According to a recent study by J Turner Research, 84 percent of Millennials said that the most important community amenity to them was security.
So it would only make sense that secure building access is considered a high priority for those responsible for putting a roof over Millennial heads. And one of the newest tech trends being tested in student housing is near field communications (NFC) technology. NCF essentially allows students to gain access to their dorm rooms and other campus buildings using only a downloadable app and a tap of their mobile phones against a receiver to unlock doors.
In August 2011, Arizona State University (ASU) partnered with HID Global to test the benefits of converting from traditional student housing keycards to NFC-enabled smartphones to gain entry into a residence hall. The motivation behind the pilot program was simple: while students often left their rooms without their key cards, or lost them altogether, they almost always made sure they had their mobile phone with them at all times.
NFC chips are embedded in student’s mobile phones and each student has a unique identification credential. According to the case study, nearly 79 percent of students said that using a mobile phone to unlock the door was as convenient, or more convenient, than using traditional key cards.
“There’s always going to be a tug and pull between security and convenience,” said Debra Spitler, vice president of mobile access solutions for HID Global.
Spitler says there are security advantages to using a smartphone for access control. For instance, using a phone as a key offers an extra layer of security that a keycard or traditional key can’t. If the phone is lost, the NFC chip’s identity credential can be remotely disabled to prevent a would-be thief from gaining access to a student building. Plus, cell phones can be password-protected.
“NFC is still very new so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to build up an ecosystem,” said Spitler. "But the general consensus is that the more variety of applications that come out, and the more phones enabled with NFC technology that are developed, the more widespread NFC adoption will become."
More recently, Ingersoll Rand and CBORD partnered with Villanova University to test a large NFC access control pilot program and found that students who participated in the trial overwhelmingly gave the access technology thumbs up. More than 70 percent preferred using smartphones to access dorms. And the latest adopter of the tech trend is the University of San Francisco, which successfully completed the roll-out of NFC building access and laundry payment technology in June.
So as NFC access control and other smartphone-based security measures gain more traction, students who become acclimated to the technology will come to expect the same convenience and security in off-campus student housing. So it’s a trend student housing owners and property managers would be wise to be aware of.