Yale University migrates to new retrofit system
- By Kim Rahfaldt
- April 01, 2017
Established in 1701, yale university spans the urban streets of new haven, connecticut where 11,000 students aspire to become the best in their fields of study. yale’s central campus covers 310 acres with the buildings representing every period in its history: new england colonial, high victorian gothic, moorish revival to today’s contemporary styles. in addition, the west campus sits on 136 acres with 1.6 million square feet of research, office and warehouse space, and there are over 600 acres of athletic fields and natural preserves maintained.
Securing a prestigious, historic university that is located in a busy,
urban area produces challenges. High expectations by students, parents
and staff, combined with today’s security and environmental challenges,
demand an exceptional security program.
With an attitude to continuously improve, Yale’s Public Safety
Department developed a security outreach, education and awareness
plan and reduced theft by 80 percent over the past five years. From a
technology perspective, their security system had reached the end of
its life. To continue to provide a high level of security, the Director of
Information Technology, David Boyd, and Chief of Police & Director
of Public Safety, Ronnell Higgins, along with a selected team of Yale
stakeholders, decided to upgrade their legacy Casi Rusco Picture Perfect
System to AMAG Technology’s Symmetry SR Retrofit System. A
true partnership was born between AMAG and Yale.
YALE’S ACCESS CONTROL VISION
Between students continuously moving around and effectively managing
thousands of visitors, Chief Higgins’ vision was born from three goals:
- To monitor and manage all security systems from a single point of
- To increase security and enhance the ability to control movement of
all identity types through onboarding and offboarding of permanent
and temporary employees, retirees or others, including implementing
- To increase efficiencies and enhance self-service access control using
The Symmetry SR Retrofit System provided Yale an affordable
migration path that gave them everything they needed in an integrated
unified security system. Yale was able to keep their existing wiring in
place along with their card readers and cards.
Some of our buildings are 200 years old with three-foot stone walls,”
said Director of Information Technology, David Boyd. “Not having to do
a rip and replace of our old system saved millions of dollars.”
“PSIMs were overkill and too expensive to buy and manage,” continued
Boyd. “With Symmetry, we have a single point of contact and
can manage threat levels and identities. It essentially operates as a mini
PSIM for us.”
After a grueling six month process of vetting companies and their
solutions, Yale selected AMAG and installation began almost three
“AMAG has been great to work with,” said Boyd. “We work closely
with them on what we need for the future, and it has developed into a
HOW TO TACKLE 350 BUILDINGS
The old Picture Perfect microboards were replaced with Symmetry
Retrofit panels. Given that there are almost 900 controllers throughout
the University to swap out, Yale took a building-by-building approach
to upgrade to Symmetry and chose to vet all users in the process.
“We wanted a clean system. We sat with the building managers of
each building and made sure the right people had access and had the
correct access levels assigned to them,” said Boyd. “In the end, the
transition will have taken longer, but we’ll have a brand new, clean
AMAG’s Professional Services team wrote a customized interface to
Yale’s proprietary internal database to easily pull data into the Symmetry
Access Control system.
Deployment was simple. The integrator tested the old system and
scheduled the changeover for each building. They then swapped out
the old micros for the new SR controllers, plugged each one in and the
panel can go live in a matter of minutes.
Yale uses a one-card system. Student IDs are used to purchase food,
check out library books, and also used as an access control card. The
migration to the new system is so flawless, students and staff don’t realize
the changeover is occurring. The student access cards operate normally
regardless if a building has been converted to Symmetry or not.
“The biggest story here is that no one knows we are changing from
one system to another,” said Boyd. “There is no disruption.”
STRIKING A BALANCE
According to Chief Higgins, parents make decisions about where to
send their kids to college based on what they see and feel. Yale is mindful
of that, and is careful to articulate how safe the campus is so the
parents are aware.
“We need to have the systems in place that ensure that what we said
[about Yale’s security] is in fact, true,” said Chief Higgins.
A college campus must be open, yet safe and secure. An active
shooter hoax a few years back forced Chief Higgins and Boyd to look
at their security program from a different perspective. The incident
invoked a regional response. Boyd and his team were pulling up cameras
and monitoring the situation live, and the security system worked.
However, people from outside the University were called in to help.
The city police and fire department officials did not know the layout of
the buildings or campus like the Yale police department. Communicating
and executing a lockdown scenario proved difficult because of
their lack of familiarity.
Chief Higgins and his team examined what happened verus what
they would like to see happen in the future. “Tragedy trumps tradition,”
said Chief Higgins. “We averted tragedy but determined it was
time to make some changes.”
“That incident showed us we needed a way to manage threats so we
can lock down the school or an area with the click of a mouse,” said
Boyd. “Our new Symmetry SR Solution has Threat Level Manager.”
Threat Level Manager allows Yale to lock
down the university in the event of an emergency,
but still provide an open campus the
rest of the time.
Boyd and Higgins have big plans to do
much more to ensure a secure campus for students
and staff. Increasing efficiency is a large
part of it.
“We are looking into a self-service web
page to increase efficiency,” said Boyd. “Rather
than email changes to a central scheduler,
we want building managers with proper
authority to make changes on a website to
increase efficiency. The cost savings would be
AMAG’s Symmetry CONNECT policybased
identity management software will help
streamline Yale’s internal onboarding and offboarding
process to improve workflow and
better operationalize their business.
“Symmetry CONNECT will obtain information
from the HR system and push out to
authorized individuals to on-and-off board
students and employees,” said Boyd.
Between students and staff, the number of
changes being made to the system on a daily
basis demands a streamlined approach. Symmetry
CONNECT minimizes cumbersome
paper and multiple email requests, improving
efficiency and saving money.
Yale also plans to integrate Symmetry
access control with Milestone’s xProtect
video management system allowing events
to pop up on video where there is an alarm.
Vingtor Stentofon Intercoms are located on
campus and they plan to tie in the audio and
the video so live camera feeds pop up on the
Symmetry system. Creating more efficient
guard tours and implementing mobile credentialing
will also be considered in the
future to increase usability.
“Once we implement these upgrades, that’s
when the end user will see a difference in our
systems,” said Boyd. “And that’s our plan.”
“Symmetry has helped us service our
community in the most optimum way,” said
For over the first two years of the project,
an AMAG engineer worked onsite with the
Yale team. He helped manage the software
conversion, interface creation and hardware
conversion. Issues were resolved quickly and
a strong relationship established.
“Our relationship with AMAG Technology
is a true partnership,” said Boyd. “They work
closely with us through each phase of our
upgrade and listen to what we need to successfully
secure our campus. I value the relationship
Symmetry for any campus
This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.