Smart Cards Boost Security

University boosts campus-wide switchover to electronic locks

In a bold move to improve security, specifically in student housing, Miami University (MU) in Oxford, Ohio replaced mechanical locks on more than 4,000 residence rooms and installed electronic locks and smart card credentials on others during a 90-day summer break.

Miami, named after the local Indian Tribe, is a public university that was established in 1809. As a residential university with approximately 16,000 enrolled students, Miami offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 100 areas of study, master’s degrees in more than 50 areas and a number of doctoral degrees.

Over the course of its 200 year history, five different types of mechanical locks had been used. Rekeying for lost

keys was costly and challenging. These and other concerns led university administrators to find a solution to improve security for students, faculty and staff while enhancing ease of access.

Improving Security Effectively

The most effective solution was to replace the different key systems completely and manage access privileges electronically. The university wanted a system where closed doors to resident rooms would always be locked to ensure a secure living environment. Converting the dorm rooms to electronic locks and card readers would provide this assurance.

The plan called for contactless credentials that provide a “secure handshake” between the card and reader, with the added ability to handle one-card, point-of-sale (POS) functions such as dining, laundry and vending machines. The solution also needed to monitor door props electronically and manage lockouts, while providing short-term access with an audit trail for staff.

Because some of the university’s buildings were almost 200 years old, a comprehensive master plan to renovate and upgrade housing was being developed. Security improvements were factored into the master plan and bonds were issued to fund the project.

The university selected Schlage AD- 400 wireless locks and Schlage aptiQ contactless smart card credentials, together with CBORD CS Access software.

“We were making a huge investment and wanted to put in the technology where we thought the technology was headed,” said Larry Fink, who retired recently as assistant vice president for housing and auxiliaries finance at the university.

The choice of credentials was an essential element of providing the desired level of security. Magnetic stripe technology has been around for years, but is prone to wear and damage. Proximity cards are more durable, but they can be hacked. Contactless smart cards appeared to meet the university’s tough criteria, especially since the aptiQ cards provide a two-way dialogue between the card and reader, instead of just reading a card serial number (CSN).

AptiQ cards are based on MIFARE DESFire EV1 technology. They use extra layers of security with protection-mutual authentication, AES 128-bit diversified key encryption and message authentication coding (MAC). The open architecture design allows a wide range of card applications, making it well-suited to the university’s diverse needs.

“The ‘secure handshake’ of information between the aptiQ card and the ADSeries wireless lock makes this format very difficult to hack or copy,” Fink said.

The AD-Series locks provide online, real-time lock control and integrate fully with CS Access software. Since they are designed with easily changeable reader modules, they can be upgraded in the future without changing the entire lock.

These locks simplified the installation process because they combine all hardware components required at the door into one integrated design. They incorporate the electrified lock, credential reader, request-to-exit and enter sensors, door position switch, tamper guard and more. Wireless operation also made them easier and more cost-effective to install in existing buildings on campus.

The scalable system controls access to interior and exterior residence hall doors, as well as academic and administrative buildings, while integrating fully into the university’s CS Gold program for dining, vending and other POS applications. The system features mobile CS access, such as text messages, for instant room access, which lessens inconvenience for university staff, especially during odd hours. In fact, texting was used approximately 138,000 times during the first nine months of operation.

Progress under Pressure

Such projects typically take several years, but Miami University wanted all students living on campus to experience safety and security simultaneously, which meant completing the project over one busy summer and during additional facility upgrades.

Regardless of the time constraint, door preparations were completed, new electronic locks were installed on 4,307 dorm rooms and other interior doors, and magnetic strip readers replaced on 325 exterior doors. Approximately 650 interior doors were replaced to bring them current on fire code.

The complete software and hardware systems were installed, configured and brought online in time for the start of the 2011-2012 academic year. Only 135 locks had to be installed later.

Building on a History of Collaboration

Since Ingersoll Rand and CBORD had a history of working with Miami University, they easily formed a close-knit team to develop and implement the campus-wide changes. For more than 30 years, the campus has been protected by Ingersoll Rand’s Von Duprin exit devices and LCN door closers, sister brands to Schlage locks. Over the same time, CBORD expanded its food service system to track inventory, manage menus and analyze nutrition.

In addition to security upgrades, the university realized substantial savings by eliminating rekeying and minimizing lockout calls. According to Fink, the university was generating approximately 1,200 locksmith orders per year with the mechanical key system. Fink said re-coring and rekeying could cost up to $15,000 and often took several days to complete.

The university is currently completing installation across the campus in academic and administrative buildings. When finished, almost 900 exterior doors will be online, including 525 in residential buildings and 364 in academic and administrative areas. Card readers are now used at some POS locations, including dining and vending machines. Fink noted the smart cards accommodate dual technology, with tap-and-go operation on campus and magnetic strip credentials used at local merchants.

To help returning students learn how the new security system works, the university produced several YouTube videos explaining smart-card use and application, and further created posters summarizing solutions for lost or forgotten cards.

In addition to cost savings and greater security benefits, the university said students and parents have complimented the peace-of-mind they feel the new security system provides.

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Security Today.

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