Published on 29 May, 2008
If money were no object in enhancing the security of students, staff, visitors and assets, university security managers would specify enhanced electronic access control systems, upgrade their CCTV - in particular to IP-based systems, install cameras that cover considerably larger areas, and introduce facial recognition software, according to a new report by Siemens Building Technologies Security Systems.
The report, which looks into how technology is used across 10 universities, highlights its importance in not just maintaining the safety of students and staff, but also in enabling universities to operate more efficiently. It draws a direct correlation between achieving excellence in fields such as teaching, learning and research and providing an environment in which students and staff feel safe and secure.
Andrew Morgan, Director of Business Development for Siemens Building Technologies Security Systems, comments: "It is impossible for a computer support service to provide an efficient service when equipment is constantly subjected to theft or damage. And likewise, those marketing the university, attracting students or maximising the use of its facilities, will have a difficult job to do when students and staff are subjected to assaults or robberies and the estate subjected to theft and burglary. Therefore, it is vital for universities to ensure they select the proper equipment and use it in the best possible way to aide security and safety."
The report also shows that while the nature and function of universities mean that security problems are similar - students being the most vulnerable, followed by assets and then vehicles in university car parks - the sophistication of security equipment varies considerably between sites. Most of the universities that took part in the survey had built up their systems over the years with equipment ranging from ten years old to new, and in some cases it was reported as being ‘dated' and requiring replacement because it no longer meets current needs.
The most popular type of security equipment is without a doubt a CCTV system. All universities visited have them with the number of cameras installed ranging from 64 to over 200. The security managers across all sites were in agreement that the use of CCTV was absolutely necessary and that the risks of functioning without having vulnerable areas monitored was unacceptable. However, none had state of the art equipment covering all areas. All universities are either using or upgrading to digital recorders and all have a central control room, staffed throughout the year.
The report reveals that electronic access control systems have become a necessity in universities and that whereas in the past the majority of cards were either wiegand or magnetic stripe, the trend is now towards proximity cards and readers that are easier to operate, potentially safer and require less maintenance. Smart cards are also increasing in popularity, as information can be stored on the card chip. Two-way radios are also common, unlike asset tagging, which although is available in a variety of forms, is not widely used in universities.
When making a decision to overhaul security operations it is common for institutions to extend or modify what they have already in order to keeps costs down. In the handful of universities that had opted for a complete upgrade, systems varied. One, for example, is using a GUI (Graphic User Interface) to control cameras while another is using a totally IP-based system to communicate camera images.
With little or no authority to approve major spending, the analysis reveals that some security managers have access to only a relatively small annual budget for the purchase or replacement of small items of equipment. When purchasing equipment in this instance they first require a company to be technically capable, an efficient service provider, have a reliable maintenance capability, develop cost effective solutions and adopt a partnership approach. This is then followed by lowest cost and flexible finance packages.
All universities visited, with the exception of just two halls of residence, employ in-house security staff, believing the quality and service of contract staff is not normally of an acceptable standard and staff turnover was too high, leading to a lack of continuity.
Andrew Morgan adds: "It is interesting to see how security technology is used in different universities to help reduce crime, contribute to personal safety and give added value by providing additional services to the university community. However, the requirement for new installations is constant because, although statistics show that the universities we visited are keeping crime on campus to a very low level compared to that in areas surrounding the campuses, it is still on the increase - in particular violent crime."
He continues: "What was also notable from the research is how few universities consider rental, leasing or partnerships agreements whereby equipment and services in a number of areas can be provided. All these are possibilities and we encourage security managers to speak to Siemens as we have a range of state-of-the-art equipment to meet every budget and market."