Access Control: A Study in Security

12.06.2013 - Effective campus security is a difficult assignment for any university as it mostly depends on knowing who is on campus and where and when they have access. But when your on-site s...

Effective campus security is a difficult assignment for any university as it mostly depends on knowing who is on campus and where and when they have access. But when your on-site student accommodation is located in five buildings spread over two campuses' that are almost 40 miles apart, it becomes even more of a challenge.

That was the problem facing Scotland's Heriot-Watt University, one of the top UK universities for business and industry with an established reputation for world-class teaching and practical, leading-edge research, when they decided to upgrade their housing offering.

The university knows how important good quality accommodation is to the student experience and has 1,600 residential self-catering places available at its Edinburgh campus. 300 of these are in a new student residence development, while 218 residential places in a new £ 12 million state-of-the-art student village are available at the Galashiels campus.

With regard to security, the university were looking to future-proof both sites for expansion. Andy Crichton, Salto Systems Scotland Area Manager, says "The key to gaining and keeping cost-effective control of all buildings across a campus is to get all the buildings running the same contactless smartcard system, eliminating the multitude of different security systems that typically get installed and added to over time. This can include an almost unmanageable mix of keys and pin-code locks that present both estate and security departments with an impossible task of keeping on top of what is secure, controlling keys and codes, not to mention the cost of having to replace locks where keys have been lost and security has been compromised.

Virtually Wireless
To avoid such a scenario we were asked to put together two access control system designs for the university. Both would run across five buildings over two sites, two buildings on the Riccarton campus in Edinburgh and three buildings at Borders campus in Galasheils, using the Salto Virtual Network (SVN) and Salto Wireless Network (SWN). Both sites would also use the Mifare DESfire card. "

The virtual network allows stand-alone locks to read, receive and write information via Data-on-Card technology. With this, user-related access information is stored in an encrypted format on the smart card with online wall readers able to update (and receive information from) the cards at any time anywhere in the building. The wireless network includes all the features of SVN but additionally allows users to control access in real time. All locks communicate with a central server via gateways in real time through RF (2,4Ghz) to provide the highest level of security and control.

Crichton continues, "On the Riccarton campus, the two buildings, Christina Miller Hall east and west, are split into three blocks each and designated blocks A, B and C. The main reception is in the east building with a shared laundry block in the west building that all students need to access. There are 330 doors secured across both buildings.

No Lockouts
The buildings, which consist of five bedroom flats and 10-12 bedroom flats, are secured with external wall readers at the main entrance, with blocks A and B sharing access. The main entrance door is also protected by an XS4 wireless handle and requires an authorized card to enter at all times. The bedroom doors are secured by the same XS4 wireless handles set in toggle mode. This allows access via the card which puts the lock into an unlocked mode to allow free access to the room. This particular feature was requested by the university to assist them when students locked themselves out of their flats by leaving their access cards in their rooms.

Meanwhile on the Galasheils campus, their three buildings consist of the Gateway building with 135 doors, Pavilion One with 156 doors and Pavilion Two with 268 doors. The Gateway building has three hard-wired main entrance doors. The main reception is in the Gateway building as is the laundry area. All students have access to these areas. The bedrooms are set up to operate here with a function known as ‚exit leaves open‘. Students are required to use their access card to gain entry, but when they leave their room the lock goes into an unlocked state for a predetermined time. As at Riccarton, the flats here are also fitted with XS4 wireless handle sets.

All bedrooms in both campuses also have Salto Energy Saving Devices (ESD) fitted. These can only be used by the student assigned to that room. If the student goes to another room and inserts their card in the ESD it will not activate the power in that room."

Local Delegation
Adrian Johnston, Project Manager Estates Services at Heriot-Watt University comments, "Residential accommodation at many universities can face a number of security issues so ensuring the safety of students and their assets is a high priority.

Controlling access therefore plays a very important role in securing and protecting buildings at both our Riccarton and Galasheils campuses. The Salto Pro Access for service software we're now using allows us to control the whole system centrally from the main data centre located on the Riccarton campus, while individual departments on both campuses can manage and configure their own doors, users and access rights locally via the WAN network.

We selected a Salto solution because of their reputation in advanced technology security solutions for the education sector. Our new XS4 smart locks now enable us to upgrade our security arrangements as and when required without having to buy new hardware, saving Heriot-Watt long-term operating costs while providing the university with what it needs most, 24/7 total control."


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