How smarter access control leads to safer university campuses

 

 Gareth Robinson, 07.10.2021, 4 min read

One of the most important trends in our industry is the growing demand for smarter, more comprehensive access control management. This is particularly true in the higher education sector, and nowhere more so than the United States. Why? For two main reasons: first, university campuses are constantly growing and becoming more complex to secure; and second, because universities across the US have seen an increased number of security incidents in recent times, piling pressure on university leaders and their security departments.

 

The growing complexity of university campuses

A perfect case study is Binghamton University, the State University of New York. Once a small liberal arts college, it has developed into one of the top public research universities in the US. The campus has grown to 930-acres which is home to more than 18,000 students. It now comprises 120 buildings, including eight residential communities, seven colleges and schools, three libraries, a theater complex and an art museum – with more building work in the pipeline.

Put simply, the complexity of the campus had outgrown the capacity of the 20-year-old analogue surveillance cameras and door access control system to keep Binghamton’s students safe. As David Martin, the University’s Assistant Director of Security Infrastructure and Support, put it, they needed “one system interface to all our physical security devices so that our dispatchers and campus police could manage incidents as they were happening, not simply respond after the fact”.

A complete overhaul of campus security

The University embarked on a multi-phase project to revamp campus security entirely. The first step in the multi-year project was to install a Genetec Omnicast™ video management system (VMS). The next was to choose hardware and software which could easily integrate with it. That included Axis security cameras, more than 1,500 of which were incorporated into the system.

It will also include video IP intercoms from 2N, which are integrated into three modules of the Genetec Security Center: Synergis (Access control), Sipelia (PBX) and Omnicast (VMS). The smart intercoms will help secure access control points including the main entrance, back doors and parking areas. As well as enabling visitors to be handled in a user-friendly way, the intercoms also incorporate an extra camera with a special viewing angle, with the signal being sent directly to the VMS. This will make it easy for University security to sync time-stamped video footage to verify who is entering and leaving a building. This capability, combined with Genetec’s license plate recognition and voice over IP segments, will produce a completely unified Security Center.

The next stage: upgrading the emergency system

As the security solution continues to unfold, Binghamton University also plans to upgrade its emergency communication system, with emergency call boxes along campus walkways being replaced by 2N’s video IP intercoms. Because they include high-resolution cameras, continually self-diagnose to maintain optimum performance, and have the ability to trigger nearby cameras to record the surrounding area, the intercoms provide a much higher level of security than the old telephone technology.

In addition to the panic button that immediately links to the University’s police department, Binghamton is hoping eventually to include a 4-1-1 feature that will give users a direct line to the campus information center. “We plan to configure the 2N intercoms into our Axis audio server so we can push out messages to the device speakers just like we do with all the other speakers we’ve integrated into our campus-wide security solution,” explained Chris Kelly, Binghamton University’s Physical Security Technician.

What will be the impact of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic is only likely to intensify the interest in comprehensive access control solutions like the one which is being built for Binghamton University. It is the perfect illustration of why 2N uses an open protocol and develops products which can be integrated with those of other companies, and of why partnerships like the one 2N has with Genetec are so important for meeting customer needs.

Do you have a higher education project where a similar solution would bring real benefits?

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