Contactless Q-card increasing

By on April 10, 2012

Beyond the blue tarps and chain-link fencing that surrounds construction at Quinnipiac, a more subtle project continues to be in the works.

The university has been transitioning its Q-card readers to Blackboard’s Sony FeliCa card system, which uses a contactless card reader, replacing the previous magnetic strip system.

Quinnipiac first began to transition to the contactless card readers in May 2011. Since then, approximately 70 percent of the university has transitioned to the Blackboard system, said Sandip Patel, a financial systems specialist at Quinnipiac.

“We went with contactless because that’s the way the industry is moving. We had the opportunity to start moving in this direction and we took it,” Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services John Meriano said in a CR80News online article.

The new Q-cards were an interesting change for students, but it was well-received.

“What I like best about the contactless ‘tap’ system is that you do not necessarily have to take your card out in order to get in the building,” sophomore Kelly Leavitt said. “I can keep it in my clutch and the card will tap through it, making it so much easier when I have a lot of things to carry or am in a rush.”

While there is no firm completion date, the university is phasing the system on all of the university’s campuses, which includes nearly 5,000 interior doors and 180 exterior doors, Patel said. Currently, all points of sale, including 55 vending machines and 15 laundry locations, have been converted.

The main reason for phasing in the system over a period is due to the high cost of the technology, Meriano said.

While the final cost of the Blackboard technology is currently unknown, most of the cost was budgeted into an annual maintenance agreement, according to Patel.

“With any system upgrades, there is to be expected a bump or two, but overall, the installation was seamless,” Patel said.

One of those early bumps was that only one reader could be plugged in at a time at each register in the cafeteria, according to the CN80News article.

“This is an issue with the firmware on the NCR registers we use,” Patel said. “Blackboard is working on resolving the issue for us. In the meantime, the cashiers have placed the readers in the center so it can be utilized by both sides of the line.”

Even with this minor glitch, students have still noticed significant improvements in the cafeteria lines.

“It definitely takes less time in the cafe because the cashiers don’t have to swipe each person’s card,” freshman Marissa Maturo said.

While it may be hard for students to imagine life on campus without their Q-cards, it was not until 1987 that Quinnipiac introduced its magnetic strip Q-card, Meriano said.

Prior to 1987, students carried two documents with them: a paper meal ticket and non-photo identification card. Students could purchase one of three meal plans that provided 10, 14 or 19 meals per week, according to David Hall, a member of the Q-card office team in administrative services.

The early version of the debit-like Q-card had a validation sticker on it for meals and was only functional for doing laundry and vending. Students would return their cards at the end of the year so that new stickers could be put on for the following year. Even at this time, students still had a separate ID card.

Starting in 2000, the university implemented its off-campus merchant program which now has over 45 local stores and restaurants that accept the Q-card as a form of payment, according to the CN80News article.

“My Q-card is my lifeline. It is my ID, my money, my meals, my keys; it is everything I need in order to function at QU,” Leavitt said.

While the card’s capabilities continue to grow, it is only a matter of time until the university’s technology is equally up-to-date.

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