Partners in Education

Partners in Education

Florida higher education turns to complete security installation

Partners in EducationValencia College serves 71,000 students across 60 buildings on campuses located in Orlando, Winter Park, Kissimmee and Lake Nona, Florida. Named the top U.S. community college in the nation in 2011, Valencia College was the first recipient of the prestigious Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Valencia College ranks first among two-year colleges in the United States for the total associate’s degrees it awards, and has a graduation rate triple that of comparable schools.

The University of Central Florida (UCF) is the second largest public university campus in the United States, serving more than 60,000 students and 8,000 full-time employees. The school encompasses 180 buildings across a 1,415-acre main campus and nine regional campuses. Called a “top up-and-coming” national university by U.S. News & World Report, a “best-value university” by The Princeton Review and Kiplinger’s and one of the nation’s most “affordable colleges” by Forbes, UCF offers 212 degree programs and has become an academic and research leader in numerous fields.

Synonymous with excellence in providing higher education in central Florida for five decades as separate institutions, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida have worked together as a team for years to ensure that those who earn an associate’s degree at Valencia have a seamless transition to continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree from UCF—a program referred to as “DirectConnect to UCF.” Student success, however, hasn’t been the only priority that Valencia College and UCF have shared.

Seeking Systematic Access Control and Video Management

Administrators at Valencia College and UCF understood that their campuses, along with others across the nation, faced continued and increasing threats of violent acts and crisis situations. Each institution wanted a comprehensive and cohesive security system that could control everyday entry and lockdown access to doors, as well as access live and recorded video that was easy to manage and simple to use. Their desire to provide the safest environment possible for students, staff and property led to another strong partnership: Open Options’ access control and Milestone Systems’ video management software (VMS).

In 2004, Valencia College initially sought a systematic access control solution to secure 50 doors around campus, primarily data closets. It was during this time that the forward-thinking administration began to deploy smart classrooms with expensive resources—projectors, document readers and laptops—that aided teaching and further engaged students in learning. Network video cameras began to proliferate over the aging analog solution, and Valencia College sought to deploy IP video surveillance along with access control as part of their widening security solution to protect growing assets and enrollments.

Orlando-based system integrator Phil Lutes, president and owner of Signature Systems of Fla., won the ensuing Valencia College security bid with a powerful suggestion: Deploy Open Options’ DNA Fusion Access Control software along with HID Global iCLASS readers and cards to secure doors, and Milestone Systems’ open platform XProtect VMS to manage live and recorded video. This open platform’s ability to integrate and provide one efficient solution with a single interface has laid the groundwork for a seamless user experience while future-proofing to remain capable of incorporating ever-changing security technology innovations.

When UCF began planning an upgrade to their security solution—standalone, battery-operated access control that did not provide the level of security needed and a variety of small, analog video systems dispersed throughout multiple campuses—Lutes and Signature Systems of Fla. again answered the request for proposal with the same winning combination.

A Solution for Both

DNA Fusion provides a complete access control solution including door control, visitor management and photo ID management in an open platform that interfaces seamlessly with other systems such as video, biometrics and intercoms. This software can be managed via a regular client, the web or Apple and Android smartphones.

HID Global iCLASS readers and cards offer enhanced security through encryption and mutual authentication. Both are reliable and affordable, too, making them ideal for campuses of all sizes. Plus, the readers and cards have the versatility to support specified capabilities, such as controlled access to buildings, with the option to be upgraded later to allow for additional applications.

Milestone XProtect VMS is an open platform, easy-to-use yet powerful software for controlling video surveillance. XProtect enables users to access live and recorded video to gain real-time situational awareness and investigate incidents while controlling PTZ cameras to investigate suspicious activity and export recordings as evidence.

The integration of Open Options with HID Global and Milestone XProtect allows the systems to work together to provide comprehensive security through the value-adding combination of access control with video. Live or recorded video can be accessed from within the DNA Fusion event manager using a camera tree or facility maps. Users can display the XProtect multiple camera views and simultaneous playback using built-in controls.

With Open Options DNA Fusion, HID iCLASS readers and doors, and Milestone XProtect installed throughout both college systems, Valencia College and UCF have an all-encompassing security solution that they can each continue to build upon.

Security Specific to Valencia College

At Valencia College, Open Options manages access control with 1,200 HID iCLASS card readers across all buildings.

“Our construction standard and remodeling standard is that every exterior door will have electronic access,” said Tom Lopez, assistant vice president of safety and security risk management. “In the building interiors, we base access control on how it is equipped. If it is a smart classroom with an abundance of expensive equipment, then access control protection is their standard there, as well. Our instructors are reassured by the fact that we can secure and lockdown doors and buildings if we have that need during a crisis situation.”

Milestone Systems XProtect Enterprise open platform video management software controls 336 Axis and IQinVision video surveillance cameras throughout the Valencia College locations.

“When an incident occurs on our property, it’s very easy to export video and watermark it for timestamp and evidentiary purposes,” Lopez said. “Our investigations have been aided by the use of video which has been met very positively by our administration and law enforcement officials.”

UCF’s Security Solution

At neighboring UCF, their door protection began as stand-alone, battery-operated access control that did not provide the level of security needed for such a large and rapidly growing institution. The solution has now evolved into Open Options DNA Fusion software operating 700 HID iCLASS card readers.

“UCF has been an innovator in their approach to access control as they use virtualization,” Lutes said. “UCF was one of the early users of Open Options to virtualize the software and organize their distribution by splitting it into ‘tenants.’ Taking the concept of tenants in one building with different people on different floors, UCF created one database for all cardholders and allowed each department to manage its own users. They accomplished this inside of a virtual machine. Now they deploy the clients as virtual machines so they don’t have to install the client software at different locations. It’s an efficient way of running and managing the software and users.”

“This software integrated with our current system, and with the ability to work with Active Directory, we can easily populate the database as new employees come into the system, a frequent occurrence in higher education and with UCF in particular,” said Bob Yankello, UCF chief information officer.

Video management at UCF was not standardized as they had a variety of small, analog video systems dispersed throughout the university. Lutes began video surveillance management with Milestone Systems XProtect Enterprise, and some departments are transitioning to XProtect Expert to take advantage of the additional features of centralization and edge storage. The VMS now manages live and recorded video from nearly 1,500 Axis, IQinVision and Panasonic video surveillance cameras throughout UCF—with more being added on a regular basis.

Officials from Valencia College and UCF agree that the powerful combination of access control and video management has provided a cost-effective and efficient security solution that has made their campuses safer. Charles Johnson, Open Options’ southeast regional sales manager, said that other institutions should follow the successful model created by Valencia College, UCF and Signature Systems of Fla. “Security has become a campus-wide issue that garners input from all stakeholders, so it’s very much a matter of teamwork as it relates to the administration, software developers, hardware manufacturers and integrators,” Johnson said. “It’s encouraging to see Valencia College, the University of Central Florida and Signature Systems of Florida collaborating to replicate a successful security integration that offers protection for 130,000 students and hundreds of facilities across central Florida.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Security Today.


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