There are a number of challenges faced in ensuring adequate access control and monitoring within the educational sector. In the tertiary education space in particular, the large volumes of students, academic staff and third-party contractors passing through the various entry and exit points are an ongoing trial for safety, security and risk personnel.
From a security perspective, the implementation of biometric access control provides for more stringent protection of students and assets, as well as ensuring that access into sensitive high-value areas, such as computer laboratories, is more precisely controlled, according to John Powell, CEO of Powell Tronics. Additionally, by using biometric control, students can be allocated a specific time zone in which they are able to access computer labs, thereby ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity to use these facilities.
Furthermore, since many educational facilities are widespread and may be located over numerous campuses, and even over a number of regions, a more easy-to-deploy alternative to static biometric points may be required. Portable biometrics can easily solve these challenges, with a major added value being the elimination of bottlenecks forming at ingress and egress points within common areas such as libraries and cafeterias, especially during peak or function times.
Another trend which has recently prompted the use of biometric access control is the subletting by students of their authorised student accommodation to non-authorised students. By implementing biometrics, this not only protects the landlord from the loss of income due to the fraudulent subletting, but also ensures that students are accommodated in a safe living environment, where only those students enrolled on the system are allowed access into the building at the prescribed times required by the institutions.
Two other areas where portable biometrics prove their worth are (1) ensuring that only registered students benefit from the free access to campus transportation; (2) examination attendance verification.
Powell believes that biometrics solutions for the educational sector should be feature rich beyond basic access control, with things like mustering and lockdown, enabling management to be in control using access control data. The ability to seamlessly integrate with the institution’s own enterprise software programs, as well as with commonly used programs such as Microsoft’s Active Directory, is a prerequisite. It must also be able to gather and verify data at both portable and static enrolment points.
Powell says that historically, due to the cost of entry into market for widespread biometrics, facilities have opted for hybrid systems that make use of both card readers and biometric readers, with the latter being deployed primarily at key points. Another driving factor in hybrid systems has been for assured compatibility with all existing onsite services such as laundries, cafeterias, laboratories, libraries, hostels, sports and entertainment facilities, as well as computer facilities. As budgets allow, institutions are converting more of their card-based ingress and egress points into biometric alternatives to provide enhanced security and all the benefits of biometric verification.
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