Driving a Major Shift

Moving from siloed technology to part of an integrated security solution

Tremendous changes have been happening in the realm of campus access control in recent years. With the shift to IP-based systems, new software, hardware and applications are emerging to simplify operations, enable integration with other physical security systems and enhance overall security awareness and response.

Three Demands: Unification, Versatile Management, Mobile Access
Whether the changes are happening at schools or hospitals, condominium communities or malls, the three areas most campuses are focused on are: integration, management, and access.

One of the driving forces for change has been the high demand for unified solutions. Users are asking their vendors for a way to manage all their security systems through a single interface, from a single pane. This has led to a flurry of software development to seamlessly integrate access control systems with video surveillance, intrusion detection, visitor management, health monitoring, analytics with artificial intelligence (AI), and more.

So, for instance, if a person swipes their ID card at the door, a video pops up of the event and analytics can determine if there’s anyone tailgating behind the individual and automatically send an alert to security.

A second area where accelerated change is happening is in system management. Ever since COVID, users have looked for solutions that could be managed offsite. This has spurred adoption of new business models: access control in the cloud and employing access control as a service (ACaaS).

There are several advantages to the cloud model. Cloud-based solutions eliminate the cost of maintaining servers at multiple campus locations. Running on a single, centralized server in the cloud makes it easier to ensure that cybersecurity patches and software updates are implemented in a timely manner. And because communication between the cloud and devices is encrypted, data integrity is ensured.

Current Trends
Another management change that is trending has to do with the way campuses handle credentialing. The move to a unified security solution provides an opportunity to greatly streamline the process. With an integrated Microsoft Active Directory, it only takes a single entry to simultaneously provision and de-provision employee credentials across multiple systems. HR enters privileges when an employee is onboarded, and Active Directory automatically populates those credentials to other relevant campus systems.

Conversely, when an employee is terminated or leaves the organization, HR can rescind all privileges at once through the same Active Directory integration.

A third trend rising in popularity is the use of mobile technology and touchless entry. Since COVID, there has been a growing reluctance to interact with door and keypad surfaces. In response, campuses have been installing more automatic door sensors and deploying more advanced smartphone apps to unlock entries.

By taking advantage of Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) and up-and-coming Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, campuses are making the user experience easier and more convenient. Since nearly everyone carries a smartphone and is familiar with app technology, the learning curve for the new system is minimal. From a management perspective, if a phone is lost or compromised, campus security can quickly disable or change a person’s credentials without any user interaction needed.

Installing More Secure Hardware

Major changes have happened on the hardware front to accommodate new mobile access technology. Legacy 125 kHz RFID technology, magnetic strip and barcode readers are being replaced by smart card readers that are far more secure than their predecessors. While the older technology could be easily spoofed and copied, this new access control technology provides end-to-end encryption between a user’s mobile device or smartcard and the reader.

There also has been a major shift in door controller technology. Campuses are starting to replace traditional controllers, hardwired to a central location, with IP-based networked devices that allow for better scalability.

Instead of running multiple cables to a head end, IP door controllers can be installed near the door via a single cable from the nearest IT closet with a PoE network switch. Or, in the case of new wireless lock technology, the controller can communicate via Wi-Fi or radio frequency technology with the access management system.

Smart, wireless door locks are making inroads on college campuses. Schools are replacing mechanical lock and key doors with wireless locking mechanisms and issuing students with smart cards and smartphone apps in lieu of dorm keys. The multi-purpose smart cards and smartphones can be loaded with other applications, making them efficient platforms for managing other data such as meal plan credits, copier/print services, fingerprints for dual authentication and more.

Hospitals have started using wireless locks to secure high-risk areas of the campus like pharmacies and drug cabinets to control access to dangerous narcotics. Businesses have begun installing intelligent electrified locks on doors to sensitive areas like data centers to prevent unauthorized access. In many installations, an unlock event triggers nearby network video cameras to live stream and record the view to security. It is an integration strategy designed to discourage users from sharing their assigned credentials with other, unauthorized individuals.

Leveraging Analytics and AI
Campuses have been integrating more analytics and AI into their access control systems to meet the demands for heightened security and safety. These smart tools can be trained to recognize and act on a variety of scenarios – often in conjunction with video surveillance – such as detecting individuals attempting to tailgate entry on someone else’s credentials, verifying license plates authorization before lifting garage entry gates, using face detection to give access to high secure areas, denying access when occupancy limits are reached, preventing people from entering a gated construction site without wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, and so much more.

Because AI-powered access control systems can learn and adapt to changing threats, they are more difficult to breach than previous models. They can make contextual access decisions based on user behavior patterns and dynamically adjust access control policies based on the risk level of different situations.

Equally important, campuses are starting to use analytics and AI to drive access policy enforcement, identify people with inappropriate access, and check compliance to ensure that user access is always up-to-date and compliant with current regulations.

Shifting Data Analysis to the Edge
Because these more advanced access control systems have greater memory capacity and processing power than earlier models, many campuses are shifting analysis from the server level to these edge devices.

There are several advantages to implementing this change. Since edge-based analytics can make decisions within milliseconds, campuses can avoid the problematic latency inherent in transmitting data to a server and waiting for a response.

Moving analysis to the edge saves on network bandwidth, provides faster and more efficient processing of the data, and keeps the data secure since it is not being transmitted across a vulnerable network. In cloud-based applications, it saves on data storage and transfer bandwidth because it does not rely on remote computing of the data.

Trending Towards Smarter, More Secure Access Control
While advances in access control technology continue to evolve, how campuses choose to incorporate them into their security solutions will depend on their changing threat landscape.

Certainly, moving to an IP-based access control system affords greater opportunity to integrate with other security and management systems already in place to improve situational awareness and streamline management of the entire security ecosystem.

When access control resides on the network, users can remotely manage devices and monitor the system’s health, to ensure that operations are fully functional, up-to-date and secure. It also opens opportunities for campuses to leverage more advanced access control features such as smart cards and smart phones, facial recognition and biometrics as well as future innovations that might be on the horizon.

This article originally appeared in the March / April 2024 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