Bar-ilan University is the first testbed for a smartcard that Israel's national communication company Bezek hopes to introduce nationally.
The smartcard, which looks like a credit card and contains a computer chip, works as an electronic purse. Like the Mondex card recently issued at the universities of Exeter and York, it is an alternative to cash for small transactions.
Nine thousand of Bar-Ilan's 21,000 students have smartcards, which they can use at photocopying machines, beverage machines, a fax and 36 public phones around the campus. The scheme is being extended to the university's cafeteria, laundrettes and newspaper vending machine. They can be loaded with money at two service centres on campus.
According to David Meyers, manager of Bezek's product and service development department, the company chose Bar-Ilan two years ago, mainly because it is compact and small. The cards issued at Bar-Ilan since April are anonymous. But the next stage will turn the electronic purse into a personalised student card, listing personal details, grades and library borrowings.
Priorities are different at the Hebrew University, where smartcards have been introduced initially as library cards. Soon they will also be used as identification by students taking examinations.
According to Haim Bassan of the university president's office, the emphasis is on managing academic data services for students. Cards will carry information from students' academic records, and will enable the holder to access computers.
Only later will the Hebrew University develop its smartcard into an electronic purse, telephone card and bus pass.