Private school to track students via smart cards

An independent day school for boys is finally getting ready to issue its first student ID cards — with security features that will make it impossible to get a free lunch from the cafeteria.

Royal St. George’s College in Toronto

recently said it had been given technology by Ottawa-based CryptoCard and Toronto-based Electramedia that will allow it to offer smart cards its 430 students. Potentially their parents could use them to access a Web-based database portal.

The school, which began as an Anglican Choir School in 1964 and offers both primary and secondary school education, is one of only three to implement Apple’s PowerSchool data management system. Charles Fowler, Royal St. George’s director of IT, said the database will include basics like student addresses and parent contact information, but it may also eventually allow teachers to enter assignments and grades.

“”People are very attracted to this idea of being able to offer parents at their discretion, at the time of their choosing, password protected access to information about their son,”” he said. “”We’re still a little bit uncertain about how quickly we’ll roll that out.””

Using an ATM-style protocol to verify user ID by coupling it with the photo ID card, CrytoCard’s software may be a way easing any security fears, Fowler said.

“”We haven’t even gotten the product firmly in our hands yet to try it out, but we know that (it) would be an elegant solution,”” he said.

CryptoCard president Malcolm MacTaggart said the software’s use of a smart card, software or hardware token or a PIN helps reinforce the protection of valuable assets.

“”User ID and passwords met our authentication needs for decades, in much the same way that covered wagons met our transportation needs for decades,”” he said. “”But in an outside, distributed, attach-anything-anywhere-to-anything-at-any-given-time world, user ID and password no longer serves those needs.””

Fowler said the cards’ first use would likely come in the library, where it could save librarians needless data entry work to access a student’s records when they sign out a book. It may also be used in the lunchroom, where students who have paid for a meal plan go to eat. Right now, Fowler said a staff member stands with a clipboard in the lunch line to make sure students not registered for the meal plan don’t get a free lunch. Smart cards that keep this information on record could help eliminate the need for human intervention.

“”People make mistakes, money gets lost,”” he said. “”Even if they don’t make mistakes, they’re susceptible to being swayed by the pleas of hungry fellows.””

Over time, Fowler said the database secured by the smart card could consolidate the school’s entire means of keeping records, particularly when a parent calls to make a change of address, for example.

“”They call one point of contact, and it’s really a crapshoot as to whether that information gets passed around to the six or seven other possible places where it might get stored,”” he said. “”We’re hoping we’ll be able to collapse a number of those locations into one place.””

While CryptoCard will handle the smart card technology, Electramedia will use the same ATM protocol for Web site access to the database.

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