Security’s in Session

It’s a super-hot vertical market and the end-user is looking for all kinds of solutions. Above all, however, the customer is looking for a systems integrator who can deliver a consultative approach that will result in a system that’s robust, scalable, manageable and easily adaptable for the future.

There is some federal grant money for safe schools and Department of Homeland Security funding on the national and state levels, but integrators have to do a lot of homework to be looking for it. There are some shovel-ready projects that may also be launched, but in all, the end-user is cost-conscious and looking at the value of the system today and how it will scale up with them in the future.

In the K-12 market, integrated access control and intercoms and communication are a given, but many of these protected premises are moving heavily into IP, especially as the price gap continues to narrow between digital and analog. In higher institutions, emergency and mass notification are big, in addition to cameras and access control-- integrated with vending and other school debit transactions.

State of the market

U.S. ports, which have been reluctant or have been moving slowly in implementing biometric security, could learn a lesson from one school in the Washington D.C.-area that is using cutting-edge technology – the same approved by the TSA to secure ports – to verify a person’s identity even before they even make it to the front door.

The Boyd School in Sterling, Va., is using biometric technology to identify a parent or guardian and whether they are authorized to pick up or drop off a child. The system, called BioSafe,was developed in collaboration with Identica, Tampa, Fla., and integrator New Year Tech Inc., Reston, Va.

BioSafe is a biometric access control system that identifies authorized or unauthorized parents or guardians. The system is currently running in one building and is being expanded system wide to another facility that is under construction.

“Keeping our students safe and secure is our primary concern,” said Mary Ann Woolsey, co-owner of The Boyd School, an independent Montessori school serving children at seven different locations in Northern Virginia.

“The modern family is not always made up of solely a mom and a dad; it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of who is authorized to pick up a child just by visually supervising the process,” she said. “The BioSafe program assures us that every individual who is picking up or dropping off a child has been positively identified, creating a safe environment.”

BioSafe incorporates Identica’s vascular pattern recognition technology. “The flow of traffic in a school building can at times be bustling, especially during the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up,” said Soy Chu, New Year Tech president and CEO. “It’s vital for the administration and staff to not only be assured that the parent or guardian has been verified, but also to know where the student is at all times.”

Identica’s vascular readers enroll a new user in seconds. Once enrolled, a parent or guardian presents their hand to match against the stored template, a process that takes 0.1 seconds to complete.

On the surveillance side, universities especially are moving to IP technology. At the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Lisbon, Portugal, the end-user opted to install campuswide a 50-camera CCTV system based on IndigoVision’s IP Video technology. IST is Portugal’s School of Engineering, Science & Technology and is part of the Technical University of Lisbon. The system was installed by the university’s engineering team in partnership with IndigoVision’s Authorized Partner, integrator Vigilarme, IST.

Important to the end-user at the university was a flexible and scalable system that could be easily expanded in the future. Video quality, integrity and data security were also criteria for its selection. The campus consists of 16 buildings and surrounding grounds, covering an area in excess of 650,000 square feet. The university was ideal for an IP-based CCTV solution as it already had its own fiber-based network covering the campus.


Away from the box

Integrators in the education market also see a savvier buyer who knows about technology and how it might work within their school. “The purchasing decision has definitely become more sophisticated in the vertical market, especially higher institutions of learning, according to Niscayah’s Jeff Gewedik, area manager based in Minneapolis who is also charged with overseeing the education vertical market.

Gewedik said there is a focus on the total solution, the overall security strategy at the school, and not just installing hardware.

“The strategy is not so much about dollars, but about the complete solution,” he continued. “We look at what the long-term solution is for the customer and we make it part of their culture, in order to be successful. In year’s past, security was commoditized, and it was just an overhead cost. In the heightened level of awareness, security has become part of the package and an important part of what universities offer to students.”

Gewedik said in the past IT personnel became involved at the 11th hour, but now they are involved much earlier, consulting and working with security integrators on things such as network drops, switches, etc.

“The security integrator creates the conceptual outline for the system but there’s collaboration very early on between all parties—the stakeholders,” he continued. “You have to know the user’s pain points, their risks and really understand and become an expert in their business. You have to know what other schools are doing and what the overall trends are. You have to bring a value proposition to them.”

Integrators are finding they have to be well-versed in a variety of solutions for education customers. According to Tom Giannini CPP and director of Security and Emergency Communications Marketing for SimplexGrinnell, Westminster, Mass., the needs of the K-12 market are generally different from the institutions of higher learning.

“The big trend in the K-12 market continues to be video, and that includes the entire spectrum from the smallest installation up to full IP video and networked systems, including analytics and some pretty sophisticated storage,” he said. “The higher education institutions, especially where you have a large resident population, need to be able to react to all types of crisis. Bottom line: the entire school population has to be informed in all types of emergency.”

Giannini said that in the K-12 market integrators consult to provide safety and security during hours when children are dropped off or picked up, for example, making sure that non-custodial parents don’t pick up children unauthorized. Vandalism is also a top concern at these locations. Visitor management and access control is critical.

Layered approach to security

“The end-user knows there’s not one single solution to fit their security needs,” said Giannini. “They’ve come to realize they need a layered approach to security.”

The layered approach to security boils down to consultative selling. But in the education market in particular, the school end-user wants to know how the technology will fit them now, what they can do with it, and how they can easily scale it up in the future when they need to without starting over again from scratch, according to Christopher Kieta, national busines manager, Siemens Building Technologies Security Solutions Business Unit, San Diego.

“There’s much more focus on collaboration and planning with the security integrator, end-user and IT specialist and a holistic approach to security,” said Kieta. “End-users have found that many of their systems from resident life to the academia or physical property were not aligned physically and in theory. Now, in the wake of Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and others, schools and universities have begun to take a much more practical approach to planning and want a single point of command and control,” he said.

“When I speak to school educators, I talk to them about all this,” Kieta said. “I ask them if they want to continued to be siloed or implement an effective master plan campus wide. And they can’t do this with technology only. They have to have a formal security plan and policy in place and technology that’s married together.”

“We as integrators have to affect changes. The trend is toward planning intelligently. There’s a big convergence in logical and physical security but it hasn’t happened yet.”


Technology for Security’s Sake

How security dealers can best serve the education market

By: Jeff Floreno and Luis Quiles

How can value added resellers (VARs) bring schools solutions that work, yielding powerful results and satisfied customers? The answer lies in implementing technology - not for technology’s sake - but for security’s sake. Here are some best practices for doing so.

Schools’ unique situation

Administrators operate under extremely tight budgets. Given their focus on educating students, it should not be a surprise to find that they have little to no expertise in security. Administrators also face the challenge of offering open environments, where students can move in and out of spaces easily and quickly, and where visitors, parents and staff can move in and out of the buildings throughout the day.

VARs really add their value by guiding school decision-makers through the process of identifying the root challenges, selecting the right technologies, setting the right expectations, and training the individuals who will use the technology. This requires getting to know the school, its security challenges, and developing an understanding of where the current security systems and processes fall short in the current environment.

Benefits of IP Video: A Refresher

Sometimes schools have legacy equipment already in place, but in other cases, they are greenfield environments. Many of these schools have already invested in the IT network, which is their lifeline for daily educational activities and administration of the school. They are familiar with the concept of integrating IP appliances on the network and appreciate the accessibility of systems via a PC. But many of these schools have not considered the value of their IT network for supporting dependable, high-performance security systems. For schools that are not completely familiar with the benefits of IP video and access control solutions over analog technology, here’s a quick refresher.

Unlike analog technology - both as it applies to video and access control - IP technology is not a closed system requiring specialized cabling. Network video cameras and IP access control components are just like any other peripheral running on the existing IT network such as a printer or a scanner. Software is just another application running on the PC. Equipment can be added onto the network at any time, as long as the network has bandwidth to support them. These systems are also easily controlled via software across multiple locations.

Managed on the existing IT network, IP solutions are more accessible, more manageable, and simpler than ever. The result is a system that is much easier to use, and is therefore used more frequently and more proactively than legacy security systems. VARs contribute significant value by helping their education customers think through this process.

Understand their needs

The obvious first step in serving any customer is to understand their needs. This can be particularly challenging with schools because their actual needs may be confused with perceived needs. For example, following the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, many schools urgently purchased emergency notification systems, which can instantly send critical information out to the student body and staff via email and text message. While this system may well have been a great security solution for Virginia Tech, it may not be appropriate or the top priority for schools with a less sophisticated security program. Yet emergency notification systems were the subject of much media attention at the time and were touted as the latest and greatest, not as one element of a comprehensive security program. The most valuable thing a VAR can do is to help schools truly evaluate their security needs and educate them on their options and needs. There are numerous reasonably priced assessment tools that can help VARs and their school customers consider their most critical issues. A simpler approach may be for the administration to simply outline their goals and, based on their history of security incidents, determine their top priorities and develop a road map for remediation.

Consider the budget

Schools rarely have the budget to meet their needs. VARs must be prepared to access funds over time, growing systems as dollars become available. They must also work with schools to come up with the most cost-effective solutions. This may mean integrating new security solutions with existing legacy systems where possible. Encoders can help bring analog cameras online with new IP cameras, working seamlessly and all managed by enterprise-grade software. Similarly, IP access control solutions that offer enterprise-level control of access via entrances and exits can be integrated with existing access control hardware already in place on some doors. This strategy moves away from a “break-fix” approach and instead replaces old technology with new technology when it has reached the end of its life cycle. Leveraging the school’s resources in this fashion is one way to show you are committed to helping minimize the initial out of pocket expense.

VARs can also help schools by offering them training to manage and install their own systems. Schools like to prepare in-house resources for installation and maintenance of the system, allowing them to troubleshoot problems and manage the system to save money over the long-term.

Jeff Floreno, is the director of Security Operations and Strategy for Wren; Luis Quiles is the channel sales manager at Wren.; visit

Teachers Say Schools Lack Security

A national survey reveals that more than one out of 10 teachers believe their school is unprepared to protect kids. The results are part of the second annual ADT Back-to-School Survey conducted by Zogby International.

Asked for reasons to explain how they felt, four in 10 of those teachers said their school was not doing enough to help protect students, while three in 10 said they believed their school is vulnerable to an attack by outside predators. Other frequently mentioned concerns included:

* Worry that students would bring a weapon onto the campus--24 percent

* Students being involved with street gangs--12 percent

* Worry about violence happening in other schools--12 percent

* Not enough awareness of dangers to students on campus--10 percent

According to Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services, campus violence is a national concern for teachers in both rural and urban areas.

“As shown by the recent murder of a beloved high school football coach at a small town in Iowa or an assault by a student on a Philadelphia teacher, school violence is truly a national problem that affects all school districts,” said Fiel. “One of the keys to success is creating a dialogue between parents, teachers and administrators to create solutions for this growing problem.”