Balancing security with accessibility and safety

June 2011 Access Control & Identity Management, Education (Industry)

Campus architecture and design has historically been towards open facilities for learning. The increasing need to provide a secure environment for students has placed significant pressure on academic institutions and a global trend towards smart campuses where technology innovation allows for a secure environment without creating an impression of locked down facilities.


Up-Front BluePrint – not conducting a proper BluePrint or approaching vendors before the system requirements have been defined can lead to conflict between internal business process owners. It also leads to false perceptions of what the real requirements are (with distorted priorities). This could result in paying for and implementing technologies that are not really needed or will not work in applications outside of the specific environment where installed. A clear, long-term strategy should be in place to protect all the various types of people across all of the institutions’ sites.

Involving all stakeholders – having the right people involved during the design phase ensures all requirements are considered. Educational institutions have many varied stakeholders and by not involving the right people upfront, it is possible to miss the opportunity of leveraging investment in a new technology.

Churn – by default there is high turnover of staff/contractors which, together with annual student churn and different people types with varied activity requirements result in very specific user access profiles that often require adjustment, if these processes are not automated the manual maintenance and editing of profiles can become costly and onerous.

Cards are here to stay...until NFC – student cards not only grant access but are used as qualification for discounts and off-campus identification and as such they will remain the primary source of ID validation of students for the near future.

The challenge for many campuses is to make full use of any investment in access control by using additional functionality of RFID SmartCards to implement student registration, meal registration, cashless vending, time recording etc – all on one secure RFID card.

Future-proofing/scalability – it is important that educational institutions future-proof their systems and purchasing decisions for the advent of new technologies and future campus developments/growth. Installing integrated framework solutions such as innoVIZION’s 5thP Integrated Framework Solution is critical to ensure scalability and future system and business application integration opportunities. A further example is to ensure that the RFID readers/controllers selected and installed as part of today’s implementations are near field communication (NFC) compatible/ready enabling students to migrate their smartcards to use their cellphones for access/payments and identification. After all – which student today does not have a cellphone?

Flexibility – campus-based access control systems need to be flexible to cater for multiple access control scenarios, from high security areas to accommodation security that caters for conference delegates/alternate accommodation during the months when normal students are not in residence. Keyless buildings and seamlessly integrated systems should be the goal and the norm when implementing new technology.

Managing change – technology upgrade or modernisation projects always present a challenge and replacing large volumes of magnetic stripe cards/RFID with Mifare/DESfire cards or migrating from Mifare Classic to DESfire requires considerable planning. In many cases multitechnology cards are required to extend operability of legacy library/cashless vending systems.

Effective change management and communication is critical when upgrading from masterkey and other less advanced electronic access systems to new technology. A system that is able to automatically format existing MIFARE cards when first presented to the new system can save thousands of hours by facilitating the upgrade as part of a student’s normal movement on campus.

Proven solutions with measurable benefits

Leading Universities such as Oxford/Cambridge/MIT/Cairo/UAE as well as local campuses such as NMMU and Stellenbosch University are trending towards the latest advances in campus access and card access control technologies. Together with advanced wire-free networked electronic locking solutions, MIFARE cards are being used at the above institutions for e-registration, printing, photocopying and library functions, meals and cashless card (campus e-purse) systems for all payments.

Significant benefits and streamlining of existing manual processes are immediately delivered when implementing a modern, education tailored, access control solution. Some of these are:

Cost savings – significant cost savings and the ability to deliver access control to more doors can be realised by integrating proven battery operated wire free (wireless) and stand alone systems such as SALTO, with existing hard-wired perimeter access protection systems.

Totally keyless campuses eliminate the cost of changing lock cylinders and master keys by delivering the ability to cancel master key cards from the system if staff/contractors or students loose or do not return them.

Streamlining of processes – integration to financial/student record HR and maintenance systems can totally eliminate many existing paper-based mechanisms in practice today at many schools and campuses. A simple example are special maintenance cards for lighting/plumbing or electrical faults that, when swiped at a lecture hall scanner/residence room door immediately notifies the maintenance department of an incident at that location. When repaired, a similar card signals completion of the job as well as who completed it.

Biometrics on the card – biometric security is a proven and viable solution for high security areas such as residences and research labs. In education environments however, fingerprint on card technology is the best mechanism to eliminate any possible issues (technical as well as privacy concerns) that may occur when running large volumes of templates on a centralised template distribution software/database solution. Storing the fingerprint on the card also facilitates immediate mobile biometric verification of students for exam or PC login/identity validation applications.

Attendance recording – historically campus time and attendance systems have simply recorded the hours worked by staff and the data has been used to compile payrolls.

Modern systems are increasingly being used for attendance recording/roll calls and delivering accurate real-time information, which is of key significance when applied to health and safety incidents such as fire alarms or evacuations and even deliver on statutory reporting requirements.

Effectiveness of student assistance centres can be measured by recording which students made use of the facilities and attendance of students to extramural activities such as sporting events and exhibitions that are worth ‘credits’ can easily be recorded using mobile touch points. Additionally, accurately recording the times of contractors can ensure that service level deliverables are met whist allowing for accurate verification of hours billed.

Securing the maximum value on investments made into new technology by selecting the right implementation partner as well as a software and hardware platform that delivers more than the standard hard-wired, role-based access control solutions of the past will provide a secure learning and working environment into the future for all students/staff and contractors.

innoVIZION is a leading distributor, installer and maintenance supplier of proprietary integrated framework solutions eg, 5thP/iSIM/iSIS, industry leading conventional wired access control, leading edge wireless access control as well as industry leading digital surveillance, building management systems, smartcard and biometric solutions.

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