Unique Challenges

Unique Challenges

560-acre downtown campus invests in unified security platform to heighten campus security over time

Founded by the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Church in 1875, Brigham Young University (BYU) has evolved into the third largest privately-owned university in the United States. The campus grew from a single building to 320 buildings spread throughout the downtown core of Provo, Utah.

With almost 33,000 students and just under 5,000 academic and administrative staff, BYU takes its responsibility to provide a secure environment for students, staff and visitors very seriously. The campus also offers 60 parking lots totaling around 17,000 spaces, and distributes 65,000 parking permits each semester.

“Because we are sitting in the middle of a city, we have 90,000 vehicles passing through our campus every day,” said Steve Goodman, the technology architect and manager of the communications center for BYU’s chartered police department,” This creates unique challenges for our team. We are very passionate about securing our campus, but at the same time, we don’t want our security initiatives to detract from what we have worked hard to build here on campus—that is an open and vibrant environment that promotes higher learning.”

Investment in Parking Leads to Better Campus Security

The first step for BYU was to address vehicle security and parking. When electronic barriers on gated parking lots began to fail, and sticker permit costs kept rising, BYU sought to upgrade its system to the latest advancement in parking technology by implementing an automatic license plate recognition system (ALPR). After researching ALPR solutions, Goodman and the team at BYU chose Genetec AutoVu, the license plate recognition system of Security Center. The Genetec security platform unifies video surveillance, access control, ALPR and other third-party systems such as intrusion detection, in one intuitive solution.

“We didn’t know it at the time, but our investment in the ALPR system was the start of a fully integrated security system that has grown over time,” Goodman said. “Security Center allows us to add components as we make decisions about improving campus security.”

Four years after the successful implementation of the ALPR system, BYU decided to expand the use of the software platform and upgrade its outdated analog video surveillance system to IP. The university slowly began integrating all analog cameras with Genetec Omnicast, the video surveillance system of Security Center, and added new IP cameras where needed. Omnicast software supports a long list of video devices, so transition was seamless.

Security Center Platform Allows BYU to Roll-out Additional Functionalities

The most notable advantage for BYU has been the ease of system unification offered by the platform.

“With Security Center, we are expanding our platform in a way that our operators will have everything they need at their fingertips to ensure the fastest and safest response to any emergency on campus,” Goodman said. “Our vision is to enable operators to receive emergency calls, view live video feeds from nearby cameras, lock or unlock doors and find the nearest officer on the ground. And all of this is possible from the map interface.”

Alongside video surveillance and ALPR, BYU used a software plugin within Security Center to incorporate its existing third-party access control system. More than 200 police radios with GPS tracking are also being integrated with the unified platform and linked to Plan Manager, the map-based interface of Security Center. This feature simplifies the operator’s job when trying to dispatch the closest in-field officer to respond to a call or incident.

“Being a university campus, we have access to talented software developers, and so the robustness and openness of the software development kit allows us to easily customize the platform,” Goodman said. “Rather than having an external PSIM vendor try to anticipate our needs, the Security Center platform has become the more affordable and autonomous option for our team.”

The BYU team is currently working on a custom task within Security Center which will act as a central dashboard for all incidents on campus. In addition to video surveillance, access control, ALPR, and radios, BYU’s computer assisted dispatch (CAD) system and Cisco VoIP phone system will all be pulled into the custom dashboard in

Security Center. Security Center Heightens Response Efficiency on Campus

BYU operators receive all notifications and alarms from a central command post on campus. From there, they are able to dispatch guards and police officers to handle incidents. BYU has implemented the Security Center Mobile feature so that responding officers can use their phones to access video prior to reaching the scene.

Other guards are assigned to manage local command posts which are positioned throughout campus buildings such as museums, libraries, the IT data center, motion picture studio, the broadcast center and more. BYU was able to use the highly-granular system user privileges within Security Center to ensure that the guards only have access to the systems and devices for their assigned site. Hundreds of system users, including faculty deans and other administrative staff, have also been provided limited access to the system, in accordance with their roles.

Setting Sights on Long-Term Investment in Security Center

For BYU, this software platform is a long-term investment. Plans to add more devices and functionality to the unified platform are underway, including the trial of a new emergency call station with an AXIS video camera and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) call button. Other future plans include extending the system to remote campus sites in Washington, D.C. and possibly elsewhere in the world using the Federation feature.

“The scalability, flexibility and openness of Security Center has been powerful, and we are realizing greater benefits as we continue to leverage more features within the platform,” Goodman said. “Having all of our systems come together under the unified platform helps our team find information much quicker which allows us to respond faster. The most beneficial aspect of our security system is that we’re able to remain discreet and provide a safe environment centered on learning.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Security Today.

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