Recently, securing people, places, and assets on campus has evolved to accommodate the “new normal” of pandemic-conscious populations. And with the need for touchless experiences and the availability of newer, more sophisticated technologies, many see an opportunity to upgrade their legacy physical access control systems (PACS). But the education sector, specifically colleges and universities, face certain challenges that have made upgrading a bit more difficult for them.

The Problem: Outdated Technology

One of those challenges is due to the fact that many universities are using diverse and outdated PACS credential technology, the majority of which is no longer very secure. The findings in a recent HID survey* of higher education security and IT leaders show that 53% continue to utilize magnetic stripe, while 23% support 125 kHz Prox, or a combination of the two. Some also have opted for high-frequency smart card technology. These mixes of credential technologies require a range of reader technologies that vary from place to place across any given campus. For example, secure labs may require a different access credential than the library, and another separate one for a residence hall, etc.

Compounding this problem are the siloes that exist within many campuses. Often times, credentials are managed by different campus personnel. The security office, for example, may manage access credentials for exterior doors and dorms, other authorities may be tasked with managing transaction credentials for dining, vending or transportation services, and Human Resources staff, in turn, may be using a completely different credential for faculty and staff specific areas. All this disparity between credentialing and jurisdictions over who implements them can make the pathway to a campus-wide access control upgrade a tough road for forward-looking security directors in the higher education sector.

Although upgrading may seem complicated, there is a path forward for campus security teams looking to migrate to a more sophisticated, touchless, secure, and user-friendly physical access control solution.

The Path Forward

  • Take Inventory– Security leaders should first formulate an overview of the infrastructure currently in use. Log the make and model, quantity and location. It’s important to know what you have.

  • Determine What Needs Replacing– Take into consideration the specific security and safety needs of the campus, as well as touchless experiences and the increasing demand for the convenience of mobile access.

  • Get Stakeholder Buy-In– Bring all the current stakeholders together and build a bridge between them by clarifying how the new technologies work and can enhance the campus experience for everyone. Establishing an executive champion can ease this process.

  • Make Your Case– Establish how a modernized system enhances student and staff satisfaction, as well as their health and safety. Enhancements that align security with emerging student-centric technologies such as mobile credentials can be a very strong selling point for colleges looking to improve convenience and the overall campus experience.

  • Don’t Do It Alone– Align with a systems integration partner with experience in access control on higher education campuses and expertise in specifying systems that are scalable well into the future.

  • Consider the Cost– Document the potential cost of upgrades AND the comparative costs to maintain the present system. These costs include repairing aging equipment, and replacing lost or stolen credentials.

  • Take an Incremental Approach– Upgrading a PACS infrastructure doesn’t have to be a complete rip-and-replace. It’s possible to upgrade to multi-tech technologies that can support both legacy deployments and emerging access control technologies, including mobile credentials. Consider targeting a specific area or a user group for a smaller-scale upgrade in anticipation of more comprehensive upgrades in the future.

Convergint has deep experience in working with higher education customers in upgrading their access control systems. Contact us to learn more or speak to a Convergint expert.

*HID Survey: Access Control in Higher Education