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Swipe no more: the contactless Irish1Card

| Monday, August 27, 2018

The future is here and it is contactless.

The Irish1Card system — the new ID cards for students, faculty and staff that include contactless technology — is in the final stages of implementation, Daniel Tormey, program director of Irish1Card, said.

As of this summer, all residential halls, dining halls and on-campus point-of-sale locations are equipped with contactless card readers, Gina Grear, the Irish1Card project manager, said. Some residence hall laundry card machines and vending machines on campus still solely use magnetic strip readers, but those will be updated over time, Tormey said.

The Irish1Card initiative has been in the works since before 2016, Tormey said. Before that, Notre Dame’s card system originated as a branch of food services in the mid-nineties in the basement of South Dining Hall. As technology evolved over the years, the need for an updated and streamlined identification card program was realized. Though magnetic strip cards are reliable and inexpensive, they are considered less secure than contactless ones, Tormey said. The Irish1Card system was put in place to provide more sophisticated functionality, with features such as allowing the card to have different meal plans and the contactless payment method.

“We’re trying to get people used to using the contactless reader in this phase because it’s more secure,” Tormey said. “We also recognize that whether it’s a student cardholder or employee there’s still a transition time.”

Before developing the Irish1Card program, Notre Dame observed peer institutions including Villanova University and University of Pennsylvania and attended national conferences, Grear said.

The redistribution of cards to everyone at a university can take from five to 10 years, Tormey said, and is usually done by phasing out the old cards with each graduating class. However, Notre Dame utilized an “aggressive” re-carding campaign on campus, and replaced all student, faculty and staff cards in the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters.

In total, about 25,000 cards were replaced.

“We’re in a good place now,” Tormey said. “We’re pushing and being innovative in ways that other schools are very interested in what Notre Dame is doing with our ID card program.”

This year’s incoming students uploaded pictures for their cards on “Get,” an app used in the Irish1Card, and received Irish1Cards from their residential halls upon moving in. Tormey recommends that all students, faculty and staff download the app, as it can also be used to add funds to your Domer Dollar account, report your current card as lost or re-activate it if found, access card transaction history and lists locations that accept the ID card. For example, Tormey said many students and faculty may be unaware that Irish1Cardholders have access to the South Bend bus service for free.

Tormey expects the program to continue introducing innovative ways to use the new card technology. One such program, NDtogo, will utilize the mobile food ordering app ‘Tapingo’ for campus dining locations such as Starbucks. Students will be able to link their Irish1Card to the app and order ahead for pickup. 

More information regarding this program will be released in the next few weeks, Tormey said.

“Those are the types of services that we would have struggled to be able to do with the old system and the old way we did things,” Tormey said. “I think that’s one of the most beneficial things from a student perspective.”

Though not a core priority of the Irish1Card program team, there is also a longer-term plan in place to eventually provide all individual residential hall rooms with contactless card entry, Tormey said, which has already been implemented in Flaherty and Dunne. Other future innovations could even include mobile technology or event biometric readers. Some schools, including Georgia Southern University, identify students through eye or hand scanners for entry to dining halls, he said.

Installation work will continue for vending and laundry, Tormey said, but the Irish1Card project meetings will wrap up towards the end of this year.

“The card is one of those things that as long as it’s working right, people don’t really think about it,” he said. “My goal is to maintain a consistent level of service so people don’t really have to think about it.”

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