50 Customers in One
What it takes to think like a higher education buyer
- By Brandy Edgecombe
- October 01, 2021
Finding the right security solution for, let’s say, multi-tenant
housing, requires significant consideration. There
is a variety of factors to think through, such as which
doors need to be secured? How will visitors be managed?
Where cameras will need to be deployed? What if that
was just one small vertical slice of a much larger campus with distinct
needs? Now you are thinking like a higher education buyer.
A university campus comes with diverse security needs. There is
residential housing, academic buildings, point-of-sale locations like
dining halls, and high-security areas such as research laboratories,
sports stadiums involving mass gatherings, healthcare facilities and
even off-season usage by third-party organizations such as camps or
symposiums. Finding a solution that can cover all of those use cases
is no simple feat. The best way to begin is by breaking down each core
vertical slice to determine its needs, and then find a solution that is
open enough to make a multi-faceted system a reality.
Before diving into the solutions for the various use cases, it is critical
to consider how any campus-wide security solution will be managed.
Consider using an “area access manager” style of governance.
This partitions system administration rights across different
departments to manage buildings, cardholders and any other relevant
systems. This distributes the workload, reducing strain on the often
resource-constrained security team.
Campus Buildings (with specialized areas)
The most common type of security needs on a higher education campus
are the buildings students use every day for living and learning.
For student housing, access control at the main entrance of the building
is a necessity. Whether indoor wireless or PoE locks are included
on individual room doors is a matter of budget. There is room here to
go with mobile credentials but to accommodate other on-campus
needs, as if dining halls and smart cards are also used. Integrating
video management into the overall ecosystem is ideal for student protection,
allowing a university to monitor everyone coming and going,
and ultimately identify unauthorized individuals who manage to gain
entry. Furthermore, campus buildings are used in the school off-season
to house visitors for temporary stays (such as symposiums or
camps), so the ability to provide temporary credentials becomes an
important consideration when implementing a security solution.
One of the most onerous components of residential buildings is
the constant turnover (as semesters come and go), along with everchanging
roommate assignments, because let’s face it – not all roommates
are a match made in heaven. Many institutions of higher learning
do not have a good solution for this challenge and find themselves
spending significant time manually changing access rights. Finding
an access control solution that can easily integrate with the existing
human resource or student information system to automate this process
saves many headaches, while also reducing the risk of a student
accidentally gaining access to the wrong residence hall room. In situ- ations like the recent COVID-19 pandemic, this integration also used
to block a person’s access to facilities for specified time-periods based
on the results of a health self-assessment questionnaire, helping to
create safer, healthier buildings for the entire campus community.
For standard academic buildings, access control should be
deployed where needed – places of ingress and egress, as well as any
rooms and closets that should not be accessible to the general population.
Many schools have research programs and facilities that operate
high-dollar equipment, store hazardous materials or controlled substances
and contain valuable intellectual property.
The research areas must be protected with a higher level of security
than a standard classroom. It is not uncommon for research programs
to have federal funding and affiliation, which may require compliance
with additional federal regulations. It is critical to select a system that
supports compliance with all of the various regulatory requirements of
a campus. At a minimum, readers need to use Open Supervised Device
Protocol and multi-factor authentication if any hazardous chemicals or
controlled substances are being used and stored.
It is a solemn necessity that any solution includes ways for authorized
persons to put a campus on lockdown, whether that be a special
card swipe, a software-initiated lockdown or an input such as a panic
button. Ideally, lockdowns should be customizable to certain campus
areas for a more targeted approach.
Point of Sale
College campuses also include retail experiences with dining halls or
on-campus stores, where students need an easy way to make purchases.
As stated earlier, using smart cards that act as both an access
credential as well as a place to store school funds is ideal.
Things can get tricky when students try to take advantage of “all you
can eat” meal plans by giving friends their cards. One way to solve this
problem while also speeding up entry is by integrating with biometric
software and readers. Rather than multiple swipes of a card, students
can simply walk through immediately as the biometric reader verifies
their access. Exchanging cards is no longer possible when students are
required to present a unique biometric, which in turn, reduces the
financial loss a campus experiences with meal plan sharing.
Stadiums and Mass Gatherings
The influx of people on a big college game day presents a host of
unique security challenges. A big rival football game can draw more
than 100,000 people over a relatively short timeframe, and unlike
other controlled and secure areas on campus, necessitates letting
large numbers of people into a given area at a given time.
While it’s not feasible to provide credentials to every visitor to the
campus, risk can be mitigated by implementing extensive video surveillance
to improve situational awareness around violence or theft,
as well as intercom integrations to improve mass notification capabilities
in the event of an emergency. Due to the open nature of athletic
facilities, it makes the most sense to focus access control on
select areas that require tighter restrictions, such as locker rooms, IT
closets and areas where currency is stored.
Find an Open, Trusted Solution
If you take anything away from this simplified breakdown of the multiple
uses of a college setting, it’s that a good technology solution is an
open one that has a wide variety of features, and a proven pedigree of
seamlessly integrating with third-party technologies. With the right
products and implementation, your security solution will certainly
make for a safer campus – but it can do much more than that too.
It can simplify operations and enhance the everyday experience of
students and faculty, all while providing the peace of mind and confidence
needed to create an ideal learning environment.
This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.