Universities Implement Touchless Technology for Student Dining

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless dining and payment options at universities are on the rise, especially in high-traffic areas. Smartphone apps and biometric readers give students easy and safe dining hall access.

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Image credit: IDEMIA

Nearly every student has a smartphone, and universities are finding new ways students can use them. Driven by pandemic-related concerns, student dining has been overhauled, and the changes are making access to student meals easier, safer, and contactless. 

Some universities have partnered with food delivery services to provide students with to-go dining options. Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison can use Grubhub to order food for pick-up at various campus locations. The Grubhub app is linked to the student’s dining plan and there are no additional fees for using Grubhub through the university. 

Another popular app is GET Mobile, created by Ithaca, NY-based CBORD. It provides easy and contactless dining access at hospitals and universities. Students at the University of North Dakota use the GET app to scan into dining halls rather than swiping in with an ID card. Students also can use the app to order food for pick-up and pay at on-campus cafes. The app links to the students’ dining plans, so they can see how many swipes they have left and how much money remains in their dining dollars accounts. It also includes the student’s photo, which must be shown when entering a dining hall. 

 

New Wave Access

Not all universities will ask students to wave a smartphone to gain access to meals. The University of Maryland (UMD) wants students to wave a hand. UMD introduced biometric technology to its dining halls in 2016, so it was well prepared for COVID-19 challenges and changes. The university worked with CBORD and its French partner, IDEMIA, to bring IDEMIA’s MorphoWave devices to campus. The MorphoWave biometric readers use 3D fingerprint technology to identify an individual. 

To enter a dining facility, students wave their hand above the MorphoWave’s sensor, and the device scans their four fingers. If verified, the student’s name appears on the screen and a speaker inside the device reads “access granted,” prompting the turnstile to open. If the student does not have an active meal plan, the device would deny access and the turnstile would not open. The process is touchless and takes less than one second. There is a timed pass-back function within the device to prevent two people from entering with one student’s scan. This technology allows for fast and hygienic entry, especially during the pandemic. 

The MorphoWave can be used both indoors and outdoors and can connect to turnstiles, doors, and speedgates. Prior to use, students enroll in the Biometric Entry system at UMD by scanning their hands at a registration location. Students’ fingerprints are then connected to their dining account so a student ID is not required for dining hall access. 

Secure and Touchless Access Control

To ensure student privacy, only coded data is stored, not fingerprint images. For further security, MorphoWave can support two-factor authentication, which requires the individual to wave their hand above the sensor and or scan a badge. Alternatively, the student can also enter a PIN code on the device’s touchscreen. The embedded card reader supports Prox, iClass, MIFARE, DESFire, and PIN codes, and can scan QR codes on badges and smartphones. MorphoWave uses Power Over Ethernet+ or DC for power sources and supports Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or 4G connectivity. 

To ensure student safety, universities are using a variety of touchless technologies for campus activities, specifically dining. Touchless technology is easy to use, efficient, and hygienic, all of which are important amid the pandemic. 

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