Cisco helps schools converge physical and network security tools

Cisco offering solutions to converge security, emergency management, IT


From Campus Safety Conference - Cisco today reported a change in how K-12 schools, colleges and universities view emergency preparedness and security management when designing their campus safety architectures. Seizing a movement already under way in businesses and government agencies, school officials increasingly recognize the importance of converging their physical security tools on their networks and are doing so at an unprecedented pace.

Campus security has long been a top priority for schools from kindergarten to higher education. At many schools, however, the physical and network security infrastructures are disjointed, comprising a patchwork of separate alarm systems, surveillance cameras, communication systems and radios that cannot interact with the digital, network-connected systems more recently put in place.

But recent national events have revealed the need to improve emergency management planning and systems. Increasingly, Cisco is finding that schools recognize that physical and network security systems should not operate independent of one another. Likewise, pending legislation in the U.S. Congress as well as in state legislatures spotlights the need for schools to update their infrastructures to better coordinate with first responders.

Cisco is helping these schools set up their physical and information technology (IT) systems to achieve the holistic, modern infrastructures necessary to meet campus safety challenges and comply with legislative pressures to modernize their security systems.

Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, sought to model its campus safety systems on those in the corporate world by converging IT with physical security tools. All of BYU's major campus buildings now use physical access cards connected to the network, and the university recently converged analog surveillance cameras as well as its campus radio system with Cisco IP Interoperability Collaboration System (IPICS) and its IP-based network.

"Before we modernized our campus safety communications, training used to be a nightmare for our emergency dispatchers because they literally had to know more than 70 different user interfaces to transmit information," said Steve Goodman, BYU's communications center supervisor. "Now that we're using the network as our communication platform, the dispatch process is streamlined and efficient."

At Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., Director for Networks and Systems John Turner realized that it needed a major reevaluation of its campus emergency notification tools. He knew that his investment in Cisco Unified Communications could help bridge some gaps. The first move was to roll out Berbee Informacast, which enables users to broadcast messages to overhead speakers and to displays on Cisco Unified IP Phones across campus.

"We wanted to ensure we used all the tools we had available to us in the most effective way possible; our IP-based communication system allowed us the flexibility to expand our communications reach," Turner said.

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