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UAE Universities Adopt RFID to Thwart Diploma Forgery

Schools in the United Arab Emirates are placing RFID tags on the academic certificates they issue, to ensure the documents' validity and speed the registration process.
By Rhea Wessel
Jun 08, 2009The American University of Sharjah and dozens of other universities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are placing RFID tags on the diplomas they issue, in order to ensure the validity of the documents, as well as speed up the process of university registration. The RFID application, currently being rolled out, will be employed by 50 universities throughout the country and roughly 15,000 students, and will then be added to as needed, according to Moosa Eisa Al Amri, the chairman of Amricon, the company providing the solution to the university.

In the UAE, students at the university level register for classes and additional degree programs centrally through the country's Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR). The ministry has advised universities to standardize the data they collect, such as students' personal and academic information. In addition, it urges schools to provide their students with academic certificates that cannot be forged. To fulfill these goals, MOHESR further recommends that the universities adopt Amricon's solution, enabling them to issue diplomas fitted with adhesive RFID labels containing security codes that hinder forging by preventing unauthorized individuals from encoding the label's RFID tags.

"Anyone can steal a label," says Tareq Awad, a regional manager at Amricon, "but they won't be able to encode it due to the security codes on the smart label."

The American University of Sharjah, for instance, attaches the tags to all diplomas it issues. Employees trained to work with the RFID system transfer the students' information to the tag using an interrogator. When students want to continue coursework, they can take the diploma to a MOHESR office for registration or attestation. The ministry's employees use readers at various MOHESR offices to determine if a particular student's degree is valid (by reading the information on the encrypted tag) as well as quickly collect pertinent information for registration.

All MOHESR offices around the country are outfitted with RFID interrogators that can read the diploma tags, which are manufactured with NXP Semiconductors' 13.56 MHz Mifare chips. The chips have sufficient memory to store a student's name and degree status, along with a list of completed courses. "When the university issues the certificate with the smart label," Awad says, "the memory is locked, except for a section left out for MOHESR to enter its attestation."

In a second stage of the project, Amricon hopes universities will use the labels on documents other than diplomas, to retrieve a student's vital information automatically and thus speed up the service process. Amricon has sold a similar solution to a government agency in Dubai that it declines to name. According to Amricon, the agency is utilizing the system to tag merchant licenses that enable users to conduct business.

At least one school in India is employing a similar solution, provided by Tata Consulting Services (see University of Hyderabad Awards E-Diplomas).
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