One aspect of campus card technology that I have always enjoyed is incorporating new and upcoming technology into our product. College students seem to adapt to and embrace new technology so easily. This allows us to try innovative new ideas that provide enhanced services to the students and really push the envelope.
One technology that can be an integrated into a campus card program is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) or Bluetooth Smart. BLE is a wireless personal area network technology designed to facilitate communication between devices with reduced power consumption. BLE allows the communication distance to be selected which allows for the exchange of data from as close as one (1) inch to as far as 200 feet, depending upon the application and device.
One way to communicate to smartphones with BLE is through the use of a BLE Beacon. These are low cost devices that can be placed where needed and will connect to smartphones to push data or provide information.
BLE is used in many industries and is often seen in healthcare, home entertainment, or home automation. BLE can connect devices to perform a number of functions such as tracking your fitness routine (how many steps you took in one day) or connecting home automation applications (security cameras, lights, garage door openers). The ability to connect devices and exchange information is endless.
On college campuses across the country, many students are already using BLE as part of their daily lives through fitness devices, headphones, and to exchange data between their mobile devices. There are so many areas of campus card technology that can be improved using BLE.
One area that can be enhanced is your campus marketing. Imagine that, as a student enters the cafeteria, they receive a push to their phone with today’s soup of the day or are prompted to send their campus card credential for quicker check out. Or, as they pass by the campus box office, they receive a schedule of upcoming concerts or athletic events.
Access control is also a great use for BLE. To enhance our OneCard Mobile application, Heartland has been working with BLE Beacons to allow students to passively deliver their credentials to door readers, unlocking the doors as they approach. Additionally, HID Global has released a BLE enabled solution that allows the use of a mobile credential within the student’s smartphone to unlock the door by simply tapping the door reader or giving a twist of the phone from a distance.
Some people have asked if BLE has hindered the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) or if there will be a shift away from NFC to BLE. Personally, I think that it is not an either/or situation because the technologies complement each other. When a student wants to have more control over when they receive information, they can select NFC, because devices need to be in a close proximity which requires a more active role by the student. NFC does tend to be more suited for financial transactions because of the level of encryption and security that is inherent in the use of NFC. Additionally, there are a number of NFC-enabled readers already deployed for payments.
Bottom line — BLE is a great technology that can assist in adding or enhancing service to your campus card program. Be sure to keep an eye out for new products and enhancements. Don’t be surprised if your students are soon asking for BLE on your campus.