Planning A Connected Campus
Unifying and enabling communications help plan for effective connections
- By Kyle Gordon
- July 01, 2016
INTEGRATION AND UNIFICATION OF DISPARATE TECHNOLOGIES
AND A WIDE RANGE OF SYSTEMS CONTINUE
TO PROGRESS ACROSS THE GLOBE. THE INTERNET OF
THINGS (LOT) AND GATEWAY SENSORS ARE ENABLING
GREATER COMMUNICATIONS WITH BILLIONS OF CONNECTED
DEVICES EXPECTED IN THE COMING YEARS, VIA
HARDWIRED AND WIRELESS, ESPECIALLY WI-FI AND
BLUETOOTH. SMARTPHONES ARE A WAY OF LIFE, PROVIDING
ASSISTANCE, INFORMATION AND LOCATION TO
USERS’ FINGERTIPS. FOR THE EDUCATIONAL AND CAMPUS
ENVIRONMENTS THESE FACTORS AND OTHER
NASCENT AND EMERGING TRENDS PLAY A SIGNIFICANT
ROLE, ULTIMATELY SHAPING THE FUTURE OF THE CONNECTED
CAMPUS AS IT APPLIES TO PHYSICAL SECURITY.
Technology is changing rapidly, transforming the campus landscape.
Mobility trends, real-time, location-based services/global positioning
systems (GPS) and even social media are having an impact.
Now, more than ever, analyzing all these moving parts and pieces and
devising a comprehensive safety plan takes a collaborative effort by
security providers, campus stakeholders and even surrounding town
and cities. It also necessitates a deep dive consultative approach and
examination into existing systems and infrastructures, points of control,
compliance and regulations and the overall physical security process
and procedures in place at the institution.
CONNECTED CAMPUS/MOBILE CAMPUS
Recent education research cites that over a quarter of a billion students
are due to enroll in institutions of higher learning by 2025. With students,
come new ways to interact and communicate, such as social
media platforms and, of course, the smartphone, which is now a minicomputer
in its own right. Nielsen statistics from 2014 set the largest
user-base of smartphones (85 percent) as between the ages of 18 and 34.
Ultimately, a connected solution and unified plan benefits an entire campus, city and surrounding areas and makes sense for the future
success of campus solutions. Not only is the campus safer, but overlapping
and nearby populations also have greater peace of mind through
compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy
and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The Clery Act requires colleges
and universities who receive federal funding to share information
about crime on campus and their efforts to improve campus safety, as
well as inform the public of crime in or around the facility.
The connected campus safety and security landscape should accomplish
- Empower students, staff, stakeholders, campus safety, police, fire
authorities and communities to interact and collaborate through a
variety of methods and integrated security technologies.
- Execute and facilitate a security plan that supports critical decision
making in managing and processing events and emergencies quickly
- Improve responsiveness and deliver faster emergency notification
and alerts through readily accessible communications platforms.
Many institutions of higher learning are already embracing sophisticated
communications technologies, such as video, cloud, wireless
internet, social media and unified communications, not only for campus
safety and security, but to improve the learning experience in the
classroom and throughout the campus environment. This willingness
to take on new technologies is a first step in enabling the ongoing
progress toward a truly connected campus.
Campus safety authorities and police send messages to student
populations via smartphone apps, email, text, Facebook, and Twitter,
notifying of emergencies, lockdowns, closures, and other events.
Most students continue to rely on mobile platforms to receive their
messages. Facebook alone has more than 53 percent of its users interfacing
via mobile devices only, said eMarketer’s “Trends for 2016: Six
Predictions for What Will Happen.”
Now, with specialized mobile apps, students may also have access
control, multi-function cards and real-time situational awareness,
including sending duress alerts, video and GPS location, directly to a
security command center in the event of an incident. Some mobile
apps allow a user to shake their smartphone, turning the device into a
high-volume, strobe-light alarm. Plus, campus police can be provided
this emergency information, dispatched, and routed to incidents on
campus utilizing mobile apps on the market today. Mobility further
allows up-to-date, location-based tracking from cellular services, as
well as real-time and location based notification from Twitter, Facebook
UNIFICATION OF TECHNOLOGIES
Before a campus can become connected, disparate technologies need
to be able to talk to each other or, at least, foster a series of events that
result in better communication. With that, campus safety initiatives
are incorporating a number of different technologies, including
access control, video, intrusion, mass notification systems and standalone
emergency stations and duress technologies for nearby and
New personal safety applications and virtual protection solutions
are also available through the smartphone for students who are not
near a duress or panic button station so they can notify campus safety
of an emergency immediately from their device. Public address systems
are being used campus-wide to stream voice notifications or fire
alarm systems with voice annunciation also being deployed.
In some applications in the classroom, where smartphone use is
discouraged, public safety sends alerts through public address speakers
or visual annunciation such as colored strobes to indicate risk
levels or alerts.
System standardization across the campus is necessary to improve security
and communications throughout the different silos of populations,
including campus safety, IT, resident halls, administration and other
departments. It’s critical for a core committee to develop standards for
safety and security solutions on campus. The creation of a core committee
ensures all relevant parties play a role in developing the standards,
and, therefore, are committed to upholding them. The group regularly
assesses the standards to verify they are producing effective results.
Additionally, the committee’s efforts should make sure that future projects
are held to the same standards previously developed.
Not only do standards need to be in place for safety and security
solutions, but those standards have to be clearly documented and
reviewed regularly. Standards should create efficiency and also address
what systems solutions will be deployed in new remodeling and construction
projects, again promoting integration and communication
between current solutions and new specifications still to come online.
It’s a long-term, collaborative process that makes the most sense in
achieving an effective, connected campus. Part of the analysis includes
a look at what’s currently on campus as far as security and how the
existing infrastructure can be leveraged, utilized and operated effectively
without major overhauls. Does access control integrate with
video surveillance and feed to local campus public safety, as well as
police and fire authorities?
What’s the status of emergency communications and lock down and
mass notification? Is there a solid plan in place? These are just some of
the initial questions that need to be asked.
PUBLIC SAFETY POINT OF SYSTEMS CONTROL
The stakeholders themselves are changing in the deployment of security
at colleges and universities. In many of the successful efforts of
educational campuses across the country, the task of system management
is moving to the Campus Safety Department as the owner of the
systems, rather than spreading control among departments, which can
be unwieldy in an emergency and even sabotage standardization of technologies. In the past, each department would dictate and specify
its own security technologies and then ask campus safety to support
the specification. Now, the departments are referring to campus safety
– initially — for their recommendations and these departments are
standardizing on physical security solutions and communications as
set forth in their plan – which, ultimately, assists in the connected
campus and effective emergency response.
Part of the campus safety and security plan requires establishing
procedures and processes. The campus safety plan becomes the university’s
living document that can be changed, but only through team
consensus. For example, it sets procedures for locking entry and exit
doors at certain times or schedules. It also can get as specific as what
kinds of devices are to be used on doors, down to the manufacturer
and part number, ensuring compatible technologies. Once this baseline
document and plan is established, public safety and security initiatives
Emergency lockdown has become another critical solution on campus
and also needs planning as far as how it will operate. While the
actual implementation of the solution may be simple, it can be complicated
to manage and maintain. For example, will it lock down all buildings
or certain buildings and what’s the criterion for that to happen?
Who can initiate a lockdown? What does a lockdown entail for a specific
campus? There are many potential scenarios, but each should be
unique and genuine to the school in the way it is used.
One central point of command and control is an impetus in unifying
campus communications. The most effective response comes from
a single, trained command center. Communications are coming into
one point and in larger and remote campuses; sub-command centers
may be in place. Security management systems, mobile applications
and web accessibility are helping off campus officers and security
guards have ready access to central command from remote locations,
CUSTOM CONNECTIVITY SOLUTIONS
Connectivity and collaboration is also bringing creative security and
safety solutions to the campus environment. At Edinboro University in
Edinboro, Pa., a custom system was developed and deployed in an
ADA application for a student who required assistance opening and
Without the solution, the student would need to leave the door open
at all times, an unsafe situation, at best. Working together, the integrator
and the university team devised a solution to allow the student to
control her door via a custom application accessible on her smartphone
and laptop. Once activated, the app initiates an electric strike
that engages the accessible door operator so it opens automatically.
The proliferation of mobile technology, web and cloud-hosted platforms
and open communications is driving the future direction of the
connected campus. Near field communication and the ability to use
the smartphone as an access control device is already proliferating
many institutions. Bluetooth is further extending connectivity to
areas without a network connection or poor signals, keeping students
Working in collaboration with all stakeholders
to address technology and developing plans and
standards sets the stage for the success of physical
security and the connected campus among educational
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.