Throughout the UK education system, smart card technology is providing schools, colleges and universities with a wide range of innovative solutions. The benefits it brings include reduced staff workloads, increased security and improvements to services. Here are six of the main advantages smart cards are delivering.
- Robust ID verification
The carrying of visual identification by staff and students is now commonplace throughout the UK education system, enabling everyone to know the identity and role of the people they come across. The use of smart cards makes ID far more secure as they can hold additional information, such as biometric data, which prevents fake or stolen ID being used.
Indeed, as the data is not stored on the chip but on the system, even if someone found or stole a card, they wouldn’t be able to access, copy or modify any personal data. In this sense, smart card technology provides watertight authentication.
Aside from ID, smart cards can also be used to access a wide range of other important personal data, such as emergency contact details, medical information and educational records.
- Smarter ways to record attendance and punctuality
Recording and monitoring the attendance and punctuality of students is vital from a safeguarding perspective as well as providing useful data to prevent students from falling behind. However, it is also an administrative burden. Over the course of a school year, countless hours of teaching time are wasted taking registers and this can have an impact on student progress.
Smart card technology can reduce the burden on staff, free up teaching time and give real-time data on student location. Simply by installing smart card readers at school entrances and by room doors, the process of recording the arrival of a student, together with the time, can be simplified. All the students need to do is tap their cards on the reader. This way, attendance personnel will know which students have arrived in school safely and attended lessons on time and discover those who have not.
Further safeguarding advantages are to be gained through the use of attendance software that can send text messages to parents when students are absent or trigger alerts if students play truant during school time. In this way, staff can respond far quicker, reducing the potential of the student coming to harm.
- Greater control over access
Access control is a key part of safeguarding and the issuing of smart cards makes it possible for education establishments to control who can get into the premises. Not only does this provide a secure way to ensure only authorised people can enter, it also brings a range of additional advantages.
One of the main advantages of smart cards is that they can be programmed to work on a person to person basis, enabling individuals to be given their own unique set of authorisations, for example, students can be denied access to staff-only areas and rooms housing data storage can be blocked to everyone except IT technicians. At the same time, to prevent overcrowding on narrow school corridors, cards can be used to prevent access to potentially hazardous routes at busy times.
- Safer IT use
Smart cards can also be used for logical access, ensuring that when someone logs onto the IT system, their identity is verified. This prevents users from logging in with someone else’s password and gaining access to information that they are not authorised to. Just like with access control, establishments can use smart cards to give access to different areas of the network, for example, limiting the websites students are allowed to visit or restricting all but essential staff from accessing personal data.
- The ease of cashless vending
Replacing cash with cashless vending brings many benefits for educational establishments and has become very popular across the UK. Using prepaid, top-up smart cards helps to reduce queues and speed up service during the ever-shorter lunch breaks that schools are now adopting and it prevents cash from getting lost or stolen. It also eliminates the tallying of takings, which can significantly ease the burden on finance staff.
Using smart cards, parents or students can top up the card online or use a cash top-up machine. Payments can then be made simply by tapping the card on a card reader at the checkout. This can be done across the campus: in the canteen, at vending machines, photocopiers, stationery stores and so forth.
The other benefit is that the school, parents and students can be informed of what is being purchased and how much it costs. This enables establishments to have a better understanding of inventory, shows parents if their child is eating too much junk food and helps university students monitor their finances.
- Convenient resource management
Smart card technology is increasingly being used to automate the booking of educational resources. Linking an individual’s card to the IT system enables staff and students to book rooms, equipment and other resources more conveniently. They are also being used as library and printing cards and can even be programmed to reserve parking spaces.
Summing up Smart cards and NFC readers, like those available from Universal Smart Cards, are transforming the UK’s schools, colleges and universities. Their adoption improves safeguarding, reduces administration, gives greater control over access and makes daily life much more convenient for staff and students alike.