What's on Your Security Wish List?

Security, as a responsibility, involves keen observation skills, curiosity, common sense mixed with a dash of good timing, and plenty of routine procedures. For college campuses this decade, it also requires a good amount of technology. And like many things in life, there’s no such thing as enough. Just ask these security directors what they’d love to buy for their departments if money were no object in 2010.

Database Dreaming

Scott Shelton’s short list as director/chief of police at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, is indeed short, but powerful: a police management information system (PMIS). Who wouldn’t fall in love with a state-of-the-art system that integrates police reports, computer-aided dispatch, crime analysis, mapping, and police and other service activities associated with the university jurisdiction? Shelton gives these systems extra kudos for generating analytical reports that can, in turn, be action-based, and not esoteric reports and information.

Communication Crushes

At Babson College in the Boston suburbs, Chief John Jackson believes multiple forms of rapid communications should be on of the top priorities for any college campus. So put him down for anything that addresses this ongoing need. “In the event of an emergency, the college community must be notified as soon as possible by as many means as possible,” he said. “We are a mobile society, and there are so many methods to reach people these days: cell, office phone, home phone, text, e-mail, and video and audible messaging.” 

His audience is expanding, too. “Many colleges have affiliate and temporary employees and visitors each day,” Jackson pointed out. “We need to be able to communicate, on a real-time basis, to the members of our community as well as to the visitors on campus.”

Peter Williams, the assistant vice president and CIO of Marian University in Indianapolis, is already a step ahead on that playing field. The campus went live with Vontoo voice technology at the beginning of 2010, the better to push voice messaging and texts across a wide audience quickly — a side benefit to the marketing solutions they primarily bought the system to handle.

But now that he has that component in place, the next stop is an upgraded video surveillance system that Williams could integrate into Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). In fact, one of the deciding factors in his purchasing decision for a messaging system was flexibility — flexibility to eventually connect new technologies. “Some of these emergency communication companies seem to be leapfrogging themselves. Maybe someone ties in with Twitter, or other modular ways to communicate with the community in a variety of ways,” he said. “So if we can partner with a company that wants to develop today, that makes it a lot more productive for us because we can stay on the same platform.”

At Cazenovia College in New York, director of communications Wayne A. Westervelt wants it all, with upgraded cameras and card swipe access at the top of the purchase order. But he’d also go for updated radios, a communication system between the individual classrooms and the Campus Safety department, and the addition of a wireless system of sirens he could use to alert students, staff, and residents living near campus in an appropriate emergency.

Camera Crazy
Speaking of leapfrogging, Chief of Police Leroy Crosby Jr., at Hampton University in Virginia’s DC suburbs, is holding the receipt for eight new IP video surveillance cameras he anticipates will be operational by February 1. He is convinced that the ability to look at the information over the Web on any computer screen rather than a software package on a dedicated computer will increase their effectiveness immeasurably. After all, now the sergeants and other supervisors can also monitor situations on their shifts instead of only the dispatcher holding this responsibility.

The gated campus is fairly sophisticated, with swipe card systems for buildings, emergency call boxes, and a campus-wide siren system also on the way. Crosby would sill like to someday fold in biometrics — say, a hand geometry reader like the type tested in residence halls at West Virginia University. And he wouldn’t say “no” to computerized patrol cars or more surveillance cameras.

Card Swipe Love

Finally, meet Todd Badham, director of security services at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. He admits he’s a little “old school,” in that he believes having enough capable and friendly security officers on the ground is more important than putting up cameras and other technology add-ons.

Still, he admits that card reader technology won his heart. The campus currently uses a single campus ID card that doubles as a key to a lab, gym, classroom, office, or residence hall. “They’re more difficult to copy, and when a student or faculty member’s status ends, I just turn the access off,” Badham says.  He’s also noticed people are more careful not to lose their ID cards, as the cards are more psychologically tied to the person’s identity than a hardware key. “I could buy dinner on your card and let myself into your lab. That’s much more of a concern to people,” he added.

Taking the relationship to the next level only makes logical sense. So if given a sky-is-the-limit budget, Badham would happily see retina-reading technology installed in buildings across campus. For one, he notes, it’s reliable (it only opens doors for the retina’s owner, and you can’t leave the “key” at home), controllable (you can switch access on or off), and it would be a difficult system for an unauthorized visitor to crack.

It’s enough to make any security officer fall in love.