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Archives > February 2014 > Choosing the Right Access Control Technology for Student Housing

Choosing the Right Access Control Technology for Student Housing

One of the most important aspects of on-campus housing is to ensure that students are safe and secure. It's a paramount consideration not only for students who currently live in dormitories-it's also important to show prospective students and their parents that the university considers the security of its oncampus residents to be a top priority.

By: Angelo Faenza

While every college dormitory has some type of security system in place, even if it's nothing more than keyed mechanical locks on the doors, many colleges are looking at either adding electronic access control (EAC) technology or improving on an existing EAC system. The truth is, many university housing facilities need a security system upgrade.

The university committee in charge of selecting what type of solution will be deployed will have a variety of interests at stake. Representatives from university housing, security, administration, facilities management, IT, finance and possibly others will all be a part of the process. Everyone's needs and points of view need to be taken into account. That said, no one is going to contest the need to keep students safe and secure.

There are two fundamental areas that have to be looked at-literally. How is the college perimeter going to be secured, and how are the interior doors going to be secured?

Any discussion about school security needs to start with determining how to secure the perimeter. This is the first area of entry, the "first line of defense," and having an effective security system in place is mandatory. That said, securing the interior doors of dormitories and other facilities where students work and play is of equal importance-but perhaps surprisingly, most schools don't give this serious enough consideration.

Another major consideration for any university will be the selection of a credential. All schools utilize some type of credential such as a bar code, mag stripe, proximity or smart card. Many have a combination through a variety of legacy systems and see the opportunity to transition to a consistent standard across all facilities. This will then bring up the question of the need to change only some or all locks on a given building and what are the consequences. Many of the answers lie in the use of a dual-credential (mag stripe and prox or mag stripe and smart card) solution. With this type of solution your school can migrate to new devices slowly, changing them out in stages and managing the change at your own pace.

In deciding what type of access control hardware to choose, consider this: every student and faculty member has an ID card. Therefore, going to a card reader-based access control system has a tremendous advantage: it can be used with the ID cards that everyone already has. Card-based electronic access control also eliminates the need for keys (and their potential to be lost or stolen) and like all EAC systems, provides a host of capabilities unavailable from conventional mechanical locks. In addition to card-based systems, other types of locks can be considered, such as locks that use a combination of card and PIN code access or locks that can be opened by a smartphone.

EAC provides tiered levels of access - only authorized people may be allowed to enter a building and only at certain times. For example, only those students who live in a residence hall would be able to enter that building using their IDs, while everyone on campus might have ID-card access to the library. Another big advantage is monitoring capability: EAC locks provide an audit trail of who opened a door and when.

How will any hardware upgrades work with a facility's existing security system? Understandably, administrators want to protect their initial investment, and budget is always a major factor. (And where will the budget come from?) The good news is that in many cases an existing system can be built upon.

There are three basic types of electronic access control locks: stand-alone locks, Power over Ethernet (PoE) locks and Wi-Fi locks. Stand-alone locks are battery-powered and do not have to tie into an existing security system, while providing all the functionality of electronic access control mentioned previously. PoE and Wi-Fi locks offer a major advantage-they interface with a facility's existing IT network. The locks and related hardware can leverage the already-in-place IT infrastructure, saving considerable expense and facilitating installation and deployment. Wireless Wi-Fi locks can readily expand the coverage area of a security system since they can be installed in areas that are difficult to reach by cable.

Perhaps as important as choosing the right system is choosing the right security provider. The security contractor you select should be a partner, not just a vendor. Security isn't a "one and done" situation-on-campus housing needs will evolve and change over time, and it's a good idea to consider not only current needs but to keep an eye on possible future upgrades-for example, locks that can accommodate multiple types of credentials even if they're not used now, or electronic access control systems that operate with smartphones and other mobile devices. Choose a company that will keep up with changes in the university's needs, and that keeps pace with current and future advances in security technology. 

 

 

About The Author
Angelo Faenza

is the General Manager-PERSONA and Sr. Director Campus EAC Security Solutions (EACSS) for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions, the global leader in door opening solutions. Angelo's background is in the door and hardware industry and has been with ASSA ABLOY for twenty-one years.

 

 

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