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Get smart about selling colleges on access control

To deliver quality student services in a safe and secure environment, college and university security administrators face a daunting task of managing tight budgets, increased demands for accountability, as well as student demographics that quickly change.  What’s the value proposition that security dealers and integrators can bring to campus?

May 4, 2010  By Beverly Vigue

It’s a fact. Smart credentials are in the future for every college. With the price of smart credentials being competitive to proximity today, there is no reason not to deploy smart cards immediately, even if the only application will be physical access control. A smart credential, for the same price, provides a higher level of security, more convenience, and far greater functionality than a proximity card. One credential has the ability to manage access, payments and many other functions. Those not willing to make that upgrade today should at least incorporate multi-technology readers so that, when the switch to smart cards comes about, they will not have to tear out and re-install readers.

The Case for Smart Credentials
Credential cards offer one way to solve a host of student management issues today — and prepare for tomorrow. These credentials go far beyond traditional identification cards.  In addition to individual profile information, they can provide students with secure access to everything from residence halls, recreation facilities and computer networks to safe methods of payment in campus eateries and vending machines. Some credential options even allow students to use their cards for access to academic information and personal documents.
Equally important, smart credentials afford security administrators more avenues to ensure safe and secure environments for students on and off campus. The cards work in concert with access control systems, video surveillance and mass notification capabilities.  With today’s convergence of technologies, campuses can integrate existing systems with advanced credential reader technologies to enhance security of their environments, as well as student life.
Students appreciate the convenience and freedom that smart credentials provide. Today’s generation of students is very accustomed to using technology to make their lives easier. From baby room monitors and closed circuit televisions in schools to online networking and all types of access control cards, the vast majority of students today are accustomed to using advanced technologies.
For security administrators, smart credentials integrate easily with traditional access control programs. They are simple to update with user profile information plus easy to deactivate and replace if lost or stolen.

Smart Credentials Have Graduated to the Next Level
With a unified approach to access control, campuses are able to enhance their investment in security solutions.  Security administrators can create an interface between several systems, including student information, housing administration and access control, to operate with only one ID card.
Smart credentials can be programmed to allow students access to facilities throughout a campus, including remote sites.  In addition, the cards can give students a cashless method of payment for services, such as dining and bookstore facilities, laundry and vending machines, print and copy management facilities, parking and ticket operations.  Some cards can be encoded to allow financial aid payment programs to distribute funds into accounts for easy access.
Integrated security solutions also can provide a safer campus environment for everyone on campus. Privilege management capabilities allow security directors to track and configure access 24/7, regardless of campus size. Video surveillance and door access control provide security personnel with total awareness of the campus environment.

What to Study for a Successful Solution
An open architecture security system helps leverage one card credentials. With these systems, campus security can focus initially on providing access control to high priority areas, such as residence halls, labs, classrooms, recreation facilities.  Other applications can be added as the campus grows and security needs evolve.
By design, this type of modular structure eliminates proprietary constraints and employs open standards to provide access to critical data and information within the system. It also helps to protect an access control investment for years to come.  As security needs change, the access control system can be changed, by adding new credential technologies, a variety of network protocols, increased security levels and system expansions.
The modular, scalable characteristics of these systems allow the kind of flexibility needed for growing campuses. Users also can choose which openings should remain offline or moved to a network. They can manage both types of locks with the same software and database.  As security needs evolve, a facility can have more locks on more doors and move more offline doors to a network solution.
Professional security experts can help assess current student management systems and recommend phased-in solutions to update, upgrade and improve overall access control.  These experts also can recommend security partners who work in concert to integrate smart credential access with security controls and ensure scalability over the long term.  An open architecture platform allows integration with third-party credential software.
By combining hardware and software products, security administrators have more flexible security solutions that they can tailor to their campuses and easily upgrade as their needs and industry technologies evolve.

Beverly Vigue is vice-president, Healthcare Markets, Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies

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