Retrofitting the worldâ€™s largest contiguous college campusâ€™s access control from a financial-based ID card system to true enterprise access control security was no easy task for Texas A&M University (TAMU), College Station, Texas.
Although the campus has over 200 academic buildings sprawled across many square miles that includes a veterinary research park, farms, and an airport, the TAMU access control review committee specified a centralized system that also innovatively enables decentralized control where needed. Careful research helped the committee choose the latest technology to accomplish state-of-the-art access control while also avoiding additional implementation expenses through several innovative cost-saving measures.
One thing is for sure, the centralized style access control system TAMU arrived at after several years of comprehensive procurement and implementation is without peer in the university world. Other universities typically operate an evolving building-by building collection of incompatible systems throughout their campuses which leads to expensive operation, renovation, and expansion costs, according to Lance Parr, lead systems administrator, TAMU Telecommunications Department; and Ronnie Schultz, building access supervisor, TAMU Physical Plant Departmentâ€”Facilities Maintenance; both who helped spearhead the universityâ€™s new access control system. Unlike other university access control systems which are typically fragmented among different vendors that are commissioned for each new building phase, TAMU was able to put its entire system under one united system.
The universityâ€™s one centralized system uses Matrix Systems, Dayton, Ohio, equipment, but through domains offered by Matrixâ€™s Windows Frontier software package, each department can implement a decentralized and personalized approach. Thus, academic departments have the unique capability to view and control access in their own buildings (or domains) which TAMU feels is most effective. Besides the most common function of residence hall doors, card readers at TAMU now operate everything from parking lot gates and biological hazard suites to computer labs, classrooms, offices, and radiation freezers.
"Through the use of domains, each department thinks they have their own software even though its part of our centralized system and weâ€™ve tailored it so they can only view and control their own respective access lists, doors and schedules," said Parr. "This eliminates the need of one centralized office doing nothing but administrative access all day. Also we feel individual departments know their students more personally and can grant or deny access more judiciously."
The decentralization becomes as sophisticated as required via the softwareâ€™s multiple calendar and access loop functions. For example a science building might have several layers of accessâ€”the building itself, instructor offices, general classrooms, and laboratories. Science building administrators can not only control access by person, but also by times throughout the day or the calendar year.