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New ID Option Could Replace Plastic Cards at UVM

Digital IDs – for iPhones and Apple Watches – are now being beta tested at the University of Vermont

New technology now being tested on the University of Vermont's Burlington campus could change the way many students, faculty members and staff navigate campus — by providing a high-tech alternative to their familiar plastic ID cards.

"Everything's on your phone — this is just part of it," said Drew Meyers, a UVM junior who is serving as a beta tester for a new digital ID system coming soon to Apple device users on campus.

Meyers is one of more than 20 people at UVM now testing a system that will allow familiar student IDs, which the university calls the "CatCard," to go digital.

Virtual IDs in the Apple Wallet feature on devices will let users swipe their phones at some 3,000 sensors on campus, instead of running magnetic stripes or using chips embedded in plastic cards.

Meyers can activate public printers, access elevators in dorms, and buy food and beverages, all through his iPhone or Apple Watch.

"I think it's huge," said Mark McKenna, who heads the CatCard program for UVM.

McKenna told necn the so-called "contactless" IDs have been in the works for about a year, adding that he expects the system to be out of testing and available widely next month to people currently using CatCards.

"This is a big step towards eliminating the plastic ID," McKenna noted.

The move will add more convenience, McKenna insisted, believing students are less likely to forget their phones than their old-fashioned cards.

"I have no problem with using my CatCard, but that sounds a lot faster," UVM sophomore Sophia Garrubbo said of the upcoming contactless ID option for her iPhone.

"It's pretty convenient being able to use my phone instead of a card, because I'm afraid I'm going to lose that," added UVM freshman Kyle Benton.

"I think it's a good idea, maybe to have both," observed Emma Blahut, a junior at UVM.

Cassie Greenwood, a UVM freshman, said she plans to stick with plastic.

"I like my CatCard," Greenwood told necn. "I just think it's easier for me."

McKenna said the school will keep the familiar CatCards for the foreseeable future, especially for students and staff who may be priced out of certain technology.

At first, the digital choice will work only with Apple devices, but McKenna said UVM expects to add Android access as soon as the technology's available.

"I want to see this go to Android, so that way both of them can kind of work against each other to make this a better system for everyone," Meyers said of contactless IDs.

The beta tester told necn he has detected just a few minor bugs, reporting them to the campus and its partners so they can be stamped out before the new contactless ID system goes live.

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