Introduced in 2003 the Accord Card has revolutionised the services and concessions that Aberdeen City Council can offer to its residents and it is now looking to broaden its uses even further.
The introduction of smart cards in Scotland was promoted by the Government in order to deliver social inclusion and in particular to remove the stigma associated with receiving free school meals.
An innovative city council, Aberdeen resisted the pressure to introduce a mass solution to a mass market. Instead, seeing the potential for smart cards and seeking a future proofed and highly flexible solution they chose to introduce the Accord Card.
Working only with best of breed partners, the card utilises a card and multi site management system devised by MH Systems to integrate seamlessly with their state of the art EPoS, customer management and bookings system on legendary Toshiba ST-60 EPoS touch screens.
The benefits of the Accord Card are numerous and growing. Simply by registering, Aberdeen residents can benefit from cashless catering in schools, discounts and concessions in retail and leisure outlets, library membership, loyalty points and an array of other benefits including proof of age and proof of entitlement.
The scheme in use
With over 60 000 cards already issued, the Accord Card Scheme is currently being used within all its 12 local authority academies, all the cities libraries and art galleries and many leisure and recreational facilities. In addition card holders aged between 12 and 26 years old benefit from all the Young Scot discounts and rewards, which can be earned in over 1800 outlets throughout Scotland.
Over 120 Toshiba ST-60 touch screen terminals are installed throughout various Aberdeen sites to support the scheme, chosen due to the stability and reliability of Toshibas legendary hardware.
Looking at one of the uses for the card cashless catering and vending - The Hazelhead Academy is one of the schools currently using the Accord Scheme.
Marjorie Lord, Canteen Supervisor commented on the solution.
"Ive been working at Hazelhead Academy for 20 years and was very cynical about a new system and how my staff would feel about using new technology".
Marjorie continues, "With the cashless card payment system installed, the lunch-time rush is very easy to cope with. A child chooses their food options, we key the choices into the till using the touch screen menu and put the child's card onto the reader attached to the till. The total amount is then automatically deducted from the card. The new Toshiba ST-60 touch screens are very easy for the staff to navigate and the terminals are reliable. We can also now obtain reports showing exactly what has been sold, invaluable information for menu-planning and monitoring wastage."
The M H Systems cashless catering software is quick and simple to use. It automatically and discretely awards the free meal allowances to the right children, records the food choices each child selects and awards points for healthy eating options. It even automates the vending process. It allows Aberdeen City Council to control the foods types and rewards available to school pupils. Combine this with the incredibly reliable Toshiba tills and you have the best system you could wish for.
Benefits of the card
Aberdeen City Councils approach of only working with best of breed organisations ensures the Accord Scheme has additional benefits over other councils pilot schemes. The Accord scheme was one of many projects under the Modernising Government Initiative, and has been recognised as one of a few smart card schemes that has delivered what it set out to do.
By choosing a superior card, Aberdeen has achieved higher levels of security and operability, for example, all details for each card holder are held on the card, guaranteeing that the card always has the most up to date information. Other schemes rely on databases to hold this information, which present security issues and problems when systems fail.
With the growing trend for new technologies, the use of smart cards is becoming more widespread. However, the interface to a smart card can be via a contact or contactless reader and some applications require one or the other. The Accord card bridges this gap by being a dual interface card offering both contact and contactless interfaces, a facility not available on other pilot schemes.
One of the main benefits of Accord is the scheme is not imposed and registration is voluntary. The card can be still be used as proof of entitlement but not in an intrusive way. A small card reader held by the retailer or business can ensure that the customer is of a suitable age to purchase any products, gain entry to the facility, or be eligible for a concession. It can also benefit the card holder, by proving that they are of the required age.
Plans for the future
Aberdeen City Council has extensive plans for the future of the Accord Scheme. When the Scottish Executives introduced its Scotland-wide free bus travel for older and disabled people, it was decided that the concession would be hosted on a smart card. With the Accord card's capabilities, this is just another service that can be included within its portfolio, one of many services that can bring value to cardholders.
Other plans include, car parking, where the card will be used to replace cash in meter payments throughout the city, iKiosks for information and on-line booking essential for developing tourism and CRM activity for targeting promotions and offers at different segments of the population.
Rhona Atkinson, General Manager commented about the schemes introduction and the benefits; "By working with selected organisations we have been able to develop the Accord scheme to our exact requirements. Companies like M H Systems and Toshiba listened to our needs and have developed future-proofed solutions that can evolve to accommodate new ideas and innovations. The potential that a scheme such as Accord offers its users is immense and is limited only by a lack of innovative thinking as to how to utilise its functionality and ability.
Accord offers many benefits to the citizens of Aberdeen, it is easy to use, convenient, secure and offers access to many services within the city, it is also available to any organisation in Aberdeen. Each individual card can work for any other organisation in Aberdeen, we have the creation of a citizen card something that will provide value to the cardholder as they live, work or visit Aberdeen."