A Sense of Security

A Sense of Security

Colleges and universities get serious about building access control.
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DURING HIS 17-YEAR STINT AS DIRECTOR of <b>Duke University</b>'s key card program, Lowell Adkins remembers responding to a system problem at a residence hall one Saturday morning. Students who were living there saw him standing outside the entrance door and offered to let him in without question. If students would open the door for a complete stranger, he thought, then security clearly wasn't a high priority for them. It would be left to administrators to improve safety conditions involving access control.

Administrators everywhere face similar situations. After the terrorist attacks of 2001 and the shootings at <b>Virginia Tech </b>and <b>Delaware State University</b> this past year, surveys show that campus safety and security is parents' number one concern. New technologies-and some new twists on older methods-are helping security officers ensure that building access is granted only to those who should have it.

"[The Virginia Tech tragedy] refocused senior administrators on security," says Adkins, who is now executive director of the National Association of Campus Card Users.

Perhaps the answer lies in the cards-key cards, that is. Card systems consultant Robert C. Huber says that a card system enabling an authorized administrator to conduct a quick lockdown in case of an emergency, instead of tracking down the supervisor to do so, would benefit colleges and universities. He has found that campus officials "are looking for an easy card system function to shut down all doors and disable all cards temporarily."

In determining the best method for access control, here are examples of how higher ed institutions are getting a stronger grip on building security.

After a series of assault-related incidents on the Duke campus during Adkins' time there, administrators stepped up security measures. A task force with key players from departments such as security and facilities was charged with making the campus safer. "When you get senior leadership saying [to form a plan], people go do it," says Adkins.

One aspect of the resulting plan involved expanding the use of magnetic stripe card readers on exterior doors of academic buildings. Back then, the argument was that installing more readers would mean expensive drilling through thick concrete walls for a wired system to reach every part of the campus, Adkins explains. Nowadays, there is another solution: going wireless.



Wireless card access has 'helped the college as a whole with efficiency.' -Douglas N. Vanderpoel, Mount Holyoke College

Wireless card access offers a low-cost alternative to traditional hard-wired systems (where cable needs to be pulled from a secured opening to a building access panel/controller), and it can be adapted to work with systems already in place.

Jeff Koziol, regional director of the education market with Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies, says that security officers can indicate which cards can provide various openings within the buildings, even defining what times and days certain individuals can be granted access at different openings. An access control software database distributes this information to the appropriate building panels, which are programmed to determine who should get access.

This method eliminates the need for exterior cables and wires, reducing labor time and costs during installation. A large portion of labor involved in a "hard-wired" access opening is pulling the cable from the door being controlled to the data closet, where the building access panel may be located, Koziol explains. Accessing drop ceilings to hide the cable, or installing surface-mounted conduit in corners in order to run the cable, is also time consuming. Wireless card reader technology turns these problems into non-issues.

Koziol notes that with hard-wired access installations, one never knows what the installer will find as cable is being pulled from point A to point B. Many older buildings contain asbestos products that would be disturbed as installers access drop ceilings to pull cable. Wireless card reader technology eliminates the need to potentially deal with this issue. It's tricky to put a definite number on a base price for wireless card access system installation, due to factors such as the number of devices that will be managed by a panel/transceiver, Koziol says, but campus planners can estimate between $1,500 and $2,500 for an interior opening managed by a battery-powered wireless lockset and about $3,000 to $4,000 for exterior openings, which typically require a hard-wired locking mechanism. Still, these installations typically cost about 10 to 40 percent less than a traditional "hard-wired" access opening.

<b>Mount Holyoke College</b> (Mass.) is implementing an online wireless lock system in a residential hall that's currently under construction. The facility is expected to be completed this summer, and wireless access will become a standard for the college's residence halls as well as for future renovations.

Heartland Campus Solutions (formerly General Meters Corporation) hardware interfaces with an Ingersoll Rand wireless transmitter, which sends information to the locksets. All access is programmed through the HPS University 1card program, just as other card-related readers are programmed. The online system allows immediate program/access changes and alarm conditions 24/7. "It's helped the college as a whole with efficiency," says Douglas N. Vanderpoel, director of Auxiliary Services. "I think we're sold on how beneficial a key system is." Installation has been estimated at about $1,500 per door, he notes, including the lockset. Recently, wired internal access has been added to Mount Holyoke's science complex and student center.

Campus officials are also bringing this technology to individual residence hall room doors. Handing out brass keys is a costly and increasingly insecure method, as students may lose or misplace them or attempt to get them duplicated, notes Koziol. This results in heavy re-keying costs on a recurring basis. Many universities have begun to address this with card access solutions, essentially operating them as hotels do. They are experiencing both benefits in security and cost reduction (elimination of re-keying). These hotel-style cards can be coded to expire on a specific date and also to record someone accessing a specific lock and the time the person did it.

A Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) device, a proximity card ("prox" for short) contains a chip with a coil of thin wiring circling near the card's outer edges. When a card is brought to a reader, it generates electricity to activate the chip, which then transmits a unique card number that the reader receives and passes to a control panel that's located in the building. The reader is wired to a control panel, which controls a certain number of doors. Programmed from a PC, the control panel stores the database that specifies which cardholders are allowed; the panel also passes all transactional data back to the server for documentation purposes and allows for reports to be run.

<b>Maryville University of St. Louis</b> (Mo.) switched to a proximity system for exterior doors this past summer. The installation is occurring in two stages, with the first stage for residential housing. "We focused on the residential halls for the safety of our students," says Michael Parkinson, director of Public Safety.

Maryville has seven residential buildings: two residential halls and five apartment buildings. Each apartment building contains 15 units and holds up to 50 students per unit. Fifteen setups were implemented, including one for each laundry room. The next phase of this implementation, now under way, involves installing prox systems for the academic and administrative buildings.

Parkinson says that a prox card system provides "a higher level of security" than a magnetic stripe system, which involves cards like credit cards that store data through a band of magnetic material. The magnetic stripe on a card is read by the user swiping it through a reader.


The Cat Cards at the University of California, Merced-which are used for elevator and building access, campus dining, bookstore purchases, and checking out athletic equipment-can even be assigned to visitors.

The weakness with these magstripe cards, Parkinson says, is that they are easily compromised. A person could go online, find a card reader that can take the data off , and then try to produce cards that can manipulate the access system.

Prox card systems also mean that female students don't have to dig out their cards from a purse; instead, they can hold up the purse itself to be scanned. "The students like the fact they don't have to swipe their card anymore," says Parkinson.

PASS Security, which has a St. Louis-based site, was contracted to complete the project, which also included the addition of a reader to a computer lab located in one residential building.

The new system has made some problem solving easier. In the past, the procedure for lost keys involved having to change a whole course key system due to the loss of an exterior door key and/or a room key. Now, with the proximity system, all that has to be done involves a mouse click to check a box, Parkinson says. Plus, it's helpful in cases where individuals might need access to buildings after normal business hours-for example, students having to perform lab work could let themselves in and remain safe at night.

And public safety officers no longer have to carry around a set of master keys; the software can solve door access issues to which they're alerted. The new system makes Parkinson's department run smoother, he adds. "It frees up my staff to patrol."

There is a heavy cost upfront to implement this system-Maryville's price tag is close to $350,000, Parkinson says, adding that "over time, I think the sticker shock won't be as bad."

In addition to their use as building keys, smart cards can also serve as a form of ID, notes Mark Doi, director of end-user sales to the education market with HID Global. Smart cards have read/write capabilities, so multiple applications can access and store data on the card. The data is encrypted, eliminating the possibility of duplication. Contactless cards incur less wear and tear from contact with readers. HID's brand, iCLASS, is designed to be what Doi refers to as a "future-proof technology"-the technology allows for more applications on the card. Cost-wise, certain factors such as memory capacity and printing features will vary the amount, but campus leaders can expect to invest about $5 per card, in comparison to $1 per magstripe card, notes Doi.

<b>The University of California, Merced,</b> utilizes a Cat Card program, which employs the CS Gold campus card system from CBORD, including an HID iCLASS card reader for installation access control. The school manages more than 300 iCLASS readers with an integrated network of Squadron panels, designed to match hardware to specific access and alarm needs.

Named for the school mascot, the Cat Card is used for elevator and building access, campus dining, bookstore purchases, and checking out athletic equipment. The program accommodates all groups on campus, even visitors.

Having the user-friendly features of proximity cards, HID Global iCLASS13.56 MHz read/write contactless smart card technology provides enhanced security through encryption using a secure algorithm and mutual authentication. "We try to limit building access to a single point of entry when possible," says UC Merced's supervising locksmith, Frank Fimbrez. "All building main entries have card readers that can identify patron access. In addition, we utilize the Alarm Management portion of CS Gold, and if doors are propped, our police dispatch center can be notified."

Changes for access privileges can be made immediately. Office reassignments can also be reconfigured in real time to the second they need to happen, Fimbrez says, allowing him to set effective expiration dates. For example, Fimbrez can set a system to remove privileges one minute before 3 p.m. in one department and activate for another department exactly at 3 p.m. on the same day.

This system's elevator control abilities can make certain floors off limits, or specify sides of a building an individual can enter or exit, reducing the risk of vagrancy or vandalism. "We can restrict access to a single floor or group of floors by patron, group, or preset hours," says Fimbrez. The third floor of one academic building has faculty offices, so in order for students to visit their professors during office hours, the elevator and stairwell doors are programmed to unlock daily.

When making a decision on building security, Adkins advises forming a group that represents "a broad range of campus constituents," including student, faculty, and staff. "If you don't have a security problem, you're going to have [one eventually]. Deal with it hopefully in time to head off any serious crisis," he says. "Get a broad range of people together to talk about what they see as their security concerns and address that. The beautiful thing about the current state of technology is that there are so many options for the campus to utilize."

In addition to key cards, video and biometrics are providing extra security for campus buildings. Read Winkelman, vice president of sales for colleges and universities for The CBORD Group, is seeing intelligent video and notification systems (in which the camera records only when an access control system or video analytic software shows a need) as well as the use of contactless cards for physical access control on campuses.

"Tying together intelligent video solutions with access control allows campus security officials to react quickly to alarm conditions," he explains. "Contactless cards are harder to reproduce and therefore more secure than traditional magnetic stripe or bar code technology."

Electronic access control, intelligent video, and notification systems can help campus safety officials automate routines such as locking and unlocking doors and address alarm conditions more effectively, says Winkelman. "Used together, electronic access and intelligent video systems can prevent vandalism and theft, and improve responsiveness to propped doors or alarmed conditions."

TEECOM Design Group, an engineering consultancy, is implementing a global security application for <b>San Mateo County Community College District</b> (Calif.) to improve access control at its three colleges. Video is a key component.

The project started in 2005 after San Mateo County voters had passed two bonds for improving the district's colleges. Access control and alarm monitoring systems (ACAMS) will be included, says Thomas Keller, TEECOM vice president. At present, 12 buildings possess ACAMS and 12 more are under construction or renovation, explains Devitt J. Hartney, building systems engineer.

All perimeter doors and windows and select interior doors are monitored with contacts and connected to the system, explains Keller, while perimeter doors and general interior spaces with highly valuable assets include video surveillance cameras. When a door or window is forced open, the system reports an alarm and displays live video over the network to standard desktop PCs. The network-based system allows monitoring from various campus locations, says Keller. "The system also includes web access so the alarms can be monitored with video observation from anywhere."

Cameras, which are tied directly to the system servers, are recording all the time into a buffer memory. In the case of an incident such as a break-in, footage from both just before and during the event can be made available as evidence in an investigation, says Hartney. When the cameras start recording, the live image is sent to monitors in the security office so that officers may react as needed.

Perhaps biometrics is another option for building security. Biometric readers are most often used in areas where dual authentication is desired (hand recognition plus PIN or hand recognition plus card swipe), says Winkelman. CBORD customers using biometric technology have hand geometry readers rather than fingerprint scanners.

<b>Grand Rapids Community College</b> (Mich.) uses biometric hand geometry readers to protect areas involving computer data and finances, on top of a one-card access system used at the campus. Cindy Kennell, chief of police at the school, says the decision to incorporate a biometric system was based on the need for dual credentialing in these sensitive areas.

Schlage Recognition Systems Handkey II readers refer to hand geometry to map and confirm the size and shape of a person's hand. Each of the three readers (one on the door of the data center, the other two for the cashier's office and vault) is a door controller that provides door lock operation, requests for exit, and alarm monitoring. They're wired into the building's security network, which is easy to access remotely. Audit trail data provides empirical information needed to investigate problems that might occur within secured areas.

This decision is making Kennell and her colleagues sleep better at night, "because the sensitive areas have double coverage." They can track exactly who entered a building and when. "This was a proactive move to a higher level of security," Kennell adds.


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