Michigan university upgrades beyond keyed locks
- By Taylor Foster
- Jul 01, 2015
Western Michigan University, located in Kalamazoo,
Mich., is a national research university
serving students from across the United States
and 100 additional countries. Founded in 1903,
WMU is a learning-centered, discovery-driven
and globally engaged public university that
stands out among America’s more than 4,600
higher education institutions. WMU’s campuses
encompass 1,289 acres, 167 buildings, and serve
more than 50,000 students and patrons.
More Than Keys Can Provide
With over 1,000 doors to manage throughout the expansive WMU
campus—and 2,000 employees requiring varying levels of card
access—WMU’s security needs extended well beyond what keyed
locks could provide. They deployed access control software several
years ago, but became increasingly dissatisfied with their previous provider
due to expensive and ineffective upgrades and a lack of prompt
technical support. When faced with yet another upgrade in 2010,
WMU Security Systems Administrator Bob Coffman began to look
elsewhere for access control software.
Coffman and his team worked with Kalamazoo-based security system
integrator Knight Watch Inc. to outline their needs. Building coordinators
required card access and the power to lock and unlock their
own doors according to their differing time schedules. Previously,
building coordinators would have to contact Coffman’s department to
schedule when to lock and unlock doors.
They also had problems under their previous system with people
holding doors open. In dormitories, for example, students would open
side doors to let unregistered visitors in, often with prohibited substances,
such as alcohol. WMU sought the ability to limit building
access in this situation to one entrance located near a manned front
desk which not only controlled door access, but also provided the ability
for security to directly observe resident comings and goings.
Bidding for the Job
In searching for a new access control provider, Coffman and Knight
Watch invited a few companies to compete for the project by setting up
their software and converting the system for a few weeks for a “test
run” prior to making a decision.
“Open Options did a little extra in our test run conversion, and
when we asked a couple of the other companies competing for the
project to do the same they wanted to charge us to do it; yet Open
Options did it at no cost,” Coffman said.
WMU tested Open Options DNA Fusion access control software
and were impressed. That’s when Coffman said he and his team
received a bonus: the cost.
“We asked for the price to switch over, and Open Options beat
everyone else—even what it would have cost us to stay with our existing
provider for the upgrade they told us we needed,” he says.
In less than 10 days, the WMU campus converted to DNA Fusion
and they have been more than satisfied in the years since. 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
Coffman has conducted all of the training for the more than 80 current
WMU employees that access the system. He says the ease of use
has captured the attention of WMU’s end users.
“We have hundreds of time schedules controlling doors with the
system and it has made a lot of end users very happy that they no longer have to go around and do it manually,” Coffman said. “We now allow our building coordinators to control their own building locking
schedule and they also are able to give and remove access when they
want to—they no longer have to put in a call to have it done by me or
my staff or wait for us to be available.”
Push of a Button
Coffman says they have also used the system to test their capability to
lockdown their campus in the event of a threat—an increasingly common
occurrence that all campuses must prepare for these days.
“With a push of a button, our police dispatcher can lock down the
whole campus or return it to normal,” Coffman said. “They can also do
it by building if they want to. This has been a big plus and something
we have wanted for years. We test the lockdown once a year, and we
have also given some coordinators the option to lock down their own
buildings, if needed.”
When they do experience the occasional issue with the system that
they can’t fix on their own, Coffman says Open Options’ technical support
team quickly addresses and fixes the problem, whereas their previous
provider sometimes took days to address a problem and would
charge extra for the consultation.
“The navigation of DNA Fusion is easy to use, especially if you have
never operated a security system before,” Coffman said. “Even the
upgrades are simple—I don’t have to run around to all of the end users
anymore where it is installed. The system is very reliable, which has
saved us both time and money. Switching over to
this system has proven to be an overall upgrade in
terms of value, usability and system support for the
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Security Today.