Modernising campus access control


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Future-proof physical access control infrastructure helps campus administrators provide green-minded security, reports Jaroslav Barton, Director of Product Marketing, HID Global.

With thousands of students and faculty entering and exiting campus buildings at any given time, university administrators must address security meticulously, especially in today’s rapidly-evolving technology environment. Modern campuses typically have centralised management and control of security systems and procedures, as well as a risk management strategies that include identification, assessment and monitoring of threats and vulnerabilities.

As the first line of defence against intruders and unauthorised access, access control systems are well understood and deployed. Most notably, traditional credentials such as 125-kHz low-frequency proximity cards—which are unencrypted and thus ripe with vulnerabilities—are still in use although newer options, such as Seos and MIFARE DESFire EV3 are more secure due to their encryption and mutual authentication features.

But with new technologies coming to the market and user expectations changing, mobile access control has quickly gained traction in recent years for its convenience, flexibility and enhanced security features. In fact, in HID’s 2022 State of Access Control Report, 42% of respondents indicate plans to upgrade to mobile-ready systems. About 17% of respondents are in the education sector.

In HID’s 2022 State of Access Control Report, 42% of respondents indicate plans to upgrade to mobile-ready systems.

During the pandemic, campuses with a future-safe PACS infrastructure demonstrated how important it is to quickly add capabilities that improve resilience and adaptability. An example is Les Roches Hospitality School, where mobile IDs for “touchless” access control eliminated badge and ID card issuance touchpoints and contact with cards, readers or keypads, while elevating the student experience.

High standards in education and security

When students come to study at the Les Roches Marbella campus in Spain, they are not just attending one of the world’s leading hospitality business schools, they are also enveloped in extraordinary innovation and sophisticated living to mirror the exceptional experiences they are being trained on.

Les Roches houses 1,000+ students from all corners of the planet in a real-life training site that offers an authentic, hands-on experience to its students. With a legacy card-based system, 1,000 students and faculty needed to have their badges at all times to validate themselves day in and day out.

So, to ensure Les Roches stayed ahead of the curve and served as a model campus when it comes to exemplary learning based on cutting-edge technologies, administrators saw the need to evolve its mobile ecosystem.

Supporting their quest for digital transformation, as part of the school’s Spark incubator program, the leadership team wanted to migrate to a mobile credentials-based system where plastic access cards would be replaced by digital IDs on a smartphone. This would serve as the verification for daily physical access and digital touchpoints (e.g., building access, vending machines, restaurant reservations, etc.). This effort would also allow the school to steer digital transformation and student efficiencies throughout its security and administrative functions.

The solution should provide the following benefits:

  1. Swift granting and removal of access
  2. Avoiding disruption when students lose/forget cards
  3. Accommodating a multisystem environment
  4. Promoting administrative efficiencies such as new student registration

Management also wanted to drive improvements through back-office processes and procedures to save time and resources, while enhancing everyday life on campus through modern technology. One of the most pressing factors for this particular mobile initiative was to achieve higher efficiency around the school’s new student intake registration/check-in process each semester, because loading ID credentials individually onto RFID cards, then printing each of the 1,000+ cards, meant corrections along the way were inevitable.

The solution

The transition to mobile didn’t come without a series of obstacles and serious consideration. Each touchpoint where a card was to be replaced with smartphone technology required deep analysis and complex integration work—specifically involving seven to eight different brands whose products were already deployed throughout the premises (e.g., printers, vending machines, security technologies, door access, laundry facilities, parking garages and more).

Les Roches did not want to worry about a rip-and-replace hardware upgrade and wanted all improvements to be implemented incrementally. Additionally, the mobile technology needed to support both Android and iOS phones, as well as physical card technology (the RFID ecosystem would remain intact for non-student purposes and serve as a migration path for other areas not yet mobile).

With a legacy card-based system, 1,000 students and faculty needed to have their badges at all times to validate themselves day in and day out.

The solution comprised in a robust mobile ecosystem with 40+ access points featuring mobile identification, app, portal and reader technologies, comprised of HID Signo access control readers, Seos mobile credentials and HID OMNIKEY readers and reader modules (OMNIKEY 5427, OMNIKEY 5127CK Mini, OMNIKEY 5127 Reader Core) and more.

More importantly, because the solution is built on open standards-based technology where software upgrades can be securely managed through the cloud, it has the ability to integrate with existing security platforms as well as support future technologies.

With a slight tap or wave of their smartphone, students are able to interact easily with the mobile ecosystem and via the digital Seos credential to authenticate themselves as they move throughout the property each day. Mobile access technologies are embedded in:

• Parking garage systems

• Building entrances

• Vending machines

• Laundry facilities

• Printers

• Point-of-sale at restaurants/on-campus eateries

• Restaurant access control

• Class attendance tracking

“You cannot discount the value of mobile when it comes to today’s student populations,” said Mano Soler, Director of Student Services and Operations at Les Roches Marbella. “It is their way of life. They were ‘born digital’ and they have an expectation when it comes to smart living—for them, it’s a mobile-first world. We get it. We embrace it and we intend to attract and retain students by offering them an unparalleled educational experience while here in Marbella.”

Convenience and efficiency

Les Roches Marbella has gained immediate improvements around registration check-ins that takes place each semester. Now, 100% of students use the mobile access system on campus.

Students register digitally—with the option to do so in-person, ahead of time or remotely with no human interaction. Mobile credentials via a smartphone make scaling individual access up and down significantly easier for IT, faculty and students.

A journey – Not a destination

Optimising security is a journey toward a destination that can never be reached in today’s ever-changing environment.

One of the school’s next initiatives focuses on automated student attendance tracking that’s expected to save time at the beginning of each class period and serve as another way to further support and protect students. Mini-computers and readers will be installed in each classroom and students will use their mobile ID (via their smartphone) to mark attendance. All will be handled by a web application that will push and pull data to/from the Les Roches Absences application in real time through API-based interfaces.

Beyond elevating the student experience through the convenience of mobile IDs and strengthening security when it comes to student safety and mobile ID verification, Les Roches Marbella has an extremely efficient, flexible and scalable solution that can grow with them as technologies evolve and digital trends continue to transform and connect us all to an international degree.

The value of mobile is tremendous and any size campus in any sector of education can benefit from the digital transformation angles when it comes to campus business. Mobile access truly connects to students in a way that’s important, convenient and meaningful to them—keeping them connected and secure via a device that’s already an extension of their existence.

1-ISJ- Modernising campus access control
Jaroslav Barton, Director of Product Marketing, HID Global

This article was originally published in the special September show edition of International Security Journal. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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