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50 buildings one physical access system

Academy of Art in San Francisco takes campus card city-wide

Maintaining physical security in 50 buildings over 47-square miles is a daunting challenge. But it was one the Academy of Art University in San Francisco faced in order to protect and serve its 18,000 students.

The school unlocked the doors during normal business hours and locked them at night. A host was on duty at each site, but keeping tracks of hundreds if not thousands of students walking in and out of various buildings each day was an enormous task. The university wanted a system that would reduce crime, secure buildings and above all make the campus a safer place, says Mike Petricca, campus safety director at the Academy of Art University.

With the prior system criminals targeted the buildings for theft, Petricca says. “People pretended to be students and walked right past the host,” he adds.

Seven-years ago the school decided to pilot a student ID access system with 14 buildings, Petricca says. Since then it’s expanded to 40 buildings and a multi-purpose ID that is used for more than just physical access. The school has installed 260 readers to protect every residential hall and computer lab, and plans are underway to rollout to its remaining buildings. Installing new readers is an ongoing process as buildings are acquired and rooms housing valuable equipment are added.

The old campus safety program that was augmented by security guards has been replaced with a new, 24-hour patrol team, a campus communications center with emergency dispatching service and round-the-clock safety hosts stationed at most buildings.

Since the school had left buildings unlocked and used old-fashioned metal keys, there were concerns that students would be upset with the change. This was not the case. “From the very beginning it was well embraced,” says Petricca.

Anatomy of the new security infrastructure

The Academy of Art deployed HID Global technology around campus. The school contracted with Microbiz Security which recommended the HID Global iCLASS SE platform, including the company’s multiCLASS SE readers that can support both entry-level prox cards and high security contactless smart cards. The institution opted to deploy both Indala low-frequency proximity cards as well as HID Global’s iCLASS SE smart card credentials.

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

The multiCLASS SE readers are at the front and back doors of the buildings where students must tap for access. They are required to flash their ID to the host when they walk in, Petricca explains. An intercom system enables students to ask for access if they forgot their ID card.

The readers are IP-enabled to communicate with the central campus backbone, but each building has its own system in case the larger network experiences an outage.

The academy uses PeopleSoft to manage access for the campus ID system. Students are entered into the system and are granted access to the appropriate buildings on the first day of class. When the term ends all student access is revoked.

Physical access was the primary driver behind the ID cards, Petricca says, but other uses soon emerged. The card can also be used to enter Urban Knights sporting events or make purchases using Knight Kash–the university’s declining balance program for on-campus dining, cashless vending and off-campus purchases at partnering merchants.

The university also uses the cards for its part- and full-time employee payroll system.

Future considerations include:

  • using the cards for student attendance systems
  • enabling students to carry the ID cards on their smart phones
  • verifying access to the 40 buses that transport students to university buildings around the city.

But it still all comes back to security. Deploying the new physical access control system has drastically reduced theft and burglary making the classrooms and residence halls safer, Petricca says. Safety, he stresses, was the original intent and remains the most crucial goal.

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