnetic stripes and smart card chips. The image quality of plastic photo ID cards produced with digital ID card printing technology is far superior and tamper resistant compared to those produced through the traditional method of trimming printed photos and laminating them onto the ID card. Different ID card materials and overlaminates provide additional protection from tampering.
Magnetic stripe ID cards carry more data than standard barcodes but require media that costs more. Card issuers can stock blank magnetic stripe ID cards and encode them on demand as needed. RFID enabled smart cards can hold the most data of any medium, up to 100 times more than a magnetic stripe ID card, and often include a processor chip that enables multiple applications. Multifunction smart ID cards offer several easy and cost effective ways for campuses to raise the level of protection and quality of education. Today’s smart access ID card technologies provide superior range and read performance, enabling educational institutions to improve efficiency and security at multiple levels.
Print-on-demand ID card printers can create secure staff and student ID cards so campuses can maintain a safe learning environment. With ID cards ranging from basic functionality to smart cards, schools can streamline records management, simplify class registration and attendance, and control access to secure areas. Fast throughput of student ID cards allows on-demand, in-house ID card printing to serve students faster and as needed. With smart ID cards and POD solutions, parents and faculty alike can gain peace of mind knowing that their students and campuses are protected. Educators can now do more with less, while creating new opportunities to enhance the educational experience.
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