University working groups agree to update dorm locks

Lock And Roll

University working groups agree to update dorm locks

Chartered in 1746, Princeton University is the fourth-oldest college in the United States and well known for its scholarship and service to all nations. The independent, coeducational, nondenominational university assists undergraduate and graduate students in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering.

As a world-renowned research university, Princeton reaches for the highest levels of distinction in knowledge and understanding and also is dedicated to undergraduate teachings. With 1,000 faculty members, 5,000 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students, security at Princeton is not taken lightly.

Perhaps what most people don’t know about the university is how well it blends together its faculty, staff and students into pristine working groups to make decisions that matter on campus.

Nearly 20 months ago, university officials wanted to replace the old brass locks on the campus dormitory rooms. That meant more than 3,200 doors needed to be retrofitted with a new, state-of-the-art locking system, but nothing was going to happen until a university working group had explored all the details.

“We met with a university working group for about 14 months to do our research and make a decision on the type of door lock that would best benefit our students and the university,” said Paul Midura, Princeton’s manager of life safety and security systems . “When we narrowed our choices down to three candidates, we vetted the technology through many departments on campus, including public safety, housing and dining services, among others.”

Because the doors involved in the retrofit were interior doors of the dormitories, reliability was a key issue. Once the working groups made their selection, all research and recommendations were given to a steering committee, including several university vice presidents and stakeholders on campus.

“This was a very intense project for us,” said Mike Mahon, senior vice president of commercial sales for Salto Systems. “The university did its due diligence, and the 27 people on the working group were keenly interested in the strengths of the product and anticipated real-world demonstrations of the product.”

Understandably, the university wanted to make sure it would be well served by the dealer network of whatever product the working group selected, and that the product was not only the right fit for today, but was forward-thinking.

Princeton selected Salto’s lock software, which is proprietary to its own platform and the HID iClass 32k card to be used throughout the campus. The university also selected the standalone A9 660 wireless lockset, which, if lost, can immediately change permissions to entries and door access control. Work on the campus is already underway.

“We are currently in the second phase of this project with about 600 locks changed,” said Dan Hogan, president of Hogan Security Group in Pennington, N.J. “We anticipated this project would be wireless-ready, but we moved into the online phase because Princeton University has its own wide area network. With that established, we began the retrofit.”

One of the challenges that the Hogan Security Group has encountered is that the dormitory rooms are still occupied, which limits the window of opportunity for changing out the locks.

“First of all, we are very conscious about making a mess and protecting the private property of the students’ rooms,” Hogan said. “And, let’s face it, students live on a different time schedule than most of us, but installing these locks will enable the university and the students to be and feel more secure in their surroundings.”

The A9 660 wireless locking system is a card credential that has memory in place, and, according to Hogan, it is good for the students because it enhances the security of the dorm room and the overall dormitory. The university had been using brass keys, which, if lost, could fall into the wrong hands; as Hogan said of the keys, “they are dumb devices that offer no reliable means of letting you know that someone has entered a room.”

The new system is anything but dumb. While the iClass cards, or TIGER Cards as the university has named them, and readers won’t speak to each other, all the information stored on the cards is kept in a main database that can retrieve, change or review information in the blink of an eye.

Without a key, the protection of students and staff is taken to a higher level. Students won’t have to keep their dorm room key on a lanyard and worry about losing it. The cards are dual authentication, meaning a student merely presents the card then enters a PIN for entrance.

“This way, student protection is heightened,” said Keith A. Tuccillo, a system administrator in the life safety and security systems department at Princeton. “If needed, we know when a card is used and where it is used. Our in-house technicians have been trained on this new system, which also makes better use of their time by not having to chase down a master key. It’s all right there in the university’s database.”

The game changer for the students’ safety and security is that with the credentialed ID card, they likely won’t leave their dorm rooms without their identification, which is their passport to campus security.

This article originally appeared in the Security Products Magazine - July 2012 issue of Security Today.

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