Apple adds support for contactless student ID cards in Wallet


Apple hit the on switch for contactless student ID cards today. The press release has nice photos but is vague. There is much more detail on the Apple support doc Use student ID cards in Wallet on your iPhone or Apple Watch.

The most interesting detail is the device eligibility: iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and later, Apple Watch Series 1 and later and Express Mode isn’t available on iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. NFC-A/B, definitely not FeliCa powered as some sources were saying and not MIFARE powered either. It looks like Blackboard has something else up their sleeve for middleware but I’m willing to bet you that Student ID Express card performance is slower than Apple Pay Suica Express Card with power reserve even on the same iPhone XS/XR device. The Blackboard card format is FeliCa, the implementation appears to be PassKit NFC Certificate powered card emulation.

The rest of the support doc details confirm the cards are stored value (SV) with Express Mode and students can recharge them with Apple Pay, a credit/debit card in the eAccounts app or cash at the “school’s self-service machines”. In other words it’s just like Suica App and Apple Pay Suica for door locks instead of transit.

There is conflicting information about the Blackboard middleware technology used for Apple contactless student ID cards. The Express Card function is exactly what FeliCa offers and Blackboard supports. On the hardware side iPhone 6/6 Plus and later all have NFC A-B-F chips as do Blackboard NFC readers. There is a (very) remote possibility that Blackboard is utilizing its own FeliCa licensed middleware (and per device unique FeliCa Networks keys) on non-FeliCa devices and Apple built-in FeliCa on global FeliCa devices. I am trying to confirm details and will post developments here.

Update 2
The Blackboard card format is indeed FeliCa. The implementation appears to be Passkit NFC Certificate powered card emulation used across the board. It’s impossible to confirm if the ID cards are using standard FeliCa middleware on global FeliCa devices and something else on older devices but Apple’s agreement with FeliCa Networks includes a keys server for Apple devices. It’s possible that Apple is activating FeliCa on older devices just for Student ID cards.