Smart Card International Inc – A case

Smart Card International Inc (SCI) was a development company that conceived, designed, and engineered state-of-the-art smart card systems. Smart cards looked exactly like conventional credit cards but had microchips embedded in them that were programmable and had memory storage capability. In fact, the firm’s proprietary technology enabled it to place the power of a personal computer in a credit card size unit. SCI’s strategic objective was to develop a comprehensive spectrum of smart card products and systems. As this development progressed, SCI expected to become a marketer of custom manufactured systems of this type.

SCI was working on a number of smart card applications, which included such clients as major credit card companies, hospitals, medical colleges, public accounting firms, insurance companies, institutional food services and nursing services. One of the applications SCI wished to develop in the near future involved students enrolled in universities. This application was of special interest because it was believed to offer a very large potential market.

The potential application involved each student’s having his/her own smart card that would tie in with the university’s student information system. Various departments and offices around the university would have equipment for reading what was contained on a student’s card and for entering additional information onto it. Some of the possible applications that might be incorporated into such a university smart card information system included the following.

1) It could be used as a sophisticated library card that recorded the titles of books taken out, the dates they were taken out, if they had been returned, when they were due or overdue, the accumulated fines due on overdue books, and if the number of books withdrawn exceeded some maximum.

2) It could be sued as a charge card to keep track of the miscellaneous charges accrued by a student, including charges for ordinary school supplies, making photocopies, computer services, entrance to theatrical and athletic events, and others. Charges incurred during a month could be complied onto a single statement covering all possible student transactions and activities.

3) If a student’s parents gave permission, the smart card could include the parent’s credit card number and the authorization to use that number for major charges such as tuition, room and board charges, and any other major service charges that might occur. If a student was granted some financial aid by the university, that information could be included on the smart card: when the student used the card to pay tuition, the total tuition charge would automatically be reduced by the amount of financial aid granted. A student’s accrued monthly charges could also be paid using the smart.

Whenever a student would utilize his/her smart card, the various offices and locations where it sue would occur would have the necessary equipment for reading the information already on the card and for entering new information onto the card. In this way the university would enter the appropriate information (i.e. student’s name, identification number, and nature of the transaction) onto it smart card information system every time a student used the smart card, and the smart card system would also enter the same information onto the student’s card. Each student would have his / her records and transactions on his/her smart card, which could be easily carried at all times. Located throughout the campus would be smart card display and output stations where a student could review all of the information on his/her smart card and get a printed copy of any portion of that information record.

Even though SCI officials believed the market potential for such university smart card systems was very large, they did not know all of the different ways that the smart cards might be used. It was decided that marketing research was needed to explore the university market in greater depth, to evaluate the likelihood that universities would want to use a smart card system, and to identify the specific applications to which the smart cards might be put. A preliminary analysis showed that all of the following kinds of information could be stored on each student’s smart card:

1) Pre enrollment date, including date of application, aptitude test scores, high school grade point average, financial aid needs, and more.
2) Financial information such as financial aid awarded, tuition payments, services used that required payments, accounts overdue, and more.
3) Courses taken and when, grades earned, cumulative grade point average, honors or probation status, graduation requirements completed, projected date of graduation, and other academic information.
4) Miscellaneous information such as other services used (health, personal or academic counseling); participation in student activities and placement office usage (counseling, companies interviewed, job offers received); and other information.

SCI officials decided to survey a sample of colleges and universities. Vice Presidents of students affairs or university officials with similar responsibilities would be interviewed to obtain their reactions to the idea of a university smart card system, to find out what information would absolutely have to be recorded on the university smart card system and on students’ smart cards, to find out what information might be desirable but not absolutely necessary, and to get some idea of the benefits and cost savings they would anticipate form such a system. Classification data would be obtained on the number of full time and part time students enrolled, whether public or private, annual tuition and other charges, and so on.