U of C to revamp student ID cards

By Al Gaspari

[img id=”80345″ align=”alignleft”] Networking Services & Information Technologies (NSIT) will introduce a new University of Chicago identification card at the start of the upcoming spring quarter. The new ID was designed to improve security and convenience, and both incoming students and those who replace their current card will receive the new ID.

The redesigned card incorporates technology currently in place at other peer institutions, said Greg Jackson, vice president and chief information officer at NSIT. The card will contain a radio frequency identifier (RFID) loop and a chip, similar to the technology in the Chicago Card recently introduced by the Chicago Transit Authority. Users will be able to keep their cards in their wallets and touch the card to a reader rather than swipe it .

The card will be “20 times more expensive” than the previous one, according to Mark Norem, manager of the card office. Despite the price hike, Jackson said that the additional funding was well-allocated.

“I think this is all for the good,” he said.

In addition to the technological overhaul, the new card has an updated look. It is vertical rather than horizontal, and a hole can be punched in it without interfering with the magnetic strip. It features an image of downtown Chicago and a Gothic building on the campus.

Therese Allen-Vassar, director of NSIT client relations, said that “the picture was selected in collaborations with University Publications” because it “ties together that the University of Chicago is in the city of Chicago.”

Jackson said that the development of the card was “largely being driven by building access concerns.”

Because RFID proximity readers operate without the sensitive moving parts of magnetic strip readers, the new technology can be placed on the outside of buildings without damaging the exterior.

However, Jackson said that the University expects to transition slowly to the new ID system.

“It will take a while for new readers to arrive,” Jackson said.

Each card will have an identifying ISO number and a Chicago ID number—the University’s placeholder for a social security number. Both numbers will be printed on the backside of the card along with the library barcode and student ID number, Jackson said.

Each time someone receives a card, they will receive a new ISO number.

“The chip contains only which card it is, not whose card,” Jackson said.

Jackson also downplayed concerns about the possibility of such a card being used as a tracking device.

“Some people worry that people can be watched when they carry it,” said Jackson.

He said that transponders, with their own power source, can serve this purpose, but without a power source RFIDs maintain a small to nonexistent signal and must be held close to a reader to function, nullifying the threat of remote surveillance.

“When you use electronic access, potentially a record can be generated,” Jackson said. However, he added that the University’s policy ensures that “data like that are kept very confidential.”

Jackson said that aiding a police investigation would be one instance where the University would consider legitimately releasing access records. He added that the University would evaluate these requests individually.

“That’s what lawyers are for,” he said.