Back to school

January 2013 Integrated Solutions, Education (Industry)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions went back to school to learn about best practice solutions for security installations at educational institutions. According to Walter Rautenbach, MD of neaMetrics, the landscape of educational security installations has changed from just addressing general risk issues to the need for a totally integrated solution for campus environments.

“Some of the needs that these institutions, specifically with regard to tertiary education, try to address include the general safety of students and staff as well as the security of assets, on campus/premises. This involves controlling the people entering the premises who actually have a right to be there and who have paid their tuition. It also looks at how they can secure equipment in laboratories; control how long students spend in labs for practical exams, and general control of student attendance,” Rautenbach explained.

“In primary and secondary education, parents are starting to consider such solutions for attendance purposes. This is not necessarily just to make sure that their children attend school, but also to have some form of early detection should their child not actually show up in the classroom. This latter point has become an increasing concern as the fear of child abduction continues to be headline news,” added Rautenbach.

John Powell, MD of PowellTronics, agreed and added that an increasing emphasis on occupational health and safety (OHS) compliance is a large issue of concern. “Typically in the past, educational facilities maintained an open door policy, but with both the increase in crime, as well as the sheer magnitude of people entering the facilities, more attention is being paid to controlling the flow of people.

“Together with the high volumes of traffic in educational facilities, other challenges are presented in the large geographic size of the facilities, the often widespread campuses and the classification of older facilities as heritage sites. This latter point means that it is often difficult to deploy technology because of the restrictions placed on any form of architectural alteration on these buildings.”

Allied to the large volume of people entering the premises is the huge number of entries into the access control database. It is not uncommon to have 20 000 to 40 000 people on a tertiary education campus database. If one then multiplies this number by more than 500 different access points, it clearly becomes a management nightmare.

“A common complaint we receive is that the service provider has installed a database that cannot cope with the sheer size of the institutions database. Another key element is ensuring that institutions chose a database that allows seamless integration between the access control database and the institutions’ ERP packages, like SAP, and Microsoft Active Directory,” Powell added.

Ensuring that the person writing an exam is the person who registered for the course is another priority for tertiary educational facilities. “In addition, the educational institutions have extensive computer labs and they need to monitor time allocations in terms of IT usage and protection of these high-value assets. Another issue cited by educational institutions, is the management of vehicles in terms of where and for how long they may park.”

University of Cape Town Upper Campus.
University of Cape Town Upper Campus.

Finding solutions

Powell said that CCTV surveillance is often utilised as a deterrent measure. “Access control is a more pressing concern, but it may be integrated/linked to the CCTV cameras in areas deemed to be sensitive, this will allow access control transactions to be coupled with CCTV footage. Biometric access control is beginning to gain popularity for entry into these sensitive niche areas. However, for now, student cards will continue to be the access method of choice. Hybrid installations, combining both technologies, are becoming more common at most educational facilities.

“By linking the student card to access control software, one is able to ensure that students are permitted to enter only predetermined zones. From a physical perspective, it is often difficult to deploy turnstiles due to space constraints and possible bottlenecks due to the vast number of users, but these are considered appropriate for student entry into hostels. Controlling access to hostels is sometimes a challenging task, as often these facilities are used by non residents for functions and eating halls, however if enough prior investigation with the various role players is done, there are viable solutions,” said Powell.

“In its simplest form, the student card is used for identification for third-party student discounts and access control. Some institutions take it a step further by indicating they want to extract value by implementing more intelligent card solutions. These would carry value that can be utilised on campus for purchasing of services such as making photocopies, vending machines or buying refreshments in the canteen. Others have expressed a wish to give students credits for good attendance,” added Rautenbach.

The issue of database management can be resolved by screening potential service providers to ensure that they have experience in this arena. “Typically, a service provider should be utilising the latest IP technology and non-proprietary databases. It is hugely beneficial if the system includes a self-monitoring and early warning system that sends alerts to relevant parties when the database or communication to the systems controllers is becoming too large for sustainability. Finally, the system should be able to accommodate numerous shift parameters and offer flexible access groups,” said Powell.

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Rautenbach said that the spotlight will remain on the total offering provided. “We feel that the focus on fully integrated solutions that address the end user’s needs will increase and more market consolidation will occur. When we say ‘integrated solutions’ we are referring to end-to-end solutions; solutions that integrate various aspects of security including access control, CCTV, workforce management, time and attendance (T&A) as well as more sophisticated building management solutions, with a focus on green, environmentally-friendly implementations. “The client should not be expected to seek out a company that can integrate all elements of the total solution. Service providers need to become more proactive in forming symbiotic, collaborative relationships with other service providers. In this way, the client will receive a completed, multi-modal system that addresses all their specific requirements,” Rautenbach concluded.



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