ISJ Exclusive: Top of the class – campus security 2022-style


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Uri Guterman, Head of Product and Marketing at Hanwha, describes the disparate issues facing campus security as students get ready to return to university.

For many, going to university or college is the first taste of adulthood and independence. This raises the stakes for the security teams who are responsible for keeping students and staff safe.

Especially because universities are, increasingly, a large investment in time and money. The safety of students can be a big differentiator when choosing where to study and live — for the students themselves as well as their parents, who can have a big influence on the decision.

Campus security advances

Consequently, there have been significant advances in campus security solutions including technology powered by advanced video analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) that can automatically detect intruders, emergencies, and help manage the number of students in a space.

The safety of a campus relies on a number of solutions working together. Access control is needed to ensure students, staff, and visitors can access the right areas and cannot enter restricted ones.

This needs to integrate seamlessly with video surveillance, which acts as a visual identifier of any people entering and exiting a space or vehicles driving around campus.

It can also provide contextual information about any events occurring on campus — something that is essential for operators who may be working from a control room several miles away. The same video footage can be relayed to campus police when responding to an event via a smartphone or tablet.

Automatic alerts

Video analytics and AI provide further insights for operators, with automatic alerts of any events that need their immediate attention such as an intruder, someone falling or a fire on-site. This allows them to carry on with other tasks with video analytics working in the background monitoring everything. People counting can monitor the occupancy of a space to adhere to any fire or health regulations and issue automatic alerts if a room or corridor is at risk of overcrowding.

AI at the edge

Developments in edge AI mean that many devices, including Wisenet X-series and P-series cameras, can now do some analytics functions within the device itself. This removes the need for expensive server setups and extensive bandwidth requirements. It can also make it easier for security leaders to deploy AI across multiple, disparate sites.

Long-term planning

Longer-term planning and strategic decisions can also be informed by video analytics. For instance, Hanwha Techwin partner, AI Tech, can consolidate information over months and years, from several video cameras to determine the use of shared rooms, workspaces, communal areas, meeting rooms and more. With this information, building managers can better plan staff rotas for maintenance and cleaning of classrooms and faculty heads can identify popular classes that require larger spaces or additional sessions.

Protecting many different spaces

Campuses are extremely varied spaces to protect. One might be located in a suburban area while another is in the middle of a city centre.

A campus could have a lot of expensive medical and laboratory equipment, or rare academic manuscripts and artefacts. Plus, the security and access control requirements of classrooms, student halls, bars and social areas, offices, and labs are all different.

Therefore, the best investment that campus security leaders can make is in an open video security system that can support the many different devices working across campuses.

This also provides a degree of futureproofing, making it easier for universities to scale as student populations grow or new buildings and sites are added.

Moreover, an open system can support phased upgrades — a valuable perk if budgets don’t allow for a complete security overhaul. Legacy equipment can work alongside new devices via an open video platform.

Delve into data

Today’s video systems provide a wealth of data to improve operations and processes as well as security.

We’ve already touched on the use of AI for building maintenance, staffing, and class planning, but video can also be used to improve safeguarding and ensure best practices are always followed when campus security is interacting with students and the public.

There are unique challenges when you have students, faculty, visitors, family members, and more all in the same space. Behaviour like vaping or drinking in accommodation halls can present an antisocial problem and needs to be detected quickly.

Video data can also be shared with law enforcement if a crime occurs on campus, to help with identifying perpetrators and building a case for prosecution if needed. Even the placement of CCTV cameras throughout campus can act as a deterrent for anti-social behaviour and other crimes — and reassure students (and their parents) that the campus is secure.

Investing in your VMS

The video management system (VMS) you invest in will be the foundation of your entire video security setup. Pick wisely, otherwise, your plans will be hindered and expenses may soon snowball.

At a minimum, choose a system that is intuitive to use and simple to get up and running. Operators should be able to get started with it with only a few hours of training and all critical information coming from the campus should be displayed on it without having to toggle through different screens and programs.

To make the most of budgets, your VMS would ideally use very little computing power and wouldn’t require a system with high specifications. This is where edge AI devices would also prove invaluable.

In practice: The University of the West of England

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) serves over 30,000 students from 140 countries. It has over 3,200 staff and is one of the largest universities in the UK with three modern campus locations: the main Frenchay Campus, City Campus (Bower Ashton, Watershed, Spike Island, and Arnolfini) and Glenside Campus.

As part of a wider £300m upgrade of its facilities, UWE Bristol needed a video surveillance system that was reliable and could scale across its different campuses. Its existing system wasn’t fully operational and regularly had downtime issues.

Consequently, UWE was attracted to Hanwha’s Wisenet cameras and Wisenet WAVE VMS (video management system) due to the system’s flexibility and reliability. It needed to do a phased upgrade of its existing camera system, so the ability to support both the legacy cameras and new Wisenet cameras on one VMS was a significant benefit.

Along with the new cameras and VMS, the team also installed new computers and better screens in the Frenchay Campus control room (previously they had 14-inch screens, now they have six 42-inch displays).

The screens show UWE’s security team any events that have occurred across the three campuses so they can be more informed about anyone entering and exiting a building, any damages (and who caused it), any crimes, and anyone stuck in lifts or in buildings after-hours.

When an event occurs, the UWE team can look back through video footage to understand important contextual information like when the event occurred, who was present near the event, and any damage that occurred.

They can also closely monitor any higher-risk areas like campus entrances and receptions, and see who is entering and exiting the university property. The team is now at 100% operational capacity thanks to the reliability of the Wisenet cameras and WAVE.

Much to consider

As you can see, effective campus security involves a lot of moving parts and processes. Plus, one size doesn’t fit all, even across campuses the technology you use will differ according to location, building type, people on-site and so on. Having a flexible video system is critical, not just for security today but also for protecting future student cohorts.

1-ISJ- ISJ Exclusive: Top of the class - campus security 2022-style
Uri Guterman, Head of Product and Marketing at Hanwha

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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