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RFID Goes to College

Turkey's Sabanci University employs RFID technology to improve services for the students, faculty and administrative staff on its Istanbul campus.
By Bob Violino
Apr 13, 2009—One of the guiding principles of Istanbul's Sabanci University is innovation. The private, independent institution was founded in 1994 under the direction of the Sabanci Foundation, one of Turkey's leading family-run foundations. The foundation is part of the Sabanci Group, an organization comprising 68 companies, many of which are market leaders in a variety of sectors, including automotive, energy, financial services, food, retailing and textiles.

Innovation is reflected in Sabanci University's interdisciplinary educational infrastructure, designed to create and disseminate knowledge, as well as its state-of-the-art wireless campus, with more than 11,000 Internet connection points; the university distributes computers to each of its 3,600 students. Now it's turning to radio frequency identification technology to improve the quality of campus life.

Last year, Sabanci University launched a campus-wide project known as Sabanci University Card (SUCARD), using RFID to speed up the checkout process at various campus establishments, as well as for security and access control.
In early fall 2008, Sabanci University launched a campus-wide project known as Sabanci University Card (SUCARD), in which it began using RFID to speed up the checkout process at various campus establishments, as well as for security and access control. The university currently employs the system for payments at its main restaurant, for access to a shuttle bus service and to control entry to science laboratories. It also has plans to expand the technology's use to other areas.

The university, which focuses much of its research on technology, was already familiar with RFID. In 2007, for instance, a group of Sabanci professors published a paper proposing an infrastructure enabling the use of multi-purpose RFID tags and public key cryptography for security and privacy applications. Another research effort explored the use of RFID for the monitoring and analysis of a discrete manufacturing environment.

Prior to the project's launch, various independent efforts were underway at Sabanci to determine if the university could benefit from RFID technology, says Serhat Murat Alagoz, SUCARD's project director and a software engineer at RF-TT Technology Corp., the Turkish company that developed the RFID technology. RF-TT is funded by Inovent, a technology commercialization firm launched by Sabanci in 2006.

The RFID efforts were limited, Alagoz says, involving only a handful of contactless cards, and with no central source of account information for payments or other applications. The university opted to create a system that would leverage the existing wireless network, and enable students and staff members to use contactless cards for multiple applications throughout the campus.

"There was a modern technology infrastructure [at the campus], but there were still long checkout lines and [people were] wasting time," Alagoz explains. "The best way to handle this problem was to use the RFID technology," to automate processes such as payments.
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