It began with a desire to help students fit in. Officials in Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 58 introduced uniform bar-coded plastic ID cards to replace their existing colour-coded punch cards so that students eligible for free lunches would not easily be identified by their friends. “In the past, students used punch cards to buy their lunches,” said Angel Allen, Technology Director for both MSAD 58 and neighboring district, MSAD 9. “The different colors identified their economic status for other students to see. It was not a good thing.” Some students chose not to eat rather than be embarrassed by the color of their card.

The issue is a significant one. Between 40 and 60 percent of students in MSAD 58 qualify for a reduced lunch program, according to Allen. The district, which sits in a rural area of Franklin County, Maine, covers 500 square miles and serves 1,000 students through five schools. Using ID cards was not new to the Maine school administrators. Sister district, MSAD 9, had been using ID cards as visual identity for its staff for a long time, according to Allen, but “the old system was a beast.”

Direct-to-Card Printer/Encoder

MSAD 58 began using ID cards printed on a new Fargo DTC300 Direct-to-Card Printer/Encoder for the hot lunch program in the fall of 2005, with the lunch director printing the cards. A second printer was purchased in 2006 and is operating out of the superintendent’s office to create staff ID and lunch cards.

MSAD 58 continues to expand its use of ID cards:

  • It created a debit system in which parents can apply money to the card so their children can charge against it rather than carrying money to school.
  • ID cards without photos are used for substitute teachers, volunteers and parents who enter the schools.
  • Students and faculty can check out library materials using their ID cards.
  • Students without drivers’ licenses have even used their school ID cards for identification on school trips.

In 2006, thanks to her experience in MSAD 58, Allen added a Fargo DTC400 printer to MSAD 9

Building access solutions

We also use the ID cards as medical emergency cards,” said Allen. “They are particularly useful on field trips to identify students with allergies, diabetes or asthma and to provide emergency contact numbers.”

In 2006, thanks to her experience in MSAD 58, Allen added a Fargo DTC400 printer to MSAD 9. The district is printing RFID cards for staff ID and building access. There is also a DTC300 for the student lunch program. “My experience in MSAD 58 introduced me to Fargo,” said Allen. MSAD 9 includes nine schools and serves 2,500 students. Here, the ability to print on two sides of a card was important, as administrators wanted a bar code on the back to work with the district’s time card system and door access program. In addition, the district is initiating a new lunch program, and a library program is in the works.

Software integration

In MSAD 58, we began printing small, key chain ID cards from perforated card stock,” said Allen. “Each includes the student’s name and a bar code. Being able to carry their ID card on a key chain helps prevent students from losing their cards.” Nevertheless, a $1 replacement fee is charged each lost card, although the fee was never meant to build revenue. “It’s just enough to aggravate the students,” Allen said.

TAll students carry the same plastic ID card. Information on their lunch status is contained in a bar code on the back of the card. “Now, everyone has the same card,” said Allen. “The bar code number is scanned into the cafeteria software, and only the computer can distinguish who is eligible for a reduced lunch from those who are not.”

Fargo printers are well known for their ability to print bar codes with the level of clarity to be read by scanners

Student ID cards

The big thing with schools is technology,” said Jennifer Clancy, ID Wholesaler Marketing Manager (www.idwholesaler.com), who sold Allen the printers. “In Angel’s case, she is creating a system where the student ID is a stored-value card for the lunch program using a bar code. Fargo printers are well known for their ability to print bar codes with the level of clarity to be read by scanners. Schools nationwide are instituting policies where a visible ID is required of students, faculty and staff at all times. With a visible ID, there is no excuse for a person to be somewhere he or she is not supposed to be. Individuals can be better identified and dealt with by the existing school protocols.”

Requirements for the ID cards differ between high school and elementary school students. High school students are required to carry their ID cards at all times. In the elementary schools, students grab their ID cards from a rack on the wall outside the lunch room each day before lunch. Cards are scanned by the cashier and put back in a basket, so someone can replace them in the rack after lunch. “Younger kids can’t be responsible for remembering to bring their card every day,” Allen said.

School security system

Employees, especially those with multi-school assignments, such as administrators, supervisors, plant operations, maintenance, food service and transportation personnel are required to display their identification card at all times when performing duties for the school system. “Schools that have a student photo ID program in place are starting to expand the use of the cards to applications such as library checkout, lunch program management, equipment checkout, access to computers, student activity passes and bus access,” said Clancy. “More advanced schools are moving to cashless vending, lunchroom use or activity attendance.”

Allen, who is responsible for the technology in both MSAD 58 and MSAD 9, envisions expansion of the ID card program, especially the RFID technology component for access control. “We try things in one place and then take them beyond,” she said. “That’s the cooperative nature of our districts.” But for now, simply using ID cards to help students fit in during lunch is a huge step forward.

Download PDF version

In case you missed it

How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today
How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today

There’s a lot of excitement around artificial intelligence (AI) today – and rightly so. AI is shifting the modern landscape of security and surveillance and dramatically changing the way users interact with their security systems. But with all the talk of AI’s potential, you might be wondering: what problems does AI help solve today? The need for AI The fact is, today there are too many cameras and too much recorded video for security operators to keep pace with. On top of that, people have short attention spans. AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could.AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could It is designed to bring the most important events and insight to users’ attention, freeing them to do what they do best: make critical decisions. There are two areas where AI can have a significant impact on video surveillance today: search and focus of attention. Faster search Imagine using the internet today without a search engine. You would have to search through one webpage at a time, combing through all its contents, line-by-line, to hopefully find what you’re looking for. That is what most video surveillance search is like today: security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. The ability of AI to reduce hours of work to mere minutes is especially significant when we think about the gradual decline in human attention spans With AI, companies such as Avigilon are developing technologies that are designed to make video search as easy as searching the internet. Tools like Avigilon Appearance Search™ technology – a sophisticated deep learning AI video search engine – help operators quickly locate a specific person or vehicle of interest across all cameras within a site. When a security operator is provided with physical descriptions of a person involved in an event, this technology allows them to initiate a search by simply selecting certain descriptors, such as gender or clothing colour. During critical investigations, such as in the case of a missing or suspicious person, this technology is particularly helpful as it can use those descriptions to search for a person and, within seconds, find them across an entire site. Focused attention           The ability of AI to reduce hours of work to mere minutes is especially significant when we think about the gradual decline in human attention spans. Consider all the information a person is presented with on a given day. They don’t necessarily pay attention to everything because most of that information is irrelevant. Instead, they prioritise what is and is not important, often focusing only on information or events that are surprising or unusual. Security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further Now, consider how much information a security operator who watches tens, if not hundreds or thousands of surveillance cameras, is presented with daily. After just twenty minutes, their attention span significantly decreases, meaning most of that video is never watched and critical information may go undetected. By taking over the task of "watching" security video, AI technology can help focus operators’ attention on events that may need further investigation. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing For instance, technology like Avigilon™ Unusual Motion (UMD) uses AI to continuously learn what typical activity in a scene looks like and then detect and flag unusual events, adding a new level of automation to surveillance. This helps save time during an investigation by allowing operators to quickly search through large amounts of recorded video faster, automatically focusing their attention on the atypical events that may need further investigation, enabling them to more effectively answer the critical questions of who, what, where and when. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video – like clothing colour, age or gender – will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing. This means that in addition to detecting unusual activities based on motion, this technology has the potential to guide operators’ attention to other “unusual” data that will help them more accurately verify and respond to a security event. The key to advanced security When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations There’s no denying it, the role of AI in security today is transformative. AI-powered video management software is helping to reduce the amount of time spent on surveillance, making security operators more efficient and effective at their jobs. By removing the need to constantly watch video screens and automating the “detection” function of surveillance, AI technology allows operators to focus on what they do best: verifying and acting on critical events. This not only expedites forensic investigations but enables real-time event response, as well. When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations. Just as high-definition imaging has become a quintessential feature of today’s surveillance cameras, the tremendous value of AI technology has positioned it as a core component of security systems today, and in the future.

8 tips for visiting a large security trade show
8 tips for visiting a large security trade show

Security trade fairs can be daunting for attendees. At big shows like IFSEC International and Security Essen, there can be hundreds of physical security manufacturers and dealers vying for your attention. Stands are sometimes spread out across multiple halls, often accompanied by a baffling floor plan. As the scope of physical security expands from video surveillance and access control to include smart building integrations, cyber security and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is an increasing amount of information to take in from education sessions and panels. Here, SourceSecurity.com presents eight hints and tips for visitors to make the most out of trade shows: 1. Outline your objectives. As the famous saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” Before you plan anything else, ensure you know what you need to achieve at the show. By clearly noting your objectives, you will be able to divide your time at the show appropriately, and carefully choose who you speak to. If there is a particular project your organisation is working on, search out the products and solutions that address your security challenges. If you are a security professional aiming to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, then networking sessions and seminars may be more appropriate. 2. Bring a standard list of questions Prepare a list of specific questions that will tell you if a product, solution or potential partner will help you meet your objectives. By asking the same questions to each exhibitor you speak to, you will be able to take notes and compare their offerings side by side at the end of the day. This also means you won’t get bogged down in details that are irrelevant to your goals. Most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category  3. Do your homework Once you know your objectives, you can start to research who is exhibiting and decide who you want to talk to. Lists of exhibitors can be daunting, and don’t always show you which manufacturers meet your needs. Luckily, most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category. Many exhibitions also offer a downloadable floor plan, grouping exhibitors by product category or by relevant vertical market.  It may be easier to download the floor plan to your phone/tablet or even print it out, if you don’t want to carry around a weighty map or show-guide. 4. Make a schedule Once you have shortlisted the companies you need to see, you can make a schedule that reflects your priorities. Even if you are not booking fixed meetings, a schedule will allow you to effectively manage your time, ensuring you make time for the exhibitors you can’t afford to miss. If the trade show spans several days, aim to have your most important conversations early on day one. By the time the last afternoon of the show comes around, many companies are already packing up their stand and preparing to head home. When scheduling fixed meetings, keep the floor plan at hand to avoid booking consecutive meetings at opposite ends of the venue. This will ensure you can walk calmly between stands and don’t arrive at an important meeting feeling flustered! Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth 5. Make time for learning If you’re on a mission to expand your knowledge in a given area, check the event guide beforehand to note any education sessions you may want to attend. Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth. This is one of the best opportunities you will have to learn from industry leaders in the field. Be sure to plan your attendance in advance so you can schedule the rest of your day accordingly. 6. Keep a record Armed with your objectives and list of questions, you will want to make a note of exhibitors’ responses to help you come to an informed decision. If you’re relying on an electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet to take notes, you may like to consider bringing a back-up notepad and pen, so you can continue to take notes if your battery fails. Your record does not have to be confined to written bullet points. Photos and videos are great tools remind you what you saw at the show, and they may pick up details that you weren’t able to describe in your notes. Most mobile devices can take photos – and images don’t need to be high quality if they’re just to refresh your memory. 7. Network – but don’t let small talk rule the day It may be tempting to take advantage of this time away from the office to talk about anything but business! While small talk can be helpful for building strong professional relationships, remember to keep your list of questions at hand so you can always bring conversations back to your key objectives. Keeping these goals in mind will also help you avoid being swayed by any unhelpful marketing-speak. It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to exchange business cards with everyone you speak to, or even take the opportunity to connect via LinkedIn. Even if something doesn’t seem relevant now, these contacts may be useful in future. Have a dedicated section in your bag or briefcase for business cards to avoid rummaging around. With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely 8. Schedule time for wandering With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely. Allowing dedicated time to wander will give you a welcome break from more pressing conversations, and may throw up a welcome surprise in the form of a smaller company or new technology you weren’t aware of.  Security trade fair checklist: Photo Identification: As well as your event pass, some events require photo identification for entry. Notebook & pen: By writing as you go, you will be able to compare notes at the end of the day. Mobile device: Photos and videos are great tools to remind you what you saw at the show, and may pick up details you missed in your notes. Paper schedule & floor plan: In case batteries or network service fail. Business cards: Have a dedicated pouch or pocket for these to avoid rummaging at the bottom of a bag. Comfortable shoes: If you’re spending a whole day at an event, and plan on visiting multiple booths, comfortable shoes are a must!

What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?
What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?

Using a smart phone as an access control credential is an idea whose time has come – or has it? The flexible uses of smart phones are transforming our lives in multiple ways, and the devices are replacing everything from our alarm clocks to our wallets to our televisions. However, the transformation from using a card to using a mobile credential for access control is far from a no-brainer for many organisations, which obstacles to a fast or easy transition. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: When will mobile credentials dominate access control, and what are the obstacles to greater adoption?