New IDs, door locks incompatible

The new student ID cards that Portland State students will bereceiving this November will not initially be compatible with manyof the door locks located around campus.

The new cards are not currently able to accommodate the radioproximity door locks that secure over a hundred offices, computerlabs and residence halls around the university.

The new ID cards, provided by the company HigherOne, have theability to function as a debit card, and resemble any otherMasterCard debit card.

A tiny radio coil that is woven through the inside of thecurrent ID system allows them to work with the door locks. Thecard-reading pads outside of the doors transmit a weak radiosignal. When the pads detect the radio coil in the ID, they receiveidentifying information from the coil and then determine whether ornot to unlock the door by checking the information on a computerserver.

The compatibility problem with the new IDs lies with how theyare manufactured. Unlike the current cards in the system, which areflat pieces of plastic, debit cards, like the ones provided byHigherOne are pressed in a machine, creating raised numbers andletters on the card.

The delicate radio coil, which must be imbedded in the card, istoo fragile to withstand the pressing of the card necessary tocreate the raised characters, said Mike Gipson, resource andsecurity manager, who maintains the proximity locks at PSU.

HigherOne is working with the card manufacturer to find a way toincorporate the radio coils into their card design and already hasa prototype, said Dee Wendler, director of business affairs at PSU.However, a mass-produced model will not likely be available untilfall of 2005.

Until then, students will have to hang on to their old ID cardsin order to access the proximity locks around campus, Gipsonsaid.

According to Wendler, the administration at PSU was aware thethat the radio coils would not yet be available in the new cardswhen they signed the contract with HigherOne, but also knew thatthe company was developing the technology.

“We didn’t think it was too much of an issue,” Wendler said. “Wewould much rather that they take their time to perfect it.”

Another option would be to change the door lock readers to amagnetic stripe reading type, which the HigherOne cards are alreadycompatible with, according to Gipson, but this would be difficultbecause the proximity card and magnetic stripe reading technologiesare not compatible with each other.

“If you want to make the investment, you can have both cardswork, but it will be costly,” Gipson said.

Portland State will be installing a few of the swipe readers,though, mostly in the heavily-used computer labs located in campusresidence halls, said Wendler.