Securing Campuses with Innovative Technology (Without Sacrificing Privacy)

Securing Campuses with Innovative Technology (Without Sacrificing Privacy)

As campuses ramp up measures to safeguard students, they must also take measures to protect the data privacy.

To keep students and faculty safe, we can do far better than electronic passkeys and simple metal detectors. As sophisticated technologies like artificial intelligence are brought to bear in more and more industries, it’s time that we use these and other innovations to promote campus safety.

Officials recognize the vital role advanced technology can play in keeping schools safe, which is why the U.S. Justice Department has issued grants to support technological solutions that can thwart threats on campuses and accelerate law enforcement response.

The basic idea behind some of the latest developments in campus security technology is simple yet bold. If smart grocery stores can track our purchases as we place items in our carts, we should be able to create smart campuses with the ability to detect when a gunman or other meaningful threat has entered a campus building.

The technology to support this is not far off in the future. Campus safety innovations designed to stop malicious actors in their tracks are beginning to penetrate the market and will soon become widespread. Schools are rolling out AI-powered camera software that can monitor activity on campus, detect anomalies, and flag potential risks. As the Washington Post noted, these technologies do not necessarily use facial recognition, which has drawn the ire of many privacy advocates, but instead track student movement and behavior, using multiple cameras to create situational awareness across the campus and alert administrators to the emergence of a potential threat.

With the capacity to observe thousands of people at once, such solutions are far more efficient and perceptive than the naked human eye or standard security cameras alone. Per the self-reporting of companies in the industry, the algorithms powering these cameras can detect a weapon being pulled with up to 99 percent accuracy, and while human professionals must still exercise ultimate responsibility when it comes to deciding how to respond to each situation, few would argue with the idea that security professionals need more advanced tools, not fewer, to aid them in making decisions that will keep their campuses safe.

Proactive security measures are crucial, but the unfortunate reality is that campus crime will never be eliminated completely. When it does occur, it is of paramount importance to give campus security officers and local law enforcement professionals the tools they need to respond as rapidly as possible. Gunshot detection technology is one such tool. Using advanced sensors to pinpoint the location of gunshots, these systems convey location information to security professionals within a matter of seconds, effectively functioning as a 911 call and helping speed response times. In an active shooter situation—in which those in the immediate vicinity of an incident may not be able to safely dial 911—gunshot detection technology can be literally life-saving.

While campuses will need to make investments in key safety technologies—with the potential ROI being lives saved and crimes averted—they can also empower students themselves to keep safe through a form of technology that to the average user is decidedly more accessible than, say, artificial intelligence software. This cutting-edge technology? The mobile phone.

As part of their efforts to raise student awareness about campus security issues, colleges and universities should inform students of such apps, or perhaps even create their own, provided that these apps are connected to campus security and local law enforcement. The digital natives who populate today’s campuses do not need to be sold on the notion that technology can make key services more accessible and convenient. So, when it comes to ensuring their own safety, students would likely avail themselves of these tools.

As campuses ramp up measures to safeguard the security of students, faculty, and other staff, they must also take measures to protect the data privacy of those they seek to protect. With the world growing more connected by the day, the security and privacy of individual data has moved to the forefront of public debate, and campuses should be attentive to these issues. Data collected and analyzed through AI-based security camera, for example, must only be accessible to authorized personnel, and records on specific people collected through security systems should be anonymized to prevent data abuse and the unwarranted targeting of individuals. By taking steps to promote data privacy, high schools, colleges and universities can achieve both data security and greater physical security.

In their efforts to drive down crime rates, campus officials should commit to a comprehensive evaluation of the emerging technologies that can improve campus safety within reasonable budget constraints. From there, officials can leverage the best technologies for their situation to implement emergency response plans. Schools are incubators for pioneering innovations, it’s only fitting that they embrace innovative technologies in their quest for greater safety.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Campus Security Today.


  • Convergint Gives Back Globally, Celebrates 23rd Annual Social Responsibility Day

    Today, Convergint celebrates its 23rd Annual Convergint Social Responsibility Day, as nearly 10,000 colleagues across 220 global locations have the opportunity to spend the workday giving back to their local communities. This year’s efforts have resulted in a total payroll donation of more than $3 million and more than $500,000 in labor and equipment donations from Convergint colleagues, partners, and families. Additionally, 400 colleagues and partners will help complete the company’s largest STEP Up project to-date for the Douglas County School District in Castle Rock, Colorado. Read Now

  • 2024 Secure Campus Award Winners Announced

    Campus Security Today is pleased to announce the 2024 Secure Campus Award winners. Twenty-six companies are being recognized this year for products that help keep education and business campuses safe. Read Now

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • Unlocking Peace of Mind

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown Read Now