Go Back To School For ID Card Profits
Vision Database Systems, Inc. is teaching the education vertical that a student ID card can be used as more than just a security tool. How are you selling your card technology?
The education market has a lot to learn. At least that's what VAR Vision Database Systems, Inc. (VDS) is hoping. After selling its own photo ID software to several colleges in 1995, the company has since focused almost exclusively on selling ID card solutions (e.g. printers, software, consumables) to all levels of the education market. But during the past few years this vertical has become saturated with card technology, prompting VDS to find new ways of attracting clients and gaining additional sales from existing clients.
Earn Extra Credit With Attendance Tracking
VDS' President Emil Bonaduce's plan for the past year has been to expand the role of the student ID card to more than just a security tool. "We show customers how they can use an ID card for downstream hardware and software solutions for applications such as banking [for school/campus stores], library, food service, and student administration," he explains. The latter, which can serve to track student violations, has captured the attention of VDS' K-12 clients.
According to Bonaduce, most K-12 schools still track attendance, detention, and tardiness with good old-fashioned pen and paper. Unfortunately, this method doesn't offer school officials like guidance counselors any detailed historical insight into a student's past violations. In response to this need, VDS developed a student tracking solution consisting of its RapIDtrack software, an ID card reader/terminal (similar to the style used in grocery stores for card payments), and a receipt printer.
With this system, students arriving late to school must swipe their ID cards in the terminals. The screen prompts a user to choose a reason for being late, and if the student has a printed excuse, it can be scanned into the system at the same time. All of this information is saved in a database, and a receipt is generated for the student to get into class. Once a student is tardy a certain number of times (as determined by the school), detention is automatically assigned and a receipt printed with the date to show up after school.
"I think a lot of VARs underestimate the need to develop downstream hardware and software solutions that reinforce the need for a carding system," Bonaduce says. "Furthermore, many schools do not realize they can automate all of their violation tracking and management for less than $2,000 in hardware and software using their existing bar-coded ID cards."
Quiz Clients About Mobile Solutions
Through applications like RapIDtrack, VDS is trying to make schools recognize the value of a more detailed student file. But insight into a student's behavior can be obtained from more than just grades and an attendance record. For instance, how does a student act between classes? Does he get in fights or run in the halls? Does he adhere to the school dress code? To gather such information, VDS developed a mobile solution (RockeTracker) composed of a handheld computer loaded with a school's entire student database. Administrators can use the handheld (equipped with bar code scanners for reading ID badges) when monitoring halls to issue warnings (via a handheld printer) or to access student class schedules. The handheld's data can be later synced with RapIDtrack to update student files.
At first glance, this type of excessive monitoring seems designed only for catching students breaking school rules. Yet, at one of VDS' largest installations of this solution, the school also uses the technology for tracking positive behavior.
"First, we sent our carding team to produce ID badges for the entire school in two days," Bonaduce explains. "We then installed RapIDtrack software in every classroom so teachers could instantly assign points [via an ID badge's bar code] to students for accomplishments like completed homework, perfect attendance, or attaining the honor roll. The assistant principals were equipped with RockeTracker handhelds for issuing points for positive behaviors exhibited in lunchrooms and halls. We also wrote a program so students could cash in points at the school store for rewards."
Higher Education Needs Real-Time Monitoring
Since RapIDtrack and RockeTracker are more suited for K-12 schools, VDS needed a way to attract more college/university clients. This became especially evident when the company's exclusive dealer for the higher education market went out of business, leaving VDS with approximately 50 colleges to develop a direct relationship with.
One of those clients asked VDS to help with a long-standing card-related problem: identifying the current status of a student via an ID card. Students often pay activity or association fees that enable them to gain access to university events like football games. A student's ID card reflects membership or payment of these fees. However, at one of VDS' college clients, students who had already entered a stadium were passing their cards through fencing to other students for gaining access to events.
To combat this problem, VDS developed its RapIDstatus solution. Much like RockeTracker, a handheld computer is used to determine if a student is currently enrolled, if activity fees are paid, and - most importantly - if the student has already entered the venue. "We may also try to sell this sort of application to non-education clients such as nightclubs that need some type of real-time monitoring," Bonaduce says.
Study Where/When To Contact Education Clients
To attract clients for its new applications and its basic ID card printing solutions, VDS exhibits at/attends approximately 12 conferences/trade shows each year. "We usually go to the Comdex and CardTech/SecurTech conferences, but it is the education technology shows that are the most successful for us," Bonaduce says. "For example, we exhibit at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (FETC), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) conference, National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) show, and the Texas Education Technology conference. At some of these conferences we actually have two booths: one for card printing systems and one for student tracking systems." VDS normally obtains nearly 50 to 100 leads per show, and Bonaduce says approximately 10% of those leads are closeable. He adds that because of budgetary constraints, VARs need to grab the attention of education clients by April or May if they want to even be considered for a project.
So far, VDS has sold RapIDtrack and RapIDstatus to 25 schools. Those clients account for nearly 150 users of these programs. The company has sold RockeTracker to 12 schools, which account for 50 users. "These are the programs we are leading with today and in the future," concludes Bonaduce. "I predict we'll have more than 100 accounts using student tracking applications by the end of next year."