A Quick Deployment
Calgary higher education institution benefits from new security platform and cameras
- By Kayder Khadim
- December 16, 2020
The school that would become Mount Royal University, in Calgary,
Alberta, was founded more than a century ago. Throughout
its long and rich history, Mount Royal has changed its
offerings and location while continuing to meet the needs of
the community it serves. Today, that community includes
nearly 15,000 students and 1,700 faculty and staff.
In 1972, the school moved from downtown to the Lincoln Park
neighborhood in southwest Calgary. Prior to Mount Royal’s arrival,
the area had been used as an air force base. This meant that the university
provided open spaces with little intrusion.
In the decades since, however, a lot has changed. As Peter Davison,
director of security for Mount Royal, described it, “We basically sat
on our own little island. But now, because of urban expansion, the
campus is surrounded by commercial, residential and retail environments.”
The area around Mount Royal now includes an industrial
campus and business park as well as suburban housing. While there
are several benefits to this increased urban density, it does present
new security challenges. In 2017, the university began looking into
expanding its physical security system. What started out as a 10-year
plan that would encompass several stages quickly became a two-year
plan that changed everything.
Some of the Challenges of a Legacy System
In the early 2000s, following increasing threats worldwide, Mount
Royal deployed a video surveillance system. The University had a budget
to spend, which led to camera deployment with limited planning.
“There was money spent but not with a lot of thought as to how the
system was actually laid out. We used to look at a lot of hallways. And
the system didn’t cover many of the areas that needed surveillance,”
Additionally, the video system could not keep up with technological
advancements or meet the University’s emerging security needs.
“We tried to put a multi-image sensor into one of our buildings, and
the old system just couldn’t handle it. We were constantly having
cameras drop,” said Candice Merrill, Mount Royal security manager.
“We really needed an overhaul of the backend too.”
Switching to Security Center
“Our original plan was to bring 16 cameras into Security Center and
then, over the course of the next three to 10 years, start phasing out
the old system. But, as soon as we got a look at the quality of the
platform and the new cameras, that timeline quickly became two
years,” Davison said. The program that initially was to have taken
until 2027, is now complete.
Convincing the university to allocate the funds over the reduced
timeline was relatively straightforward.
“Once they got a look at the system and its capabilities and we had
defined a plan of how we were going to layout the cameras, they
quickly signed-off,” Davison said. For the security team, the decision
to select Genetec software was greatly influenced by the open architecture
and true unification.
“One of the deciding factors in going with Genetec and Security
Center was the ability to include our intrusion alarm and access control
systems,” Merrill said.
After the university finished switching to their new cameras and video management system, they began updating
their access control system. This project as
well as an alarm integration project began in
March 2019. “Once everything is brought into
the Security Center interface, we will be completely
out of our legacy system,” Davison said.
On-boarding staff, one of the challenges
with their previous legacy system was that it
was very difficult to navigate. “Fewer than
50% of our people ever figured out how to
use it properly. It was cumbersome, and you
had to basically shut it down to go into a different
program,” Davison said.
Now, with the new security system, Davison
estimates that 95% of the staff are up to speed.
“One of the great things about Genetec
Security Center is that, when you have new
people, it’s really easy for them to figure it
out. They can just hover their mouse over a
button, and it tells them what it is. In our old
system, if you didn’t know, you couldn’t find
out on your own. You’d have to ask someone.
Now, our staff can self-teach, which is really
helpful,” Merrill said.
Improved security with new capabilities
Security personnel at Mount Royal have
noticed major improvements since the switch,
like the ability to bring up cameras on areas of
interest. In their legacy system, the views were
pre-set and operators couldn’t alter them
unless a supervisor went into the system and
changed them. Now, with Security Center,
views are still pre-set, but operators can easily
change views and focus cameras on areas that
require greater attention. The new system also
makes it easier to review footage because of
the ability to synchronize views. Prior to the
switch, operators had to go back and forth
from each camera individually. Now, “if
you’ve got a person of interest on multiple
cameras, synchronization allows you to search
all those cameras at the same time. That’s a big
time-saver for us,” said Davison. The security
team is also becoming much more operational
with access control, and they especially like
the schedule lock feature in Security Center.
Their old system worked on a schedule, so all
of the doors would unlock at 7:00 am regardless
of whether anyone actually entered the
facilities at that time. It also required going
through nine steps to unlock a door and relied
on post-it notes to remind operators to lock
particular doors at certain times. With the
new system, the doors are also on a schedule,
but they remain locked until someone actually
needs to access the space. In addition,
instead of requesting that security personnel
lock doors, individuals leaving a space can
now lock the doors themselves.
Getting the Support They Want
The success of the system is about more than
just technology. Technical support is particularly
important to the security team at
“This is really huge for us. With our last
company, we didn’t get answers quickly,”
Merrill said. “We didn’t get the help that we
needed generally. And everything took a few
steps. Whenever we asked questions about
how to make the system better, we received a
continuous sales pitch. But, with Genetec, we
get answers and, often, we get them in person,”
added Davison. “The difference has
been like night and day with Genetec.”
Davison is also excited about the future as
Mount Royal continues to explore the features
in Security Center. They unified the
system with their Code Blue stations for
emergency situations. The value of the open
platform is that the University knows they
can adapt and easily add on to Security Center
as their needs evolve.
This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.