Identification cards have served college campuses well over the years, allowing students to do everything from gaining access to buildings to eating in the dining halls to charging purchases in the campus store. Soon, however, advances in technology may make the ID card obsolete.
With fingerprint readers and iris cameras already basic components in smartphones, some colleges and universities are working on ways to put those features to work. Campus stores are already experimenting with low-energy Bluetooth beacons to offer shoppers discounts as they enter. Advances in hand-geometry readers, which identify the shape of a user’s hand, are also on the horizon.
The University of Georgia, Athens, will allow students to enroll in a system that uses iris authentication to enter dining halls and the student center. Georgia Southern University in Statesboro has used iris cameras to control entry into dining halls since 2013 and has found data gained from the technology useful.
“If we have a freshman who’s living on campus and required to have a dining plan, and suddenly we see the student’s not coming in anymore—what’s going on?” said Richard Wynn, director of Eagle Card services at Georgia Southern. “We can actually alert housing staff and let them know we haven’t seen that student in a while and they can actually go check on them.”
Iris authentication could also be used for entry into residence halls, the library, and sports venues, providing the institution an idea of how individual students spend their day. That sort of information would be valuable in university marketing efforts, yet it also brings up privacy concerns.
“These aren’t scanners,” Bryan Varin, executive director of UGA dining services, said of hand-geometry readers and iris cameras. “Both of them are simply taking a picture and ending up with a mathematical equation that grants you entry.”