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Custom 'CAC Implementation in University' Essay

CAC stands for “Common Access Cards” and its primary functionality involves providing efficient and secure physical or logical access to a certain premises.  Common Access Cards have been invented by improving upon the smart card technology that provides automated access and control mechanisms for use of resources, information transfer and personnel verification or authentication. Certain features added to the smart card technology have made it even more powerful and reliable. Examples include the use of cryptography or certificates which act as digital signatures to help identification and verification. This mechanism simultaneously enhances the security and efficiency of the automated processes. Common Access Cards provide a centralized platform to access certain disparate resources either physical or logical which might be in different places. There are three major components of a CAC setup:

1- Card: The card is loaded with different kinds of applications to be run on it. The scope of the card is defined by the number of applications running on it.

2- Reader: There are basically two kinds of readers, contactless and contact readers. In contact less case the reader and card can communicate without the need of physical contact. Whereas in contact readers, the card has to come into physical contact with the reader. Examples include USB ports and other kind of connectors. The Common Access Card technology is derived from the smart card technology and largely employs contactless readers.

3- Server: At the backend, for each application embedded on the card, a server is required that stores information and communicates with the reader and other servers with which it is integrated.

Benefits of CAC’s implementation in Universities:                                                                                                                                 

CAC’s can be implemented in a university with a view to achieving a paper less environment and eliminating the costs associated with the paper based system. Common Access Cards can be used to achieve a number of functionalities that are traditionally done manually or even if the automated systems are in place, they are not integrated. They act as a single gateway to access different kind of resources in a university. CAC’s can be used for the following purposes/benefits:

1- Entry to University premises: Students, faculty and employees can use their respective CAC’s to enter different areas of university. The system can help restrain or allow access to certain places within the university based on authorization levels. The cards can be categorized for student, faculty and employees to determine their access levels.  

2- Automated attendance management in classrooms: Students can use their wireless CAC’s to mark their attendance. This will help the faculty save precious time that is wasted on attendance marking, especially in large classrooms. The automated system can provide a better check and balance with zero error possibility in attendance management.   

3- Access to library and University’s online databases: Students and faculty can use their CAC’s to gain access to library premises and also for signing in to online databases. One of the objectives of CAC’s is to eliminate the use of passwords which are low on reliability. The access level can be determined by the category of card.  

4- Automated Bill’s payment at the stationary/photocopier shop and cafeteria: CAC’s can be embedded with e-wallet or e-purse applications, which can help the user to make payments without the use of physical cash. The process can greatly improve efficiency.

5- Convenience for disabled people: CAC’s can be used to provide convenience to disabled people in getting access to university resources.

The powerful aspect of CAC’s is that they can be embedded with different kind of applications according to the desire of client to achieve various functionalities.

Implementing CAC’s in Universities

In order to successfully implement CAC’s in a University, careful planning and due diligence is required in chalking out a detailed plan that discusses the costs and issues involved in different phases of the project life cycle.  Following are the three phases of implementation of CAC’s in a University. The phases cover the issues and costs considered over a three year period of the project life cycle:

Requirement Analysis and Cost Feasibility

During this phase a detail analysis of the requirements is undertaken and the requirements are gathered. This phase is crucial in a way that it sets out the direction and goals of the project. At the end of this phase, the project team should have a vision about the task at hand. The following could be the possible requirements and the costs associated with them:


1-      Enabling secure and authorized entry to premises:

2-      Enabling selective access to data, physical resources and websites

3-      Providing cryptographic certificates to verify authentication

4-      Monitoring activity to meet with emergency situations e.g. fire, terrorism etc

5-      Enabling automated payment systems

6-      Convenience for users with disabilities

7-      Automated Attendance management

Cost Feasibility Analysis

The major kind of costs can be broken down into two categories:

One Time costs

Consulting costs: They include the costs born by the university in obtaining consultancy services on successful implementation of CAC’s. Cost /benefit analysis between the proposed and the existing paper based system will have to be conducted. This analysis will require comparison of the costs incurred in implementing the automated system and maintaining it with that of the costs incurred in the traditional paper based system.

Ongoing Costs                                                                                                                                                                             There are no ongoing costs for this phase.

The analysis part of this phase will also discuss the following issues in detail:

1-      Vendors available: The vendors of smart card or Common Access Card will have to be approached to understand their price offers and configurations. The two largest vendors of the smart card are MAOSCO and Microsoft.

2-      Understand different ISO standards applicable on the smart card technology

3-      Understand the role of PKI’s. PKI stands for Public Key Infrastructure which is defined as the set of procedures and policies, people, hardware and software which is used to change and cancel the certificates (digital) with the help of certificate authority. The role of certificate authority is important to understand.

The project team should understand these issues in detail.    


During this phase, the development of project components will take place. For the sake of simplicity, the costs are divided into software and hardware and then further into one-time and ongoing costs:

Hardware Costs

One-Time Costs                                                                                                                                     The Common Access Cards would incur three types of expenses related to hardware:

a) Servers: The servers of each application running on the card will have to be installed. The cost will be incurred in purchasing and installing these servers.

b) Readers: Since CAC’s work on contact less technology, readers will have to be installed in the university premises. The cost of readers is determined by their strength and geographic area that they can cover.

c) Cards: There are two types of cards, active and passive. The basic difference between the two is that active cards are more powerful than passive cards. Then the cards are also differentiated on the basis of their life time and readable distance from the reader. Therefore they are categorized as vicinity and proximity cards. However different vendors can have different prices. The number of students, faculty and employees will be multiplied by the price per card to arrive at the total estimated cost of cards. The costs of these cards vary between $8.5/card to $14.50/card. The cost can vary further depending upon the specifications of cards if they are categorized into faculty, students and employees and have different features. Also the cost will also depend upon the capacity of memory chip and the strength of RFID (Radio Frequency ID) chip on the card. All these factors are considered in estimating the cost of card.  

d) Network cots: The cost of cables, routers and switches in laying down the network should also be considered. The readers are connected with servers through ground cables and the servers are in turn connected to other network servers through cables, routers, switches etc. These all are included in the network setup costs.   

The ongoing costs include the cost incurred in issuing new cards to new students, faculty and employees. The cost will also be incurred for lost or stolen cards. Similarly replacement costs of readers, servers and network cables could also be incurred if any one of the malfunctions.

Software Costs

One-Time Costs

a-      The software costs include the cost of licensing certain proprietary applications and the cost of developing applications that the CAC’s will support. The university will have to pay the developers of these applications.

b-      The costs of server configuration. The servers will have to be configured to be suitable for CAC’s deployment.

c-      The cost of hiring a lawyer to sign and manage contracts with the licensing firms.

d-     Integrating different application or servers. Since CAC’s can act as a single gateway access to all the different resources, the applications must be integrated. The university will have to incur costs in obtaining integration of disparate systems by hiring IT experts and developers.

Ongoing Costs

a-      The ongoing costs are the costs of system maintenance, legal fees and renewal of agreements with license providers.

b-      Other costs could be addition and development of new applications and updating of the previous applications. 


During this phase the system is deployed. The best way to successfully deploy the system is to do it in steps. Following are the steps included and costs associated with them.


1-      Pilot Testing: During this phase, a test is carried out on a small scale to analyze the actual working of the new system. A large group of people takes place in this exercise to make sure that every aspect of the new system is tested.

2-      Develop policies: The policies are developed to follow certain procedures in managing and running the new system. This includes developing processes that deal with the issuance and replacement of cards.

3-      Contingency planning: This should include the back up resources incase the system malfunctions and breaks down.

4-      Actual deployment: The last step is to actually deploy the Common Access Cards system in the university.

Costs Involved

1-      Training and adaptability: The users will take time to get familiar with the new system and adapt to it. Employee training can be employed to ease the process of adaptability to the new system. This presents an additional cost.

2-      Expert Advise: The University will have to hire the services of IT experts and consultant during the deployment phase of the project.

The implementation of Common Access Cards in a University could be a major breakthrough in automating different tasks for the benefit of students, faculty and employees. The benefits from this system will accrue in the form of increased efficiency and savings due to less operational costs as compared to traditional paper based system. Most of the costs associated with this system are one-time while ongoing costs are very little. If a university successfully implements this system, then it can reap the benefits in the long run by saving on its expenses and increased efficiency. This would also result in improved revenues with the increase in enrollment figures due to better publicity and increase in good will. The infrastructure is one element that defines the standard of a university and Common Access Cards are one way to improve it drastically if implemented successfully.

Custom 'CAC Implementation in University' Essay

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