Roundtable: Leading Integrators in Campus Security

Oct. 27, 2008

The topic of campus security has been a pressing one and never has it been more relevant than today, as shootings have tragically become part of the college experience. School administrators, parents and students grapple with loss of life and what to do in the wake of this senseless violence. Manufacturers and dealers are at the forefront of this issue as technology along with education and policing measures look to put an end to this disturbing national homicidal trend. SD&I interviewed these experts on questions posed regarding the issue of campus security and safety. Be sure to check out for more from these integrators, in a casual ‘podcast’ recording you’ll find online.

What are the top challenges facing security integrators when they are working in the campus setting? What do they need to know to effectively approach this market?

Giannini: The first challenge is to identify the system’s infrastructure already installed to determine what existing elements can be leveraged. You then must consider whether integration of existing or new systems will provide any additional value to the customer and design solutions that “future-proof” the investment against technology obsolescence.
Kamcheff: Reaching the decision makers as there is no standard within the market for physical security decisions in a school building, district or campus. Finding that person can be a challenge to even the most seasoned sales person. Another challenge is getting the right equipment for the job. From a manufacturer’s perspective we see a lot of desire to increase security but school administrators are unsure how to go about doing so. Lastly, depending on whether the facility is public or private budget can have a big impact on where funding comes from.
Padilla: Keeping a perception of an inviting, safe and secure environment where people can exchange ideas freely. While at the same time making sure there is an understanding into the different functions and needs for each facility/building on a campus. Each location may have a different mission and therefore have different requirements.
Runnels: A big project, like a campus setting, is a competitive opportunity.Being able to offer services and benefits and value to the customer that provide the customer with a comfort that the solution they offer provides a robust and long lasting solution to their needs.
Stadheim: Leveraging existing infrastructure on campus with any new technology installed. In addition to the hardware, understanding the manpower and training the campus. Staying up to date on all of the new technology available and offering their customers the most functionality for the budget they have available.
Walker: In a typical university, there are multiple departments that have an interest in the security systems on campus. Getting them to agree on what they want to accomplish with the systems is the biggest challenge.
Wren: Schools are generally open-access environments, where students, staff and parents need to come and go between buildings and classrooms regularly. This requires making security somewhat transparent to keep the focus within the campus on learning. Another challenge with schools is budget limitations and time restrictions. It may take schools months to evaluate their options, access funding and schedule. Finally, each school has its own, unique security challenges. Integrators must be prepared to work closely with school administrators, security professionals and school IT departments to customize solutions that work specifically for that school.

What are the primary technologies that security integrators are installing for campuses and higher levels of educational facilities, i.e., IP systems and cameras, card access, mass notification systems, etc?

Giannini: The primary technologies involve IP-based access control systems, video systems, video analytics and emergency communication/notification systems. Colleges and universities are knowledgeable about technology and want to leverage their investment in existing network infrastructures.
Kamcheff: The primary technology we continue to see is card access/identity management. Many schools have gotten their feet wet in security by taking the simple step of locking doors and other entries during school hours which is a great first step. The next step is to safely grant visitors with legitimate needs access to school grounds.
Padilla: As the IP infrastructure is expanded, the security integrator is wise to partner with the IT groups. By allowing security to utilize IP bandwidth, the systems can be integrated much quicker. With the help from the IT departments, security integrators can also expand into the logical side of security for single card authentication activities similar to the Federal Governments HSPD-12.
Runnels: The continuing convergence and integration of IT and physical security elements provides integrators with the opportunity to offer choices to campus users.
Stadheim: IP everything.  To minimize the infrastructure cost and get the most functionality, cameras, card access, campus wide paging and communication are all moving onto the campus network.
Walker: Definitely IP-based systems, since most large universities have hundreds of buildings. IP-based systems can provide a unified enterprise level security system. IP-based access control has been around for many years and is now standard on almost any large campus. Video systems are now being installed with IP encoders in the buildings and central storage and the move to IP cameras is certainly under way.
Wren: I think more schools understand how to leverage security technology to help in meeting their objectives and video is the major system we see schools utilizing. More schools are also inquiring about access control. Schools we talk with are adopting IP systems—both video and access control.

What are some of the top concerns today at campuses and of the security personnel at those locations?

Giannini: The ability to communicate with all members of the campus community, whether they are on campus or off, is a main concern to accomplish this at all times, under all circumstances.
Kamcheff: Keeping students, facility and equipment safe while allowing those with legitimate needs access to the equipment and areas required. Documenting incidents when they occur and notifying the appropriate people in a timely manner there’s been an incident.
Padilla: The same as they have always been to provide a friendly, safe and secure environment conducive to learning. The approaches are always changing and with the decay of the moral fiber of society and the latest campus violence. As a parent with three children in college I worry about their personal safety every day. Security directors have a huge balancing act to provide the best solutions with the limited budgets.
Runnels: Providing a sense of security on campus and having immediate access to surveillance video in the event of an incident.
Stadheim: Let’s call them the 3 R’s: Readiness, Reliability and Response Time. Readiness would be having qualified and well trained staff ready if an event occurs. Readiness is a manpower and training issue.  Reliability is the ability to not have to worry about the infrastructure on campus not being able to handle a proper coordination if an event occurs. Reliability is a hardware and infrastructure issue.  Many campuses are spending money to improve their existing infrastructure.
Walker: Response time to an incident.
Wren: A concern we see is that schools are trying to mesh their processes and technologies to provide a more effective security plan. A major issue is to educate administrators on how to truly secure buildings that require open accessibility for students to move to and from classes.

How has the security at campuses changed from say, five or so years ago?

Giannini: Security is now a major planning element for all activities on school and university campuses. Security has been elevated to the same level as other critical business operations such as IT and finance systems.
Kamcheff: Five years ago there was a concern that having too much security would make a campus look like a prison. Now the thinking is: “We have to do something.”
Padilla: Technology continues to step up and address needs; better surveillance, physical security, life safety devices, are always improving.
Runnels: Greater emphasis on surveillance video and mass notification.
Stadheim: Security has always been a manpower issue.Technology is allowing the same amount of manpower to cover more ground more effectively. Technology allows improved response to any type of security risk event.
Walker: Most administrators now realize how important a campus wide, enterprise level system is to the safety of the campus population. Some end users now take for granted that they can view any video from their desk PC.
Wren: Over the last five years school violence has become more widespread and more severe. There are still schools that have an “it can never happen here” attitude, which by now we should all realize is not the case.

What can we expect to see in the future as far as technologies deployed?

Giannini: Students and faculty at colleges and universities throughout the country are often the first to leverage the newest technologies and there is an inherent commitment to innovation on higher education campuses. This will lead higher education leaders to leverage existing network infrastructures that can support the addition of more safety and security technologies. Vid eo and communication technologies, especially wireless solutions, will be a primary interest.
Kamcheff: IP-based technologies appear to be the rising technology. As an equipment manufacturer it is up to us to produce a product that meets their needs and can be easily installed or retrofitted.
Padilla: I feel there will be more biometrics technologies deployed making it easier and less expensive for campus wide installations. Better wireless networking solutions will also provide security technology to expand past the edge of the buildings to the campus perimeter with greater ease. One other area I see advancing quickly is the common dashboard display solution to provide a holistic view of all security systems for the operator/administrator. These allow interaction of diverse systems without human intervention and provide a more complete view of any given situation.
Runnels: IP-based handheld access to video surveillance information by security personnel.
Stadheim: We will see a continued movement of more systems onto the communications infrastructure with campuses installing redundant methods in case of the failure of existing networks.
Walker: Central monitoring of all security system’s functions. This will be made practical by analytic software that will present only the needed information to the proper decision maker.
Wren: We will continue to see more integration of technology across the network. With the proliferation of IP technology, IT departments are going to increasingly be involved with physical security.

What advice would you give to the education market as far as what they should be looking for from the integrator regarding skill sets?

Giannini: Higher education officials should seek an integrator certified in network solutions that employs a certified workforce to design, install and service these solutions.
Kamcheff: Start with an idea of what your expectations are for an integrator/dealer, talk with as many as possible before making a decision. The integrator or dealer you choose may be around for a long time so selecting a good one and having a good relationship with them is critical.
Padilla: As most of this discussion has been centered on networks and IT solutions, I feel each security director, not just in campus environments, should be looking for integrators that employ people with advanced networking talent. Security is not just being able to install a lock or reader at door it is really migrating into data manipulation. The question should be: ‘what does the data mean and what can it do for me’?
Runnels: All elements and integration of IP-based surveillance video cameras and software.
Stadheim: The best advice I can give is take the time to bridge the existing campus infrastructure with any new technology investment.  The integrator will need to spend time learning about the current systems on campus.
Walker: Choose a dedicated partner who is truly interested in security technology and will be proactive with ideas and advice. This will help them to keep current.
Wren: School administrators need to select integrators that truly understand the education market and all of their unique needs and circumstances. School security is not about putting in new cameras or a new access control system. It is about thinking through how these tools will be used in conjunction with a solid security plan.