Florida State University, which has been leading the charge on high- tech campus identification cards, opened a card research and training center on its campus in Tallahassee.
The goals of the card application technology center are to teach other schools how to establish their own programs, to advance the technology, and to extend the use of such cards to other sectors, including state agencies.
The university launched its student card program in 1990, to help reduce administrative costs. The program has become one of the most sophisticated of its kind; now the school wants to peddle its expertise.
Florida State's card pros have traveled to more than 300 schools, providing advice on how to establish such programs. And the university has hosted about 100 seminars, which typically run two or three days. The opening of the center formalizes what the school has been doing for some time.
Bill Norwood, the executive director of the center, estimates that at least 30 schools have modeled existing or planned card programs after the Florida State system.
The center is funded by a variety of sources including private and state grants, the university, and MCI Communications, which is working with the center in an advisory capacity. Washington-based MCI also offers calling card services to Florida State card users.
Profits generated by the seminars are generally poured back into the center, but the University could allocate them elsewhere, said Mr. Norwood.
In the larger world of credit cards, Florida State has not broken new ground in terms of developing new technologies, said Jerome Svigals, a Redwood City, Calif.-based consultant specializing in smart cards, which carry computer chips.
But the school is blazing a trail in the world of academia, where the use of campus identification cards that double as a cash and banking card is taking off.
"I think the technology may have been around for many years, but it was not very successful. We have reapplied the technology in new ways, and are busily exploring as close to the cutting edge as possible," said Mr. Norwood.
The center is examining smart card technology in the hopes of adding a chip to its card.
Florida State's FSUcard, which is used by more than 40,000 students, professors and employees, has a photo of the user and two magnetic stripes.
Cards with two magnetic stripes have been in use for at least 20 years, pointed out Mr. Svigals.
One stripe on the FSUcard is used to load cash amounts to use at various locations on the campus that have card readers, like the laundry room, vending machines and the library. The other stripe is used as a bank debit card, which is administered by Tallahassee State Bank. The stripe also stores students' school identification numbers.
Students can use the debit portion of the FSUcard in the Honor automated teller machine network and in Visa's Plus network.
Since last November, through a partnership with MCI, students have been able to register for classes over the telephone.
MCI and Florida State have also collaborated on another project, involving kiosks that allow students to access their personal records, get directions to classrooms, and print out transcripts.
The partners plan to install 20 such kiosks, 10 on the campus and 10 in central areas of the community, like shopping malls.
To access personal information from the kiosk, students must use their FSUcard and punch in their personal identification number.
Printing out a student transcript, for example, would cost a student 75 cents that is deducted from the magnetic stripe on which cash is stored.
Eventually the partners want to enable cardholders to purchase catalog merchandise from merchants that advertise on the kiosk screen.
Future plans also call for the kiosks to allow students to register for classes, pay their tuition, purchase tickets to Florida State games, and buy school parking decals.
Presently, students can use the kiosks to access a digital map of buildings on the campus, and a video tour featuring the history of Florida State.