Mobile Communications

Rise of digital wallets forces student ID card to go mobile

Students already use a variety of apps to help them with their busy schedules, revision and even blocking social media distractions. But the transition to digital wallets as seen with Apple Pay and Google Wallet is now also making an impact in education.

The International Student Identity Card Organization (ISIC) is behind the internationally accepted student ID card and lets over five million students globally access 42,000 discounts around the world. In a drive to become more ‘mobile’ it has now chosen mobility company DMI to replace the student ID card with a mobile app.

We catch up with Magnus, Jern, President of DMI’s Mobile Application Solutions Division and James Tjan, Senior Product Manager Mobile at ISIC over email to find out more.


Why did ISIC decide to replace the student ID card with a mobile app?

ISIC firmly believes that the transformation to a digital wallet is inevitable, as evidenced by the success of initiatives like Apple Pay and Google Wallet in markets where they have been made available. Currently, the trend toward a digital wallet has been most visible in the payment and loyalty card sectors.

More recently, ISIC has noted that across the globe there are myriad pilots being announced by both the public and private sectors in bringing official IDs like driver’s licences and passports into the digital wallet space. As the global leader in student identity cards, ISIC wants to be an innovator and early adopter in facilitating the digital wallet for students.

The student demographic is embracing new mobile technologies more enthusiastically than any other age group. We believe that offering an ISIC Mobile ID will increase the convenience for our student cardholders and enable a greater range of value-add services for them to enjoy.

Initially, ISIC will be phasing in a Mobile ID to co-exist alongside the current plastic student ID card. ISIC foresees that it will be a few years before the Mobile ID has reached a critical mass of penetration globally within its diverse student user base, such that it can fully “replace” the current plastic student ID card of ISIC. So initially students will be issued both a plastic card and a Mobile ID to use interchangeably.


What security measurements have been implemented to keep student details secure?

Robust security features are being integrated in the ISIC mobile platform to keep student details secure. These measures include two-step password authentication coupled to the student’s email account, time-limited encrypted tokens and even an option for fingerprint authentication on higher-end mobile devices for which it is available.

As per the above security measures, someone gaining access to a student’s phone won’t be able to access the Mobile ID without knowledge of the secured password. If their phone is stolen, the student can of course use the available device manufacturer features like Apple’s iCloud activation lock to safeguard all their mobile user data. They can also log-in to their online ISIC profile to change their password as an additional security precaution.


Which devices will the app be available on?

The ISIC Mobile ID can be activated and used across any one of the three ISIC mobile platforms now being built. Two options are the iPhone app and an Android app. The third option is a mobile-optimised website on which the ISIC Mobile ID is also available. ISIC’s mobile website is OS agnostic, meaning that it will work on any mobile device – including a Windows phone.  


What features will students be able to access?

The first mobile product release is primarily geared toward giving students an easy and searchable overview of the offers and discounts available across the globe, both in list and map views. Students can also create their personal list of favourites for easy future reference. And as I mentioned, an ISIC Mobile ID with a secure personal profile will form a core feature of the first mobile product release.


Any plans to implement more features in the future?

We will definitely be implementing many more useful features in the future. Current plans include the integration of social media sharing, being able to find and meet up other ISIC travellers in the same destination. We also plan to develop a feature whereby students can earn rewards via a mobile ‘crowdsource’ programme to enable students to encourage restaurants and stores around their schools to sign up to become an ISIC discount partner.


What’s the next step? Could students start getting tracked?

ISIC has academic partnerships with more than 1,000 educational institutions worldwide, whereby the plastic ISIC card is co-branded and doubles as their official student ID on campus. Many of these ISIC academic co-brand cards are equipped with an embedded RFID chip to give students access to specific school buildings, borrow books on account from the library, or pay for their meals at the student cafeteria. These educational institutions obviously already keep track of student information as part of their usual campus security and database administration.

The future of the ISIC Mobile ID will be to mirror this same academic co-brand card functionality via the student’s smartphone. ISIC foresees that the growing availability of NFC chips on new mobile devices will gradually enable such academic co-brand plastic cards to be substituted by ISIC’s Mobile ID.

The ‘tracking’ vis-à-vis the current plastic RFID card solution won’t materially change as a result, because identical student services are being facilitated. It goes without saying that ISIC and its partners strictly adhere to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (or comparable national data privacy legislation) in respect of any personal cardholder information collected via the current plastic card. The same will hold true for the new Mobile ID.


Also read:

Amazon-style “data perfecting” at university to follow students for life?


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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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