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Smartcards are a smart idea

by Shannon Stollenmaier, staff writer

“It’s about time we got them,” said junior Monica McCary about HPU’s new student IDs. “A lot of other universities have cards similar to these, so I’m glad HPU caught on.”


In general, students seem to applaud the new student IDs, which feature computer chip technology enabling the cards to hold a large amount of information.

Justin Itoh, associate vice president and chief information officer for Information Technology Services, said that students have been very impressed with smartcard technology.

“ I’m excited that the university is able to provide the first campus-wide implementation of smartcard technology in the state,” said Itoh. “With its built-in capabilities, the possibilities are limitless.”

The immediate plan for the UniCard is to use it for access control. “This means that every student who enters various locations throughout the campus will show the card for entrance. We are finishing up the turnstile for the downtown computer center and will have a similar setup at the Hawai‘i Loa campus,” said Itoh.

Students have a wish list of their own. McCary would like to see the card incorporated with the bus system and would like to be able to use it at the cafeteria or various vendors on Fort Street Mall. “It will be convenient to have one card do everything,” said McCary.

Junior Sharon Gouveia would like to use her card for street parking meters. “It would be wonderful to pull up next to a parking meter, swipe my card, and go.”

Itoh said that HPU is in negotiations with O‘ahu Transit Services (OTS) which manages the public bus system, to enable students to have their UniCard charged on the bus. During the test phase, a single designated bus route would be used, and students will be asked to try out the system.

“ I envision that the bus system is only a start. We are looking for synergies in other industries. We plan on making the UniCard the only card you’ll need,” said Itoh.

Some specific UniCard functions being explored, according to Itoh, include:

§ Charging meal tickets from the dining commons
§ Charging food at the Sea Warrior Center and other local vendors
§ Better integration with the library system
§ Charging for photocopies at university locations
§ Integration of timekeeping and attendance control

Not only is the technology notable, but the professional look, security lamination, and the color and design of the card have received positive faculty and student comments, said Itoh.

“ These cards are a lot more professional,” said Gouveia. “Now, I feel like I belong to a real school. I was embarrassed when my friends from mainland universities showed me their cards, and I had to show them my elementary-school aged, laminated card.”

“ Students are also pleased that the card no longer displays a Social Security number, but rather a computer-generated number,” said Stephen Simpson, executive assistant to the President.

Students are using their cards to print from the computer center and to receive discounts from several vendors when they display their IDs. L&L Drive Inn offers a free drink with every plate ordered. Hanalei Bread & Breakfast offers students breakfast for $1.99, and Papa John’s Pizza gives a 30-percent discount on regular menu items.

It’s not too late to get in on the savings. Students who didn’t pick up their IDs earlier this semester can still get them at Meader Library downtown or Atherton Library at the Hawai‘i Loa campus, through Dec. 14.

Students found the process of getting an ID convenient and efficient.

“ I had my doubts about the ID process,” said Gouveia, “but getting my ID was actually trouble-free.”

“ Overall the processing has gone smoothly. Of course there were a few bumps in the road as is true in the adoption and implementation of any entirely new system. Most of those situations have been addressed,” said Simpson.

While students are excited about the new cards, concerns linger. “It’s great that we have an all-in-one-card, but the only thing that worries me is if I lose my card. What should I do?” asked McCary.

If a student should lose a card, Simpson said, he or she can get another one by going to either the Hawai‘i Loa or downtown campus libraries. A replacement card costs $15. The student’s ID number remains the same, but the computer chip in the old card is deactivated, and all the money and print information is transferred to the new card.

Simpson reminded students that they do not get new cards at the beginning of each term. Rather, each term they will receive a validation sticker to place on the back of the ID. See the HPU Pipeline for more information.



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