Thinking Beyond Security

Adding a business spin to campus intelligent security solutions

Ever wonder why BOGO is such a great marketing ploy? There is something about getting more for your money that buyers find hard to resist. The same can be said about colleges and universities. If you can show them how to stretch their investment dollars by sharing resources across departments, you win the prize.

This mindset should be influencing how security professionals build their business cases for intelligent security solutions. Rather than directing proposals to the security department alone, invite other disciplines into the conversation. Brainstorm as a team on creative ways to use the technology to better protect the school and improve different campus operations. This discussion should also address IT’s concerns about cybersecurity and eficient resource management. Talk about pooling budgets and shared benefits and greater return on the institution’s technology investments.

How Multi-tasking Becomes Multi-discipline Tasking

One of the greatest selling points for intelligent network security solutions is their versatility. While they provide excellent forensic evidence of an event and help mitigate threats, they can also deliver valuable, actionable information when applied in nonsecurity activity. For instance, a security solution used to deter intruders can also inform maintenance that a door latch needs repair. A solution used to prevent shoplifting can also help increase bookstore sales by alerting the clerk that a customer needs help.

In general, security systems are viewed as “see, say and do” solutions. Video cameras observe, speakers broadcast messages and analytics provide the intelligence to direct action where it is most needed. These are tasks that can be applied to a whole range of operational issues facing today’s colleges and universities. So it is little wonder why security solutions are crossing department lines. For instance:

Student life. One of the most common cross-discipline uses of security technology in higher education today is the all-in-one student ID card. The card controls access to the dorm. For heightened security it can be linked to a video camera and facial recognition software to verify the identity of the user. That same card can be monetized like a debit card and used to purchase meals, books and supplies. The athletics department can load tickets to sporting events on it. The registrar’s office might link it to a student’s class schedule. Managing all these operations on a single card through a common database shared across departments saves the cost of each department issuing its own solution which significantly lowers the total cost of ownership for the investment.

Risk management. The same surveillance cameras monitoring activity throughout the campus can provide risk managers the video they need to counter fraudulent slip-and-fall claims and mitigate other liability issues.

Stadium concession revenue. Concessions, especially at sporting events, can be real revenue generators for schools. But sales and goodwill are often lost because of long wait times. Managers can turn the situation around by using network cameras enhanced with queue management analytics and coupled with network speakers to alert fans to concession stands with shorter lines. That same solution can be employed at the ticket gates to move fans in and out of the stadium more quickly.

Safety management. Intelligent network speakers can be programmed by zone for mass communication in case of inclement weather. They can broadcast a single warning message campus-wide or air different emergency evacuation directions by building, floor, room, or other designation. At the same time, on location video cameras equipped with analytics can detect bottlenecks and alert campus safety of problems in real time.

Creating a Matrix of Overlapping Opportunities

As a security professional your focus tends to be on prevention solutions. Operations professionals, on the other hand, tend to seek solutions that help them work more smarter and more efficiently. With today’s intelligent end-to-end security solutions, those goals can easily converge.

Who might be potential stakeholders in such an endeavor? I would suggest starting with the heads of security, risk management, facilities and grounds, energy management, academics and information technology. Because your intention is to create a scalable multi-purpose solution, you may find other departments asking to join the partnership as word of the project’s benefits spreads. To get the ball rolling, you need to hone in on compelling reasons for each stakeholder to invest. Here are a few suggestions.

For security. Talk about how a surveillance solution can provide more than forensic evidence of a security transgression. It provides 24/7 visibility across campus, rain or shine, which helps campus police proactively prevent problems from occurring and de-escalate events before they can spiral out of control. New imaging technology makes it possible to capture crystal clear images in extreme low light, bright sunlight and shadow, even capturing heat signatures in complete darkness. Intelligent analytics can actively alert first responders or trigger other integrated systems like door systems for automatic lockdown, network speakers to broadcast messages or lighting systems to illuminate an area. Video intercoms with two-way audio can be added to door locks to improve visitor screening or to campus-wide blue light call boxes for emergency communication.

Equally important, the solution can be configured to transmit health monitoring information to system operators, so failed devices can be quickly identified, repaired or replaced. Furthermore, the entire system can be monitored and controlled from the security operations center or remotely through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

For risk management. Talk about ways that risk managers can use the security system to limit loss exposure. This could be everything from monitoring whether workplace health and safety protocols being f ollowed to verifying worker’s compensation claims. For instance, the cameras could be used to detect hazardous conditions like objects blocking emergency exits or wet surfaces from a leaking pipe that could lead to slip-and-falls.

For facilities and grounds. Talk about ways motion sensor analytics and radar can help facilities and grounds reduce lighting costs on campus. This could be anything from automatically turning lights ofiin unoccupied classrooms and oflces to turning lights on in the quad at night when pedestrians are detected and off after a set time to save electricity. Also talk about how suddenly triggering lights in the middle of the night in areas where no one should be has proven to be a more efiective, and cost-efiective, deterrent than simply keeping the lights on.

Physical power plant. Talk about ways visual and thermal cameras can protect cooling and heating systems operations. The thermal cameras can monitor the heat signatures of the machinery and trigger an alert if they start to overheat or drop below temperature parameters. The cameras could also be used to detect anyone entering the area who might be intent on sabotage and trigger an alert to campus police.

Academics. Talk about how network cameras can be used to deliver lessons to students who can’t be in the classroom. In view of the recent pandemic and the rise in streaming platforms, there are a lot of creative ways educators can use high-quality network cameras and interactively conference with the entire class simultaneously, share lectures and course material.

Information technology. Given that all this technology will be riding on the institution’s network, it’s important to point out the features of the security system that can allay IT’s concerns about resource consumption, maintenance and cybersecurity. Talk about the advances in video compression technology that have cut bandwidth consumption by 50% or more. Talk about solutions that enable the cameras to initiate their own firmware and hot fix updates without human intervention. Discuss the advantages of deploying a security system that can send an alert when a camera has lost power or focus, its view becomes obstructed or loses its network connection. Explain the layers of cybersecurity is built into each component to block hacking and prevent it from becoming a conduit for malware to enter the network.

While this, by no means, represents an exhaustive list of hooks you can use to appeal to potential stakeholders, it should be enough to get the whole team’s creative juices going.

The More Uses, The More Value

The more departments that buy into your proposed end-to-end security system solution, the greater the usage and the lower the total cost of ownership for the entire university or college. But even if pooling budgets isn’t possible, showing decision-makers how this investment delivers benefits far beyond security can be a winning proposition.

This article originally appeared in the July August 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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