The Art of Security

The Art of Security

Academy unveils access control migration program

The Art of SecurityAcademy of Art University in San Francisco was established in 1929 by Richard S. Stephens, a fine art painter and creative director for Sunset Magazine. Opened in a single, rented loft initially to teach advertising art, the university soon assembled a distinguished faculty of practicing art and design professionals with a shared philosophy: hire established professionals to teach future professionals.

Today, the university has more than 18,000 students and 30 areas of academic emphasis, making it the country’s largest private school of art and design. At the same time, the university boasts a thriving campus life—including clubs, special events and social activities—and its Urban Knights athletic program, which competes at the NCAA Division II level.

Operating a large university campus in a busy, urban setting can be challenging enough, but when the campus spans dozens of geographically-dispersed buildings that house expensive equipment and high-value student work, the challenge becomes even more complex.

Academy of Art University in San Francisco met these challenges with an access control system that simultaneously delivers the security it needs, along with important, new capabilities and an improved campus experience.

Security Changes and Access Control

In the early 2000s, Academy of Art University occupied approximately 20 buildings that housed classrooms, offices and residential halls scattered across the city. Each location had multiple points of access, and was protected only by basic locks and metal keys. The inadequate security of this arrangement became painfully apparent after a daylight break-in and burglary at one of the university residence halls, resulting in significant property losses.

According to Mike Petricca, the university’s campus safety director, this was unacceptable for a university that prides itself on giving students a safe place to learn, where they can nurture their creativity and put countless hours into valuable work portfolios.

To improve security, the university took what previously was a one-man campus safety organization augmented with security guards, and replaced it with an organization spanning 130 employees, a 24-hour patrol team, a campus communications center with emergency dispatching service and around-the-clock safety hosts stationed at most buildings. Additionally, the university embarked on a program to secure every building across its widely-dispersed campus.

“What has resulted is the nation’s first university to be completely locked down with all access controlled through a single, centralized system,” Petricca said. “Securing all of our doors with an access control system was the single, most important thing we had to do to improve our campus security.”

The university also needed its access control system to be easy to expand without forfeiting earlier investments. Meeting both security and scalability needs required moving to a system based on an open architecture that could support multiple card technologies and future enhancements. With this platform, the university’s cardholders would be able to do more than just open doors with their ID cards.

Picking a Solution

For its solution, Academy of Art University turned to Microbiz Security Co., a long-time HID Global partner and provider of consolidated security solutions including video surveillance, intrusion and access control products. Microbiz recommended HID Global’s iCLASS SE platform, including the company’s multiCLASS SE readers that support both Indala low-frequency, entry-level proximity cards for physical access control, and iCLASS SE high-security smart card credentials.

The iCLASS SE platform can be used with iCLASS, MIFARE and DESFire card technology, as well as iCLASS Seos, high-security smart card credentials. Both iCLASS SE and iCLASS Seos card technology use HID Global’s Secure Identity Object (SIO) data model, which represents many forms of identity information on any device that has been enabled to work within the secure boundary and the central identity management ecosystem of the company’s Trusted Identity Platform (TIP).

TIP and SIOs enable iCLASS Seos credentials to be carried inside Near Field Communications (NFC)-enabled smartphones in a managed access environment. The academy sees this as an important future capability that will be attractive to students, faculty and staff who rely more and more on smartphones for a variety of daily tasks.

In the first two months since initiating deployment, the university installed approximately 40 multiCLASS readers in 14 buildings. It has since installed nearly 260 readers in approximately 50 buildings, including 17 resident halls. Every resident hall and computer lab is now protected, and the university continues to install new readers as it acquires buildings and adds or reconfigures rooms to house valuable equipment and assets.

Additionally, the university has completely replaced the previous magnetic stripe (magstripe) cards that were issued but never carried or used. The university is now issuing approximately 65,000 to 75,000 ID cards each semester using HID Global’s “Corporate 1000 Program,” which provides a unique, 35-bit card format that supports more than one million individual card numbers for use with standard HID proximity readers.

Approximately 25,000 cards are in use at any given time, and card numbers are tracked during the manufacturing process to ensure they are not duplicated.

The university’s access control system automatically turns the cards off at the conclusion of one semester and back on again at the beginning of the next, or permanently disables the student’s identity following their resignation or failure to re-enroll.

With its new access control solution, metal keys are no longer required and the ID cards enable users to open doors much more quickly, which can be very important in an urban environment. The same card that is used to open doors can also be used to enter Urban Knights sporting events or make purchases using Knight Kash, the university’s debit program, for meals and cashless vending.

Academy of Art University created its Knight Kash program to be the ultimate complement to the university experience. ID cards are used not just for dining on campus, but also at offcampus merchant partner establishments to provide the greatest possible flexibility, variety and value. The university also uses the cards for a partand full-time employee payroll system, and is considering using the cards for student attendance systems and other applications in the future, as well as enabling users to carry the ID cards on their smartphones.

Multiple Benefits Achieved

The university has realized a number of important benefits from its new access control system—including documented reductions in theft, even as enrollment has increased—and an improved campus experience. The system has significantly improved reporting capabilities, enabling the security team to provide valuable input about building use, which resulted in new building access hours and policies.

“We’ve certainly seen a lot of change at our campus in terms of technologies, policies and procedures, and it was all necessary in order for us to achieve the security we needed along with an enhanced experience for everyone that spends time here,” Petricca said.

“With our new access control foundation in place, we can now embrace change and rely on this system infrastructure to support future improvements that will benefit faculty and staff, and for students and their parents.”

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

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