The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) on-boards approximately 9000 new students each year across five campuses. The university’s legacy access control system was suffering from increasingly limited support, both in terms of hardware and software, with maintenance becoming a pressing concern.
During protests, the issue of student access control reached board level and questions arose regarding the capabilities of the existing solution. Once a due diligence report was concluded, a number of reasons became apparent for considering a new solution. These included:
• The system originated from a single incumbent contractor.
• The lifespan of the old system was limited.
• Annual maintenance was costly.
• A lack of integration capabilities.
• The system was insecure.
• No encryption of the access cards was available.
• It used legacy architecture.
• There was difficulty in obtaining system spares.
• Very few companies in the market were able to provide assistance when required, as a result of the small support base.
What UKZN wanted was:
• A web-based system that could seamlessly integrate with its ERP system for automated provisioning and de-provisioning of staff and students.
• Cost-effective, durable hardware carrying a minimum warranty period of three years.
• The solution had to be supported by a large installer base in KwaZulu-Natal.
• Technical backup from the manufacturer and supplier of both software and hardware.
• An IP-based system that was scalable and supported a centralised data centre environment.
• A system that was cost effective to deploy, operate, maintain and scale.
• Future-proofed in order to ensure integration with third-party products and systems, thereby preventing vendor lock-in.
Impro Technologies’ Access Portal solution, coupled with HID Global’s R10 readers with next-generation Seos credential technology, offered secure open standards and met all the criteria outlined by UKZN. A magstripe was included for students to use other services with one card. The adoption of new technologies such as virtual credentials and mobile access is also easily deployed through this solution.
Impro Technologies also offers certified training for all the university’s in-house staff members to ensure knowledge-sharing and rapid upskilling on the new system.
The system, which was deployed in a phased approach to minimise disruption and reduce deployment costs, currently handles over
200 000 daily transactions and has resulted in an estimated annual saving of over R3 million for the university.
Impro Technologies’ Access Portal software allows for extensive integrations with third-party systems, including UKZN’s student management system, as well as the student printing solution (follow-me printing/release on demand).
This system uses integrated readers in the multi-function devices and cash kiosks, so students can make payments into their account which are reflected as printing credits. Students are then able to use any printer in UKZN and release the document with their student card.
Access Portal is also the authoritative source for identity management when issuing and managing laptops to qualifying students; while integration with Hikvision has resulted in the deployment of facial recognition in key areas through the university.
Another strong feature of Access Portal is threat-level, which enables the university to pre-set actions in an emergency. For example, all access points can be immediately locked down, with nobody able to enter or exit, or all points opened to enable evacuation. Whatever the emergency, it simply takes a mouse click and it’s done, a critical time saving mechanism in an emergency situation.
However, the real test is the client feedback.
Overall, the project was a great success, having met all objectives well within budget and timeframe. In addition, the university has a solution that will grow with its needs and enable the adoption of new technologies long into the future.
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