Smart Cards Boost Security
University boosts campus-wide switchover to electronic locks
- By April Noblitt
- Oct 01, 2013
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
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
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
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
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.