What’s That Tapping?

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. ‘Tis some visitor, I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door—Only this, and nothing more.’

Forgive me for going all Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” there for a moment, but Poe’s famous lines kept running though my head as I was reading about how 1,300 college students were “tapping” at their doors with NFC-enabled phones, in what is being billed as the most comprehensive access control NFC trial in North America. Just as that “tapping” at Poe’s door eventually drove him insane, can you imagine 1,300 students tapping their phones against smart readers on the walls outside their dorm rooms for a month?

But in all seriousness, aside from the Poe likeness, this trial remains intriguing to me for many reasons. Up until this point we’ve seen NFC most closely associated with mobile payments, but such a trial, conducted by Ingersoll Rand Technologies and CBORD Group (which provides campus card and security solutions to colleges and universities), shows just how useful and relevant the technology can be for other things. It also comes at a time when the mobile world is really trying to push NFC hard.

If you believe the projections, nearly half of all smartphones will be NFC enabled over the next few years. That means we will need something more to do with such great technology besides using it to purchase our morning coffee.

Here are the details: Since November 2011, Villanova University students and staff have been using a Web-based service from Ingersoll Rand along with NFC and their own smartphones in place of campus cards in order to access dormitories, as well as various on-campus facilities. More specifically, three research projects were conducted among the students across a total of 980 colleges and universities across the country during the month of May 2011.

Putting such control onto a student’s smartphone might seem like a crazy idea, but given the fact that kids seem to hold their smartphone as the most important thing they carry around on a daily basis, I think it safe to say that such an idea could fly. Indeed, researchers found two-thirds of students are interested in using their smartphone rather than their ID card. If we are all already carrying around our phones wherever we go, let’s see all what we can do with the device on a daily basis.

And in this particular trial, the involvement of a company like CBORD makes absolute sense, but what about Ingersoll which is known for, among other things, making door locks? The company says that with the NFC solution, an organization may not need to change out their locks to use it when it becomes commercially available. Rather, having smart-enabled locks or smart readers installed means all that needs to be done is to download the credentials to the students’ phones.

Again, this trial remains intriguing to me in the fact it promotes the idea of NFC on new fronts. This past Mobile World Congress, NFC was all the buzz, but most of the announcements centered the idea of mobile payments. Perhaps NFC is starting to become pigeon holed into the realm of mobile payments. What about all the other great things the technology can enable?

The tapping for access control, as evidenced by this trial, could be the next big thing. I could only imagine what it must have sounded like on a Friday night at one of those campuses with thousands of students coming home and tapping their phones against the wall. It might have been enough to drive a man insane … but I will cut it off here before I go all Poe on you again. Nevermore.

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