Long Island University Campus Goes Touch-Free with Mobile Access NFC

By Claire Swedberg

Students and personnel, leveraging technology from Transact, can conduct business ranging from purchasing meals to printing copies, checking out books, and accessing dorm rooms or labs using their mobile phones.

Students at  Long Island University (LIU) are taking advantage of a mobile-access and payment solution this year that spares them from handling ID cards or touching screens or other surfaces. The MyLIU Mobile Card system provides them with access to services on campus, ranging from library book checkout to meal purchases and dorm entrance, via the tap of their smartphone. The system, provided by payment-solutions company  Transact, is also being used by the campus staff and faculty.

The solution consists of Near Field Communication (NFC) readers that read and forward data from users' phones, as well as Transact's app that manages the collected read data for each transaction, while enabling Google Pay and Apple Pay transactions. LIU is the latest college to adopt the technology as administrations aim to make transactions more convenient for mobile-dependent students and personnel, and with fewer touchpoints, says Dan Gretz, Transact's senior director. Starting this school year, LIU began offering its MyLIU single sign-on app based on the Transact application, and it has deployed Transact's NFC readers at point-of-sale and access sites to capture the unique ID number from each user's phone.

LIU is a private university with campuses in Brooklyn and Brookville, New York. It serves 15,000 students and employs 1,400 faculty and staff members. Traditionally, each student had an ID card, and employees carried their own badges, all of which could be used for identification, library access and other services. In 2014, the college deployed an NFC version of its ID card system. NFC chips compliant with the ISO 14443 standard were built into each card, which transmit at 13.56 MHz when interrogated by a reader. "We issued every student, faculty and administrator an NFC-based ID that allowed services via a physical ID card," says George Baroudi, LIU's VP of information technology.

Like other colleges, LIU closed its campus last year due to COVID-19 and instead offered classes online. For the 2020-2021 academic year, LIU has reopened with in-person classes, but it has also provided accommodations to students unable to attend in person. For instance, classrooms were outfitted with technology enabling students to stream classes online.

The university sought technology-based solutions that would better ensure the safety of its students and personnel on campus. Since nearly every individual onsite carries a smartphone in their pocket, the university opted for an app-based system that built services directly via the phone. "The MyLIU Mobile Card provided another opportunity to enhance our thorough campus safety measures," Baroudi states, "by limiting physical interactions between students, faculty and staff during the pandemic."

George Baroudi

Transact provides its solutions to colleges across North America. With each deployment, Gretz says, the technology company's core focus is on enabling a seamless experience for students and personnel on college campuses. LIU launched its MyLIU app employing Transact's credential-management solution. When students activate their account for the first time, they are asked to follow a set of procedures to upload a photo of themselves, as well as proper proof of their identity, such as a driver's license.

The system validates students' and employees' identification and active status at the school. Users' IDs are activated for their phone virtually, after which they can add their credentials to their Apple Wallet or Google Pay account in order to automate payments. Each student also activates the two-factor authentication sign-in mechanism. As individuals go about their day, they use their phones as a key to access secured facilities and equipment, as a payment card for services, and as visual identification when necessary.

At all campus cash registers, LIU accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay purchases. "The relationship between the credit card and the cash registers is maintained by our partners at Apple and Google," Baroudi says. While the digital student IDs, Apple Wallet or Google Pay can be used for closed-loop payments and building access around campus, and LIU also supports open-loop mobile payments on those platforms. However, the digital ID includes its own wallet in the Transact application that can be associated with a specific person's meal plan, or with an account deposited by a student, parents or other family members.

LIU has additionally deployed access-control devices with NFC readers throughout both residential campuses in Brooklyn and Brookville. The campuses have safety checkpoints as well, where the phones can be used for identification and access purposes. In some cases, mobile readers in the form of tablets or smartphones can be used, such as at gymnasiums and sporting events.

Dan Gretz

One key requirement for the university was that the data be private and secure. Colleges must adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations, Baroudi explains, so the MyLIU data is considered privileged and confidential based on FERPA. Additionally, two-factor authentication helps secure each user's digital ID. Long Island University chose to use a  Cisco Duo dual-authentication factor system. "We hold ourselves to the highest standard in maintaining the best security practices and protocols to protect our community's personal information and data," Baroudi states.

Since the system was launched at both Long Island campuses, the rest of the LIU community has been making the switch from physical ID cards to mobile-based digital IDs. "The students love it," Baroudi reports. "Their physical wallets are much thinner." Many have been using the system with their Apple Watch to open gates and doors, he adds, or to make transactions at a dining hall or campus store.

Transact has been offering NFC-based systems since 2010, Gretz says. In late 2018, the company launched a solution with Apple to enable students to make payments with their Apple Wallet. Early last year, the company launched similar functionality with Google Pay. Since then, schools across the country have deployed the solution for various features. The system is designed to be deployed quickly, usually within about 90 days. Early adopters in 2018 included the University of Alabama, Duke University and the University of Oklahoma.

According to Gretz, further growth has been driven by students' expectations. "Universities are responding to heightened expectations student have of having access at their fingertips," he says. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, schools are now seeking ways to make transactions more contactless, in order to be able to bring students back on campus safely. Demand for the solution has been growing, Gretz notes, as universities are responding to demands from students to have technology available to them, along with the pressures related to COVID-19 safety.

Traditionally, new students undergo an orientation process in the summer before classes start, at which time they collect their student IDs. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, many schools have been seeking the ability to provide mobile credentials without requiring in-person interactions. "When we deploy at a school," Gretz says, "we are enabling elimination of the physical card. For every use case where cards would have been accepted, we're enabling mobile credentials." Universities can manage the credentials and authorize new users, as well as revoke access for those not enrolled.

"The reality is that today's college student expects to have all services made available to them via their mobile phone," Gretz says, "and that's the experience we're enabling." LIU has deployed all the features offered in the solution, he adds. Transact sells its own readers and also operates with third-party hardware. "As a leader in technological innovation," Baroudi states, "we are proud to provide our community with every available tool to make the campus experience safe, secure and enjoyable."

 

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