Engage's card swipe technology integrates with the Events tool to help campuses successfully track event attendance for events within their systems. Campuses can use their campus ID cards alongside card swipe hardware to accomplish this task. This overview will help you understand what card swipe equipment you need and how to get started with the process.

Purchasing Equipment

The first decision for a campus in setting up the card swipe system is to decide what type of card reader hardware to purchase. When looking at which hardware to buy, keep in mind that your device must meet the following three requirements if you intend on swiping users in real time:

  1. Device provides keyboard emulation. You will know if a device provides keyboard emulation if you connect it to a computer, open any text editing application such as Notepad and then swipe or scan a card ID; if information from the card appears in the text editor, then the device is likely working through keyboard emulation. Devices are often also available as being HID-compliant instead of providing keyboard emulation. HID-based devices may still work and act as described in the example above, but often require additional software or drivers to be installed on the computer to which the device is connected.
  2. Device inserts carriage returns (i.e., the "enter" key) after each swipe or scan. Some devices do not insert carriage returns by default, but can be configured to do so. Please consult with the device hardware vendor for more information. Note: it is not explicitly required that your device insert carriage returns after each swipe--if it doesn't, you can always hit the "enter" key manually or press the submit button on the card ID entry screen.
  3. No encryption: The device should not encrypt card data. This function is typically reserved for devices that process credit card information (i.e. Square Readers).

The piece of data that should be collected is the unique identifier of the card (typically a number string of 5-9 characters). Magnetic strips typically have 3 tracks, or areas of information. It is important to know which track the unique ID number is on before purchasing a card reader appliance so that you are sure the appliance can read the appropriate track.

Campus Labs does not explicitly endorse any vendor, specific brand, or hardware model. The following list of vendors and descriptions of hardware types are based on information gathered from campuses who use Engage and have collected card ID data for event attendance tracking purpose.

Magnetic card swipe readers

Model Connection Compatibility Price
MSR90 Card Swipe Reader Wired (USB) PC/Mac $~20
MagTek Mini Swipe - USB Keyboard Emulation Wired (USB) PC/Mac $~50

Summary: These plug and play devices are extremely easy to use. The MagTek reader has been the most popular device used with card swipe but the cheaper option serves the same purpose for a fraction of the cost.

Bar code scanners

Model Connection Compatibility Price
TaoTronics TT-BS012 Wireless PC/Mac $~50

Summary: Just plug in the USB receiver to a computer and you can swipe users in real time within a fifteen to twenty foot range. If you need to travel farther than this range, switch to inventory mode and the device will start saving each scan. You can then output the data into a spreadsheet and upload it to an event.

Additionally, we recommend that you only purchase one type of device. Our system runs an expression against every card swipe in order to isolate the ID number. For this reason, we require your card swipe output to follow a consistent format. If you fluctuate between devices, this format could change and cause swipes to fail. If you are able to confirm that two devices produce the same format, both can be used without issue.

System Configuration

After you acquire a device, complete the following steps to ensure Campus Labs has the necessary data to effectively use the card swipe system.

  1. Send test swipes: Using your new device, swipe or scan several test cards into an notepad document and then send it along to the support team (remember you can create a ticket on the upper right hand corner of this screen, or start a chat on the lower right).. Be sure to identify the unique ID in each string. This will allow us to write an expression into Engage that isolates the ID number and ties it to the correct user account.
    Example: Let's say you swipe your card and it looks something like this: ;STUDENTNAME&078?0012345. Somewhere in the string there should be a unique identifier that is specific to the student. Most of the time this is the student ID. Make sure to identify the student ID, or whichever unique identifier you're using, in the example you send to support. 
  2. Load unique card identifier: In order for Engage to understand the data that is collected and associate it with users the system first needs to be configured to identify the specific unique information that is contained on the magnetic stripe or barcode of an ID card.
    You can associate card IDs with user accounts through a user import. Ideally, this would be accomplished by an automated user import, if included in contract package, but can also be accomplished through periodic manual user imports
    This is an important step and cannot be skipped. If a user does not have a card ID associated with their account, swiping their ID will result in an attendance listing for "Unrecognized User." Although this will add to the total attendee count of the event, you will lose the ability to track the user's individual event attendance history. 

When these steps are complete, you'll be ready to swipe! Check out our article on tracking event participation to learn more about how to utilize your card swipe system with Engage events.


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