Access Control & Identity: Got a Problem?

Wireless locking systems are great problem solvers at schools

There are many reasons to leverage wireless access control for your next project. The following university scenarios provide some innovative ideas.

Wireless locks are a natural fit for networked access control systems and they also make the most sense for replacement and expansion. There is an immense cost savings in both labor and time when you install wireless systems. For on-campus security personnel, wireless locking systems also provide an opportunity to solve problems—widespread, sprawling facilities; thick walls; new flexibilities; innovative designs; portability and lockdown considerations—that might once have been impossible or impractical to specify with a hardwired system.

In many cases, cost alone is reason enough to promote wireless access control. For William Conk, housing manager for the University of New Hampshire, the decision to go wireless was quite simple. He looked at the economics. Conk figures he saves over $50,000 on a 40-door installation versus a wired alternative. That’s one reason why he now looks at wireless on every project.

One state over, wireless is used for a completely different reason. The uptown campus of the University of Albany is said to be the second largest concrete structure in the United States, after the Pentagon. When the university sought to upgrade and expand its magnetic stripe-based locking system, its thick concrete walls made it cost prohibitive to hardwire the campus after the fact. After investigating many options, the university ultimately chose to go the wireless route.

That’s because wireless access control doesn’t need line of sight. As a result, signals are able to penetrate concrete or cinder block walls, plasterboard walls, brick walls and many other non-metallic materials for simplified system designs and specifications. Wireless systems also work on wood and metal doors, both exterior and interior, as well as glass, monitored and scheduled doors, gates, elevators and in portable solutions.


Facilities spread across 800 acres

Since 1998, Mount Holyoke has partnered with Heartland Payment Systems (Princeton, N.J.) for a one-card campus solution. Although the student numbers are small, the quintessentially New England campus covers a disperse 800 acres. The hardwired system was becoming a logistical nightmare.

According to Doug Vanderpoel, director of Auxiliary Services for Mount Holyoke: “The college uses the student cards for vending machines, to do laundry and obtain meals. We even have a dozen off-campus merchants that will honor the card. They are also used to access all 20 residence halls, which are scattered throughout our grounds. That was our problem.”

Wired locks were becoming too big of a problem. Vanderpoel related how it was a real balancing act to coordinate the numerous trades people needed to install wired locks for their access control system.

“You need an electrician to install the conduit for the wire,” said Vanderpoel. “Then, a communications person pulls the wire while a carpenter must hang the door, a locksmith mounts the lock and the low-voltage technician connects everything. But, that’s not the end of it. If a door is not hung properly, the carpenter must come out again. To do the job, the wire must be cut and so on. Our staff has enough to do without going through that over and over again.”

One solution was to implement standalone locks at the doors. However, that idea was dismissed.

“We had done that in the past but we had real issues as far as updating the doors in a timely manner,” Vanderpoel explained. “We wanted to use card access on the doors. There had to be a way to let students access their dorms with their student identification card. The good news is that we already knew how and were actually using the right solution.”

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