UConn iPad POS University of Connecticut Dining Services

iPads deter unauthorized access to UConn dining centers

The tablets display a large, clear picture of the cardholder when a card is swiped, making its use by someone else difficult.

By introducing iPad tablet computers as POS devices at two of its dining centers, University of Connecticut (UConn) Dining Services has both sped up the process of admitting students and also cut down on fraudulent use of ID cards to gain entry. That’s because the tablets display a larger and clearer image of the cardholder than the photo on the card, making the identity verification process easier while flagging unauthorized users.

The iPads debuted at the school’s South and McMahon dining halls—two of the busiest of the eight on campus—during the fall 2016 semester, and so far they have had a deterrent effect on unauthorized ID card usage to gain dining center entry, at least according to casual observations by managers in the early going, says Dennis Pierce, director of UConn Dining.

“We’ve observed a number of instances where [students] saw us using the iPad [and] they dropped out of line,” he says. “Passing cards around has been common for years even though there are policies clearly stating that the cards are non-transferrable,” he adds.

UConn grants unlimited access to its all-you-care-to-eat dining halls for those with the proper meal plan, and rates are based on projected usage by those plan holders only. Students caught using another student’s card can face referral to the university’s Office of Community Standards, which deals with violations of UConn’s Student Code of Conduct.

The iPads were originally suggested by the school’s OneCard office, which issues the cards used to gain access to dining centers and validates the user’s meal plan status.

Before the debut of the iPads, students had swiped their own cards on the entry system and then were checked by a staffer (traditionally referred to as a “validine”) to verify identity, but “when you’re looking at a thumbnail picture on an ID card, it’s hard to match to the individual,” Pierce explains. That’s especially true during rush periods when students are crowding to get through the line.

The iPad system now requires the student to hand the card to the validine, who swipes it on the iPad, which is equipped with a program that allows it to access the meal plan holder database and verify meal plan status (as well as guest pass qualification, if requested). It also generates a picture of the ID card holder on the tablet’s screen.

“Swiping the card forces the validine to look at the [picture on the] iPad and [also] at the individual,” Pierce explains. No wonder students seeing this while waiting in line decided to take a pass at trying to bluff their way through.

Pierce says his department will probably expand the use of the iPad system in the coming year, but it is also exploring other high-tech ways to facilitate and secure access to dining centers, including biometric options like fingerprint and handprint scans.

“Definitely in the next year we’re getting away from the traditional [method of] swiping off the POS, [and] into something [else] but I don’t know what it is yet,” he quips.

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