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NFC RFID Tracks Tram Ridership of Oregon University

Oregon Health & Science University is deploying NFC badge-reading kiosks at the two stations for its aerial trams, in order to understand ridership statistics in advance of a scheduled maintenance shut-down.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 25, 2017

Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) will begin using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology this month to identify the movements of passengers on the Portland Aerial Tram that connects the South Waterfront district campus to the school's Marquam Hill main campus. The system will enable the medical school to better manage a temporary, maintenance-based closure of its trams next year, by understanding the traffic flow. The system consists of Serialio's Cloud-in-Hand Mobile Workforce Solution, with a moveable NFC reader kiosk at each of its two access points.

The tram system helps to solve a commuting challenge for the approximately 20,000 visitors to the hilltop college campus, which is accessible from the South Waterfront campus via only two two-lane roads. Those roads, as well as parking lots, cannot accommodate that large number of drivers.

OHSU's Christine Basnett
For the past decade, the trams have served as an alternative to driving, with just two trams (called Jean and Walt) moving 10,000 people each day. Each is named for a prominent graduate of OHSU or Ohio State University (OSU). Jean (the north cabin) and Walt (the south cabin) each can carry as many as 78 people on the three-minute ride up or down the hill. OHSU oversees the trams' operation and is responsible for servicing the tram ropes once every 12 years, says Christine Basnett, OHSU's transportation and parking operations supervisor. In June, 2018, the university plans to shut down the tram system for five weeks, and to reposition the ropes that carry the trams between the two campuses.

In addition to the trams, the college has been using a bicycle valet service for the past five years to reduce vehicular traffic. Students and employees can present their RFID-enabled ID badge to workers at a fenced-in storage area at the South Waterfront. The employees read each visitor's badge ID number using an NFC reader and assign a location for that person's bike, and that data is stored in Serialio's software. When the rider returns for his or her bicycle, another badge scan prompts the display of the bike's location in the storage area so that it can be quickly retrieved.

Approximately 300 students and faculty members use this bike valet service daily. They have financial incentive to do so as well, since OHSU pays riders $20 every 20 days if they use the service, in the form of a check.

Beginning in the next few weeks, OHSU will also use its Serialio Champ RS3Dual Bluetooth and NFC RFID readers at the waterfront and Marquam Hill locations. Student and faculty ID cards (the same ones in use for the bike valet system) come with a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz NFC HID Global iClass Badge chip, says Christie Carbone, Serialio's marketing director. In addition to bike services and tram access, the card is used for access control.

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