Video-Based ID Cards - One Smart Solution For Universities

Western Kentucky University makes printing ID cards a breeze with video-based card printing solutions.

ID cards are a necessity for every college student. Today, these cards are used as access to buildings or classrooms, dining hall passes, and library passes. The cards can also be programmed to hold money, similar to a debit card, for use in vending machines, laundry machines, or even the school bookstore.

With the help of Identatronics (Cleveland), Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, KY) has installed two video-based ID card printing stations. The University's goal is to make the ID card printing process as fast and easy as possible for the students – without sacrificing the quality of the card. The university also created its own value-add by making cards for local businesses.

A Black-And-White Solution
Identatronics had helped the university move from a cut-and-paste system in 1990, similar to using an instant film camera, to a video imaging system in 1992 with a direct-to-plastic, black-and-white printer. "At the time," explains Michael Sloe, national sales manager at Identatronics, "there were no color ID card printers. In 1996, we upgraded the university to a color printer from Eltron. We had been reselling another company's ID card printing software, and we saw what end users like Western Kentucky University needed in an ID card system. So, we developed a solution to fit the university's needs and installed it at the same time we installed the color printer."

According to Sloe, the original black-and-white system cost approximately $30,000 — including hardware and software. Identatronics was able to integrate two video imaging color systems to the university for less than $20,000 — including ID card printers, software, and peripherals. Production time was cut from three to four minutes with the cut-and-paste method to less than 60 seconds with the newest installation. Materials also cost less than half of the instant photo-based system.

The video-based installation took about three days to complete. According to Sloe, the toughest aspect was tying the new system into the university's mainframe computer. "Most end users want to use their existing databases. The ID card office was shocked at how easy the new system was to use," he explains. "The learning process was much shorter than the university anticipated.

"The new card system gave Western Kentucky the flexibility of multiple card designs, which could be created right on campus," Sloe continues. "Whenever there is a change to something used as often as an ID card, we can't be sure how students will react. Western Kentucky did a unique thing — the school held a campus-wide contest to let the students design the card. This generated a positive response and allowed the students to get involved."

The Identatronics system also offers a database for the university to keep the students' images. This provides two benefits:

  • Reports can be generated for specific events or special groups. For example, a professor could receive a printout of all the students on Student Government or in a particular sport.
  • If students lose their cards, they can call the ID card office and have another card printed before they even walk over to the office. Cards are printed and encoded by the time the students pick them up. Western Kentucky University charges no fee for replacing cards if the students are able to return their previous cards. "We have a customer service policy," says Gary Meszaros, assistant administrator of business services at Western Kentucky University. "If you hate your picture or your dog eats your ID, we'll print you a new one at no cost." Cards cost $10 if a student can't produce the old card.

Increasing ROI Through Ingenuity
The ID card office has gone beyond traditional methods of seeing a return on investment (ROI). A local vendor advertises on the back of each card, which pays for the card stock. And, during lulls in the ID card producing cycle, the office produces a limited number of ID badges for area businesses or local government agencies.

"We found that these systems are too expensive for the average ‘mom-and-pop' grocery store," explains Meszaros. "As far as card designing goes, our system is limited only by our imaginations. We charge any business outside of the university about $1.50 to $5 per card, depending on if there is a picture. Last year, we printed 500 outside cards for businesses. This year, we expect to print 2,000."

Identatronics has a VAR channel in place to resell its ID card solutions. "We want our VARs to have a knowledge of the industry," explains Sloe. "VARs are a benefit because they give us a local presence. That's ideal. If VARs can combine our solution with access control, they can provide a turnkey solution for end users."