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Archives > October 2013 > A Better Way to Protect People and Property on University Campuses

A Better Way to Protect People and Property on University Campuses

Most universities currently use campus magstripe cards or contactless, low-frequency (125 kHz) cards, often known as proximity (or Prox) cards. While these cards have clearly been popular choices in the past, they may not provide the level of security or adaptability that is needed in order to protect campuses as security threats continue to evolve.

By: Brett St Pierre

One way to protect students, faculty and staff is with high-frequency contactless smart card technology that uses mutual authentication and cryptographic protection mechanisms with secret keys, and a secure messaging protocol delivered on a trust-based platform.

While there is a cost involved with migrating to smart cards, this is outweighed by the savings that are realized in convenience, maintenance and management improvements, and the value of a single card for applications including opening doors, accessing computers, time-andattendance, secure-print-management, and paying for meals, transit fare and cashless vending purchases. Today's smart cards also feature multi-layered security, full privacy support and robust tamper defenses, and are portable to NFC-enabled smartphones so users can carry all credentials on a device they rarely lose or forget.

Best Practices for Migrating To New Technology
Universities can better streamline their migration success through several best practices, including using platforms based on open standards to improve flexibility and interoperability. This gives administrators the confidence that it will be easy to expand or add new technology and capabilities without forfeiting earlier investments in their access control infrastructure.

Migrating from old to new access control systems is simple, affordable and manageable using multi-technology cards and readers that limit disruption to day-to-day workflow. Current student ID and issue code numbering systems are retained for easy administration of the migration, and card services teams have indicated that smart card and magstripe printing workflow processes are quite similar.

Solving Secure Issuance Challenges
To optimize the badging process, universities must select printers, card materials and software that enable them to incorporate both visual and logical anti-tamper elements into their cards to ensure trustworthy, multi-layered authentication. Visual elements can include higher-resolution images and holographic card over-laminates, as well as permanent laserengraved personalization attributes that are extremely difficult to forge or alter.

The right issuance solution can make a big difference when it comes to staying ahead of, or even eliminating, long card issuance lines at the beginning of the year. Printers should feature a small footprint so they can be installed wherever needed, and the issuance solution should be easy to set up and use, intuitive, and require little or no training. Field-upgradable printers enable universities to meet new requirements as needs evolve, and software solutions should support multiple uses and include card templates that streamline card creation, including data synchronization.

Print speed is also important, to keep card lines moving. To meet these needs, today's High Definition Printing (HDP) units offer high throughput plus superior reliability and durability, a modular design, and crisper, higher-definition images than alternatives. Unlike traditional Direct To Card (DTC) printers, HDP printers actually print a high resolution image to a transfer film which is then adhered to the card. This process not only delivers exceptional image quality, but also eliminates the possibility of print head damage caused by direct contact with the card's contact chip. As a result, HDP printers can be used to print cards made from a variety of materials, including those with embedded electronics.

Another benefit of today's high-throughput solutions is they can run operations in parallel, speeding issuance by encoding one student's card while it's printing another. These solutions also support both centralized and distributed printing, so universities can pool two or more desktop units at the card services office for large-volume, centralized card runs, as well as individual units at locations such as residence halls where authorized users there can print cards and issue them to students. This can alleviate long card pickup lines while improving student convenience.

Speeding the printing process is particularly important at the beginning of each semester, enabling universities to minimize or eliminate long lines and make the registration experience quick and painless for staff and students, alike. There are two key ways to do this.

First, inline personalization solutions can be used, enabling universities to combine what previously were multiple processes into one automated step. Users simply submit a card into a desktop printer equipped with an internal smart card encoder, and the card is automatically personalized inside and out. Universities that purchase field-upgradable units will be able to add encoders to their printers later, in the field. When they're ready to maximize their smart cards' functionality and take advantage of the speed and convenience of inline personalization, they will have all the pieces in place.

A second way to speed card issuance is to pre-print cards with static information ahead of time. This information might include the school seal, logo, and mission statement. Universities can also pre-print visual security elements such as higher-resolution images and holographic card overlaminates, as well as permanent laserengraved personalization attributes that are difficult-if not impossible-to forge or alter. With these and other items already on the card, all remaining items can be printed on issuance day using faster, partial-ribbon printing.

Managing Visitors
Visitors must also be considered, and protecting campus residence halls is particularly important. This can be challenging in the open environment of most college campuses. Procedures that should be enforced include requiring all visitors on campus to wear a visitor badge that was issued when they were checked in. Hand-written systems don't offer adequate security for this requirement, and aren't scalable enough to support campus expansion.

Instead, campuses should consider visitor management solutions that integrate with their access control system. This gives universities a number of capabilities for tracking students visiting another student's residence hall, and also for tracking and badging all non-student visitors. Lobby attendants can issue guest badges through the visitor management system, rather than having to interface with the access control system. The system also can be used to screen each visitor on states' registered sex offender databases and other watch lists, and flag those visitors at the time of check in. And it can be used to identify guests who haven't checked out by the end of visiting hours, and flag visitors who, for instance, may have repeatedly violated check-in procedures or stayed too long, and issue alerts upon their arrival.

In order for universities to keep their campuses safe, high-frequency contactless smart cards are the best choice for improving security while speeding registration and delivering greater value and convenience for cardholders and administrators. 

 

 

About The Author
Brett St Pierre

is the director of business development, Education Solutions with HID Global. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating the company's vertical business strategy and product roadmap and plays a key role in extending HID Global's industry leadership in this rapidly growing market.

 

 

 

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