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UBC Okanagan networks its doors with SALTO

The University of British Columbia at Okanagan has signed a 10-year contract with SALTO to provide an electronic access control system networked across the campus.

March 13, 2008  By Jennifer Brown

UBC Okanagan, which is in the midst of a $400-million construction
project, will roll out the system to its new buildings beginning this

Currently, there are 5,000 students and 1,100 faculty members at the
Kelowna campus, with plans to increase enrollment to 7,500 when the new
buildings are complete.

“It’s probably going to take us five years to finish what we’re
building and for [SALTO] it will mean in excess of $1 million,” says
Garry Appleton, security manager with UBCO.

Once new buildings are completed, including a university centre with
125 doors, the SALTO system will be extended to the existing 12
buildings on the UBCO campus.


The university chose the smart card system for its flexibility and the
fact that access control would not have to be hard-wired to every door,
according to Appleton.

“The biggest contributing factor was its portability. I was talking to
the guys at Cambridge and Oxford Universities and they have old
buildings and traditionally access control is all hard-wired to the
doors and you have to hard-wire everything at a cost of about $3,000 a
door. SALTO does it for about $500 a door, so that’s a pretty good
determining factor right off the bat,” says Appleton.

All doors in existing buildings that currently have traditional key locks will be changed to card swipes in the future.

“It’s not so much that card swipes are better than keys, but it’s more
about how do you manage all those keys? The two women who work for
facilities here spend half their day working on keys,” Appleton says.
“We don’t have a locksmith here, but the University of British Columbia
in Vancouver has 11 locksmiths on staff for 140-plus buildings and
60,000 students.”

That means UBCO will save on staffing and administrative costs.
Currently, if someone loses a master key for a building the whole
facility has to be re-mastered.

“That’s how I sold it to my boss — with the cards we don’t have to
hardwire all the doors — the lock just goes on the door and it’s a card
swipe. It’s about $150 more than it would cost me to put a key on a
door, but there is no long-term cost to it,” he says.

The student residence locking system was put in prior to Appleton’s
arrival as security manager, but he is hoping to extend the Salto card
swipe locks to the student residence. The student residence doors have
card access on the outside doors but keys on the inside. “The kids are
forever losing their keys,” he says.

“The people in residence said it’s too bad we didn’t know about the
system a year-and-a-half ago or we would have gone with that. Once I
get the rest of the campus going I will be able to go back. Because
it’s all smart card we will be able to put it all on one card – plus
the bookstore plus the cafeteria all on one card,” he says.

The system is a hybrid, combining perimeter and interior locking requirements.

“Up until now, you have had two worlds. You have the access control
part that deals with the perimeter doors and then you have the offline
standalone locks such as in a hotel that have a mag stripe that are
battery operated. People often had to learn parallel systems and have
parallel databases for the systems,” says Amir Zouak, vice-president of
SALTO Canada based in Montreal.

“What SALTO did was came up with a system to incorporate both of that
and keep it affordable for the end-user and getting the network to
operate both the perimeter and the interior doors under one system,”

The other deciding factor, says Appleton, was that he found the
software from SALTO easy to use, making enrollment possible without a
lot of technical knowledge about the system.

“That was my biggest thing. I wanted to make sure that the people
working for us who get $12 or $13 an hour and are not IT geeks, that
it’s easy to use.

“I want people to be able to say, ‘Here is the access control signed
off by the Dean of Students I need to get into these buildings.’ And
then the administrator just goes in and clicks off the buildings they
want access to and they get handed their card.”

The standalone lock requires no wires and is able to communicate with
the SALTO software and the database directly. When the card is
presented to a hotspot wall reader that is hard-wired to the network,
the information that is on the card is transferred to the software.

The whereabouts of any user is also captured by the software. But
because nobody is actually watching what they are doing, there is no
privacy issue. It is, however, traceable should the need arise from a
security standpoint.

“It gives the ability to alter user privileges on their card,” says
Zouak. “For instance, if your card allowed you entrance only to
building A, but today for some reason you have a meeting and you need
to enter Building B the change can be made by the operator on the

Once that change is made on the software, the user would present their
card to one of those hotspots on campus and update the privileges on
their card.

“If you imagine the hotspot as the parking gate—as you arrive first
thing in the morning if you flash your card to open and close the gate
it not only grants you access, it will also update the information.”

“The card becomes like a butterfly,” explains Zouak. “It is pollinating
the standalone locks, and the hotspots because it is creating a virtual
network (SALTO Virtual Network) even though you are working with
standalone locks.”

The reason the two worlds of perimeter and internal locking systems
need to co-exist is so that perimeter doors can be subject to a
lockdown at the touch of a button in the case of a security incident.

Perimeter access doors are usually online, but an access point that is
online and connected to the network is quite expensive. The use of the
battery-operated standalone made sense because it would be cost
prohibitive to have every single door wired to the network.

“This is the reason why both worlds have operated independently of each other until now,” says Zouak.

Appleton will also be installing a CCTV system at the campus and would
like to tie it into the access control system for high traffic areas.
“When someone clicks a door the cameras can activate and go to that
area and pick it up from there.”

The University of Winnipeg also chose SALTO last October for its access control card system.

“(Education) is one of the sectors I targeted in our entry to Canada,” says Zouak.

Incidents such as the shootings at Montreal’s Dawson College and Virginia Tech have been “the driving force behind all of it.”

SALTO, which was established in Spain in 2000, has been operating in
Canada since late 2006. The product is managed directly, as is the case
with UBCO and University of Winnipeg, and the company works with select

Around the world, SALTO is used at Heathrow Airport as well as at major amusement and water parks in the U.S. and high-end hotels.

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