Plans to digitize Cal 1 Cards are underway, with beta testing for the feature slated to begin on campus in spring 2023.
The project is likely to be powered through the UC Berkeley Mobile app, a development of the ASUC Office of the Technology Officer, or OCTO, already available for download. However, Saruul Amarbayar, OCTO chief technology officer, noted that the final details on beta testing have not yet been settled.
Digitization efforts have been underway since summer 2022 with a primary focus on improving student safety. In the event that a physical card is lost or stolen, implementing the Cal 1 Card on mobile would secure access to buildings to only those with proper credentials, said campus sophomore Jeewoo Lee, who is involved with the project.
“It is the way to be environmentally responsible, as digitalization can reduce 40,000 plastic cards that are wasteful and harmful to the environment,” Lee said in an email.
The testing will use mobile readers installed at two doors in Eshleman Hall, with support from biometric companies Suprema America, HID Global and Software House, according to Amarbayar.
She noted that campus’ status as a “highly regarded” public institution gave OCTO more leverage to comfortably work with these companies within a limited price range.
“It’s absolutely cost-effective because Berkeley is a big name, so Berkeley has an advantage in negotiation and pricing,” Amarbayar said. “How great is that for cost saving, right?”
Amarbayar stated that OCTO’s plans arose during the case competition, a virtual event that the office held in partnership with software giant SAP in Aug. 2022, where student teams showcased their ideas to compete for internship opportunities.
The team behind the design initially proposed its idea at the competition with the intention of improving the room booking system for the library, eventually landing on the solution of digitizing the Cal 1 Card within the UC Berkeley Mobile app, Lee said.
However, Catherine Bauer, co-chair of the ASUC Sexual Violence Commission, was in communication with Apple in July 2022 in attempts to implement Cal 1 Cards into the Apple wallet.
She said her contacts at Apple were “very supportive” of the project as school IDs in Apple wallets have been implemented in over 20 campuses nationwide.
“In my mind, the best thing we can do as a campus is partner with some of the chief technology companies that this country, and honestly the world, has to offer,” Bauer said.
However, upon sharing her ideas with OCTO and the ASUC president, Bauer alleged that she was told Apple was the “worst” prospective partner for the project because of the limited accessibility for non-iOS users.
In addition to this limitation, Amarbayar also said the ticket price of partnering with a company as large as Apple was simply not feasible for the office’s budget.
“What we are trying to prioritize is accessibility, effective usage, expandability and, of course, bundling this all together, cost effectiveness,” Amarbayar said. “The university is facing big budget cuts, so if you’re going to be doing something, it better be sustainable money wise.”