Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Getting Into College, Today

Access control on college and university campus 

ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN ISHAM

Given the continuing eruptions of violence on college and university campuses, administrators and campus public safety departments have redoubled efforts to improve security. New access control technologies are helping by reducing costs, increasing convenience, and automating provisioning.

“The deployment of Power over Ethernet (PoE) and WiFi technologies in a lock is new,” says Angelo Faenza, senior director of Campus Electronic Access Control Security Solutions with ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions. “Both technologies streamline installations and allow universities to leverage existing IT infrastructure to facilitate access control throughout the campus.

Mobile apps are also emerging as effective and convenient access control technologies.

The High Cost Of Conventional Access Control

When a credentialed user presents a card to a reader at a door controlled by a conventional card access control system, the reader sends the card’s credentials to an intelligent panel, which stores credentials with permission to enter this door. If the card’s credentials are valid, the panel signals the door’s magnetic lock to open. If not, the door remains locked. Either way, the panel sends a record of the event to a database of transactions that a manager can audit.

Intelligent panels can handle up to 32 doors in reasonably close proximity. If a building has 33 doors, it needs two panels. Costs include buying the panels, installing them, and cabling them to all controlled doors and back to the head-end. Panels are a significant access control cost.

PoE and WiFi technology eliminate intelligent panels and their associated costs.

PoE At The University Of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) has used electronic access control across campus for more than a decade, says Joshua Cochran, director of the campus Integrated Security Department.

“We’re an urban campus, intertwined with city communities, and we have no true perimeter,” continues Cochran. “We’ve had an active shooter incident. We’ve had bomb threats. We’ve had protestors walking through the campus, and we don’t want them pouring into a building. For all of these reasons, we need access control technology, sometimes with police presence.”

Pitt’s main campus is comprised of about 80 buildings with more than 5,000 access control readers, says Cochran. Controlled buildings include residence halls, academic buildings, administrative buildings, and office buildings. Students, faculty, and staff card into each building.

“The University is currently retrofitting 1,100 doors with SARGENT Passport 1000 P1 PoE locks in addition to the approximately 500 P1 locks they already have,” notes Faenza.

SARGENT Manufacturing Company is an ASSA ABLOY Group company.

“We’ll add another 1,200 PoE locks this summer and plan to add 1,000 per year for a couple of years,” Cochran says.

“PoE locks are intelligent devices,” adds Faenza. “When someone presents a card to the reader embedded in the PoE lock (mounted on the door), the access decision is made right there.

“An event at the door and changes to the system — such as the addition of newly authorized names to the database — causes the lock to communicate with the head-end system, upload its events, and receive the updated access rights. It also communicates alarms immediately.”

Cochran wanted a hard-wired or live system, and he opted for the SARGEANT PoE solution because it combines power and data in a single cable while eliminating the access control panel and associated cabling requirements, and enabling a faster, easier installation, continues Faenza.

Another feature that Cochran points to is power savings. “PoE is green,” he says. “It uses 10 percent of the power used by a standard direct current system,” he says. “If a regular lockset draws 400 watts, PoE will draw just 40 watts.”

System components include the lock and embedded reader wired through an electronic power transfer or a patented McKinney PoE Hinge through an Ethernet cable to a PoE switch. The switch connects to the school’s network.

The lock and embedded reader of the system communicate with a nearby WiFi or wireless router, which then connects to the network. The capabilities of the WiFi-enabled lock and reader system are the same as the wired P1s.

Options include a keypad on the integrated lock that can operate as a second authentication factor for higher security doors.

Smartphones as Key-phones

During an average semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, campus housing administrators receive about 350 calls from students who had locked themselves out of their rooms. About 150 of those calls required cutting a new key. The rest required a University employee to spend time letting the student into the room.

“A new key can cost $30 to $40,” says Bob Lemley, software development director with Ithaca, NY-based The CBORD Group, Inc. “The charge covers re-keying the lock and reissuing keys to everyone living in the room — usually two people.”

Since IIT installed a CBORD CS Access electronic card access system, lockouts have plummeted to fewer than 10 per semester. The improvement stems from replacing metal keys with cardkeys — backed up by mobile phones enabled as key-phones.

“We have two mobile electronic key systems,” says Greg Makowski, director of technical services in IIT’s Auxiliary Services Department. “With one system, the student texts “Open MyDoor” to a unique number that we’ve provided. The system associates that number with the student’s room assignment and signals the reader to open the door.”

Open MyDoor doesn’t require a smartphone, just a phone that can text. The second system, Mobile ID, which requires an Android or iOS smartphone, will open any door — the student’s residence, the gym, a lab in a science building, even the gate to the parking lot.

“When students open the Mobile ID app, they see a list of all the doors they have opened with their regular ID card,” Makowski says. “They select the door they want to open from the list. The system ties the GPS location of the reader to that of the students. They have to be reasonably close to the door — they can’t open a door from across town. To open the door, they simply swipe a finger across the screen.”

That sends a message to a server that signals the reader to unlock the door.

Mobile ID also handles campus-vending tasks and point-of-sale debit transactions, but it doesn’t work on credit-card networks.

Designed as backups for the student ID card, the two mobile access systems are another reason expensive lockouts have plummeted at IIT. Students may lose ID cards, but they rarely lose their phones.

Automated Privileges

Provisioning access cards to open residence doors and other doors around campus and to access meal plans and debit accounts for vending and laundry is a time-consuming task. Today’s advanced access control systems automate all of that.

IIT uses three CBORD systems for access control, provisioning management, and housing management to do this.

“In the past, arriving students checked in, had an ID card printed, and went to the housing office to have the card encoded for access to various doors,” says Makowski.

“Today, students receive their ID cards at summer orientation. When they arrive on campus, they can go directly to their rooms and card in — the access control software checks the student’s address with the housing management software. If the student is trying to get into the right room, the system opens the door.”

“Our system will integrate with other housing management systems, too,” adds Lemley. “It can automate the provisioning of virtually every door a student needs to open, as well as room changes, temporary room assignments, meal plans, parking, you name it.”

Once a student has applied to a college and been admitted, today’s new access control technology can make it easy to actually get into college. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of College Planning & Management.

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