How much is a $70 backpack worth?
If you're a student, the answer is a lot more than $70. It probably contains a smart phone worth at least $200-and a tablet, e-reader or laptop worth between $300 or $1000. For a visual arts major sporting a Macbook Pro, add a thousand or more to that total. And don't forget textbooks, with a semester value of $1000 or more for a full-time student. Add to this the immeasurable value of the data on each device and the cost of managing the loss or theft of the device.
Now the dilemma emerges. When students are carrying personal effects with significant value, and accessibility is limited for security reasons, how do universities provide secured storage for student belongings?
Beyond the locker room
As a manufacturer of electronic locks for lockers and cabinets, we've seen the demand for these products expand far beyond the health club and university athletics markets. In fact, product evolution has been driven by changes in the personal security needs of colleges and universities.
The first evolution was away from traditional dial and key builtin locks and padlocks to electronic keypad locks with management control capabilities. Students, primarily athletes, gain access to their assigned lockers with a keypad code entry. Facility personnel manage those locks with a manager key or code for security breaches or forgotten codes. The next evolution moved locks out of the team locker room and into mainstream campus areas, driven by increasing concern over campus violence, and the illustrated value of personal belongings.
Feeding the masses
Whether cafeteria or food court, campus dining requires feeding a large student population, often with big crowds at peak hours.
Universities are now offering temporary, locking storage for backpacks and personal belongings at food service entry points. Students place their belongings in a locker, lock it with a pin code, and return after eating to unlock it with the same pin code. The locker is ready for the next user with a different pin code. For students, it prevents them from carrying a potentially large or heavy backpack along with the food tray they've just purchased. From the university's standpoint, checking bags at the door adds a measure of security in a place where large numbers of students gather.
We're all familiar with checking shopping bags at the entry of a retail store. It's also a widely-used loss prevention practice at college bookstores. Students enter, leave their backpacks at a storage area, complete their purchases and retrieve their backpack. Twenty years ago, few of us had any concerns about leaving a backpack with notebooks and a few text books at the front of the store in an open cubby. Remember that $1000 backpack? Today, no one is leaving that unattended. The solution: backpack lockers, secured with a temporary use digital lock. These front-of-store lockers aren't always the traditional metal door type either. For better security and visibility of locker contents, lockers are now purchased with a clear polycarbonate or plexiglass style door.
Just as is the policy in most membership-based gyms and health clubs, mobile phones or other devices with cameras are not allowed in changing rooms and lockers rooms on college campuses. Many universities that have student centers with athletic facilities offer wallet lockers with the same temporary use electronic locks used in food service areas and bookstores. Wallet lockers are small, cubby style lockers, often with clear doors, located in a common area outside the fitness rooms.
Classes and school supplies
Many academic pursuits involve labs, studios, and other classroom environments where it is either required or advantageous for students to leave behind supplies-think lab coats, visual art supplies, personal safety equipment. Some even involve a uniform or supply exchange program. While the lockers are similar to those on campus in other areas, the lockers are assigned to a single student for use throughout his or her semester class.
Who, where and when
The campus security plan that describes where students can be on campus- along with what they can carry with them to each part of campus-is the driver for the next evolution of locks and lockers. On nearly every college campus, students use an RFID (radio frequency identification) card for a host of transactions-dormitory access, food service payment, academic building access, parking lot and garage use. Add locker access to that list.
RFID locker locks, working on a number of RFID frequency platforms, are growing in use on campuses every year. RFID card reading locks, implemented as part of an integrated security system, provide access control and audit trail. That is, they define who can or cannot enter an area and they track who has entered an area. Access control and audit trail on lockers utilizing RFID locks offers campuses significant tracking on how often lockers are used, by whom and for what length of time. Integrated security solutions will continue to advance, offering universities increasingly more sophisticated campus access, tracking and security measures.
Changes in campus security happen every day. Product innovations, new security threats, and the demands of student populations converge to reform how universities protect the person and personal belongings of those they educate. From the partnerships we have with vendors who provide security measures, we expect continuing advancements in the use of RFID technology, the integration of smart phone controls and apps, and collaboration to develop solutions that not only answer but exceed the safety expectations of university constituents.
is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Digilock, a global leader in electronic lock solutions. A former adjunct professor of marketing communications, she specializes in product positioning and strategic sales and marketing. For more information about Digilock, go to www.digilock.com.