In setbacks for smart card adoption, the University of Michigan which had been one of the first colleges to give chip cards to students has reverted to magnetic stripe cards, and the University of Illinois, which had planned to adopt chip cards, has canceled that plan.
Since many smart card enthusiasts have expected that demand for chip cards would grow as more people graduated from colleges that put microprocessors in student identification cards, the moves by the two universities are significant.
The University of Michigan said the technology behind its six-year-old program had grown obsolete and updating it would be too expensive and not worth the effort. The University of Illinois said it encountered unexpected difficulties and expense in its plan to issue chip cards and concluded that the effort would not pay off.
Two universities Michigan and Florida State have been at the forefront of smart card adoption. Florida State said it would continue its program.
At the University of Michigan, more than 110,000 students, faculty, and staff members still carry chip cards, but those will gradually be replaced by magnetic stripe cards. The conversion will end one of the countrys longest-running university smart card programs.
Our system was cutting-edge in 1995, but the equipment we were using is outdated and slow, said Dave Doyle, marketing and sales coordinator for the mCard program at the university.
Though Michigan officials were intrigued by functions that vendors promised for the cards Java programs, computer authentication the upgradings required chips with far more than the 1K memory on the universitys current set of cards. It could not justify paying $3 or more per card to upgrade, before printing costs were figured in, said Mr. Doyle. Loyalty, another highly touted program for chip cards, also proved to be too expensive for the university.
Stored value had already fallen flat, he said, because of the difficulty of giving students a wide range of places to use their cards.
Pay phones and parking meters, considered prime candidates for chip cards, were outside the universitys control. Once people found out there are 18 places I can spend cash but only six take chip, why put money on a chip? said Mr. Doyle.
At the University of Illinois, we started running into all kinds of problems as we tried to implement it, said Gary N. Brinkley, director of business systems analysis at the schools office of cash management and investments. The deployment of the product is expensive, and the benefits dont outweigh the costs.
The University of Illinois program was supposed to begin last year but never got off the ground. Mr. Brinkley said problems cropped up when equipment from different vendors did not mesh well. The university also started to worry it was investing in a technology that would become obsolete.
Jack Mapes, director Danyl solutions for chip card vendor SchlumbergerSema of New York said that older programs focused on the narrow use of the smart chip for stored value, which did not prove very successful. Newer programs with multiple functions stored on the chip will work better, he predicted.
The big shift we see now is, instead of the ID card being driven by can you use it in vending machines?, now [it] is driven by the use for network security, he said. He said two University of Texas campuses are testing such programs and the University of Utah is adopting a chip card for computer sign-ons.