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Securing universities without compromising the campus experience

How do we provide the best security for our students, faculty, staff and visitors yet still allow them to move freely throughout the campus? How do we bolster physical security without sacrificing easy access to campus facilities, resources and services? These are the questions that colleges and universities are routinely asking themselves around campus security.

March 6, 2017  By Nils Wahlander

As real-world fraudulent ID card usage and on-campus violence are ever increasing, there is an inarguable need to improve campus security without infringing on the user experience. So where does one begin?
As noted in a recent Ingram Micro Advisor article on developing a physical security plan, “While security on school campuses is a top priority, it’s also important for students (and teachers) to feel safe and welcome at their school. Most colleges in particular have open, highly accessible campuses, and any security technology should preserve that spirit, rather than stifling it.”
There are other challenges to consider. University administrators must accommodate growing enrollment and facility expansion, while often using obsolete and vulnerable campus ID card systems that are severely restricted in terms of features, functions and flexibility. At the same time, school violence and fraudulent ID card usage have become more prevalent, challenging administrators to improve security without compromising campus accessibility or the overall quality of the campus experience. The best strategy is to systematically replace legacy technology with the latest “One Card” solutions that deliver improved the end-to-end card issuance capabilities and a path to new capabilities and ROI value. Properly implemented, these solutions deliver flexible student and faculty accessibility through visual security, enable cards to be used for many applications from opening dorm room doors to making cashless transit system payments or checking out media centre materials, and support campus “green” initiatives through features like wasteless ID card lamination and eco-friendly card printers.
The good news is that these types of solutions may not be as challenging to implement as they once were. Today, the vast majority of student IDs leverage barcode or magnetic stripe technology to provide access to dorms, classrooms, libraries and on-campus meal plans. Utilizing a contactless smart card with an embedded smart chip is more secure because it cannot be easily cloned and inherently diminishes the opportunity for unauthorized individuals to obtain card information. One main benefit of leveraging contactless smart card technology is the ease of use it provides for students and faculty to access various campus facilities and services by simply tapping the card on a reader. Since the information is specific to the cardholder, cards can be configured to allow access to specific buildings, services or applications.
Some schools have also begun adding an option for mobile credentials. This technology leverages the proliferation of smartphones by putting a student’s credentials onto their mobile phone and then using it to give students access to facilities and payment systems on campus.
If you are not ready to upgrade card technologies just yet due to budget or resource restrictions, there are several options available to universities and colleges that are relatively affordable and easy to implement. One such option is simply adding a visual security element (VSE) to student IDs that will make student and staff credentials easily verifiable. From overt to covert options spanning holographic overlays, microtext, fluorescing images and more these VSEs provide a quick method to determine if the card is authentic as students and staff enter sporting or other campus events.
Beyond student credentials, campus security can also be greatly enhanced with an effective visitor management system. Such systems allow for the check-in, check-out and tracking of all campus visitors improving student and staff safety without impeding on accessibility. Special considerations include ensuring that it is easy to determine who is still in the building during a fire or other emergency, and whether anyone needs to be found and evacuated. Visitor management software should also simplify badging by enabling administrators to create and manage badge templates by category, and to create and manage all of the user accounts for the employees who will be operating the badging software. Other considerations include the ability to set up and manage an automated, scheduled employee import process so that the visitor list is always up-to-date. Additionally, it should be possible for each badging station’s setting and options to be managed from the central administrator console.
Another important focus area is reducing energy consumption, overall waste, and cost inefficiencies. The latest secure issuance systems are significantly more sustainable than in the past. Two key developments include “wasteless” lamination, and reducing carbon footprints as defined through the GreenCircle certification program. With wasteless lamination, the lamination patches that are applied to cards for increased durability are attached to one another in a continuous stream of material on a single roll. This eliminates the need for an underlying carrier — as each patch is detached from its supply roll and adhered to a card, the lamination cycle is complete. Once the supply roll has been depleted, all that’s left is a single empty core. Wasteless lamination has proven to be very cost effective, reducing lamination consumables costs as much as 50 per cent while maintaining the highest levels of security and durability. Further cost savings are possible through GreenCircle certification, which recognizes the energy savings that are achievable through advancements in card lamination technologies that have reduced the significant energy required to heat up and maintain optimal operating temperature.
As universities become more reliant on their ID cards, it makes sense to be able to produce cards on demand, in high volumes, at many locations throughout the campus. Today’s leading printers, card materials and software work together to deliver fast and efficient instant issuance capabilities. They also optimize card security by incorporating visual and logical technologies for multi-layered validation. Printer choices range include monochrome direct-to-card (DTC) solutions that combine quality, reliability and ease of use, and high definition printing (HDP) retransfer technology that can be used to create contactless or contact smart cards. There also is the option of high-throughput solutions that optimize performance and productivity.
In addition to on-campus card-issuance systems, universities will see new alternatives in 2017. Secure issuance will embrace digital identities in the Cloud to deliver new managed service models. Alternatives will emerge to stand-alone card printers that are tied to dedicated PC workstations, as the market looks for greater operational and financial efficiency and flexibility. Watch for new service-focused models that deliver network-based credential issuance management. These services will transform the user experience and the operational management of ID badge printing to reduce maintenance and inventory holding costs while eliminating capex outlay and simplifying system maintenance. These solutions will also deliver end-to-end encryption that improves security as compared to current on-premises solutions.
Many security solutions can be used to effectively secure the campus and its assets without restricting students, staff and visitors from enjoying campus offerings. As universities move from legacy to “One Card” solutions and new mobile options and managed service models, they will have make campus access more flexible and secure, extend the value of their cards with more applications, reduce costs while improving efficiency, and support campus “green” initiatives.

Nils Wahlander is Senior Product Marketing Manager at HID Global.

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