Q&A With the Editor—David O'Driscoll, HID Global

David O’Driscoll, senior director of Strategic Initiatives at HID Global, spoke with College Planning & Management Editor Shannon O’Connor about his thoughts on new technology that simplifying and streamlining ID card and credentials issuance on college and university campuses.

What are some of the challenges faced by colleges and universities in managing the issuance of student ID cards?
Many college and university card offices are being asked to do more with little to no additional funding—which means card offices are searching for ways to work smarter and not harder.They are investigating ways to streamline the issuance process, as the majority of student IDs are printed during registration or summer student orientation and campuses often experience long lines of students flooding their small card issuance offices. For example, how can they take the issuance process to where the students are, such as the student union or school department (i.e. business, engineering, etc.)? New student workers are being asked to assist with a complex card-issuance process, so finding solutions which require little to no training are a lifesaver. Many are turning to cloud-based issuance solutions as a result.

For campuses that use traditional on-site issuance systems, problems are often caused or exacerbated by the use of desktop computers, as they need to install the issuance application software and card printer drivers onto their computers, which typically requires the assistance of IT. In addition, many colleges and universities have satellite campuses and it’s just getting too costly to have cards printed at the main office and then shipped to the satellite offices, or too poor of an experience to ask the students to drive to the main campus.

Lastly, many universities are struggling with the issuance of smart cards and have been using an outdated and cumbersome two-step process to provide student IDs that can be used for both visual identification and access to their dorms. This two step process requires the user to first print the card and in a second step read the data from the card by either visually pulling a number that was pre-printed on the back of the card or tapping it on a desktop smart-card reader.

Are there advantages in transitioning to a cloud-based issuance system for ID cards and other credentials?
Yes, there are several advantages when moving to a cloud-based issuance system.Most notably, cloud-based issuance systems—whether implemented as a fully hosted or on-premise solution—remove the need for schools to install software, applications, and possibly print drivers onto local workstations.This means that updates to the software, printer drivers, and printer firmware are done automatically and no longer require campus IT resources for ongoing usage—saving valuable time and resources. Operators no longer need to worry about their devices not working because they don’t have the correct or updated software installed; they simply log in using their credentials.

The flexibility of the cloud also allows institutions to take the issuance process to where the students are by allowing operators to connect to the system via a web browser using a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, or any other mobile device. For example, for new student orientation, you bring in some extra laptops or tablets just for that period—scale up instantly.Not only are campuses enjoying the efficiencies and cost savings provided by cloud-based ID card issuance solutions, students and faculty members are enjoying them too. For institutions that want to maintain or improve their brand’s reputation, a process of issuing IDs at the beginning of the year that is fast and easy for students makes a great first impression.

Another challenge solved by cloud-based issuance systems surrounds the previously mentioned two-step process to issue smart cards.  The best cloud-based issuance systems enable institutions to move away from the outdated two-step process and into one, inline smart card personalization process. In an inline personalization process, users submit a card into a desktop printer equipped with an internal contactless smart card reader/writer. In one seamless step, the printer/reader personalizes the card inside and out over the network. This inline personalization process is the answer to the outdated time-consuming two-step process.

Lastly, another benefit to a cloud-based system includes remote printer activity tracking, maintenance, and diagnostics, allowing card offices to be proactive in their printer management tasks, such as cleaning a printer and replacing consumables.

How secure is a cloud-based issuance system?
Generally, these cloud-based solutions are as secure as the websites that you use to check your bank account.These systems should be secured using industry-leading encrypted certificates so the data they process are always transmitted securely and utilize a multi-layered approach to secure the solution that is designed for ease of deployment in distributed environments across both trusted and untrusted networks.Lastly, the best of the cloud-based solution should turn the card printer into a trusted edge device to ensure a trusted connection from the cloud to local printers and should only allow for transient, non-persistent personally identifiable information (PII), so as soon as the card is printed the data disappears. The good news is that there are plenty of trailblazing cloud-based solutions which manage sensitive data that cloud-based issuance systems can mimic, so while schools should do their due diligence there are certainly secure solutions out there.