Bahrain University studies smart card apps

The University of Bahrain's Nazar Maroof, is working on a multiple application smart card-based ID system for every student at the institute.

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By  Rob Corder Published  April 28, 2001

The University of Bahrain (UOB) is planning to issue every student with a personal smart card at the beginning of the next academic year.

According to project manager and lecturer at the UOB, Nazar Maroof, the recent drop in smart card prices and the emergence of standards has made the project viable. “We’re trying to create some form of secure student ID,” says Maroof. “We as a university are an open environment; we have [6000] students that use our labs, computers and resources so we need some sort of technology to control student access,” explains Maroof.

Smart cards potentially offer a number of benefits for the university. The cards will be used to control both physical access to buildings and virtual access to network resources. For example, the chip on the card will contain information; such as the course the student is studying and even in what year of study they are in.

The information contained within the smart card will then determine whether the student has access to the computer labs. Also depending on what course the student is studying administrators will be able to determine the level of network resources available to each particular student.

“We’re going to be using the smart card first of all as an identity card, which will have the name, the department, and a photograph of the student. The other role is for authentication, using the embedded chip we will store the user ID and password, and we will store [virtual] security keys,” comments Maroof.

“The card will be used for physical access to the labs, libraries and other restricted areas of the university. While using the encrypted keys for network resources, like controlling printing, server access and other things,” he adds.

As the memory size of the cards continues to grow rapidly — the project has started working on 32 k/bits cards — there is an opportunity to run [multiple] applications on the ID cards, covering a wide range of student services. “The real beauty of smart cards is that they can run whole applications themselves,” says Maroof. “This gives us the capability to run different types of applications, holding different types of data on the one card,” he adds.

Maroof and his team of three students working on the card project are also looking to achieve e-cash. Basically, students will charge up their student ID card with money, which can be then spent on campus. “Students [will be able to] transfer certain amount of money on to this card, which can then be used as an electronic wallet on campus,” says Maroof. “[The student] may use it for buying items from the bookstore or meals or whatever. Once the balance is running out, he can then recharge the card again and make further transactions,” he explains.

The development team is already investigating the possibility of integrating a call card application onto the student ID.
Although the project is in its earliest stages there are already commercial prospects for the student ID card project, says Maroof. The ability to quickly develop applications will enable the university to go to the community and add various different services around the card, such as loyalty programmes for example. “The smart card programme is likely to open up business opportunities. The only thing is that we need some slight modifications to adapt the card to their business service,” he adds.

Early development work at the university has begun with the Java Card operating system, using cards from Gemplus. The project team is leveraging on the existing Java skills base that exists within the university, which has been running basic and advanced Java courses for the last year. Work has also begun on a smart cards which are based on the Basic programming language says Maroof.

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