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Kiosks speed room check in enabling self-service for electronic keys

Onity, a global provider of electronic locking solutions, has taken self serve to the next level. Returning college students don’t have to go to the school’s office to get their new room assignments. If they have a current student ID card, they simply stop by a kiosk and self-register.

“Check-in historically has involved a lot of time-consuming, one-on-one interaction, with almost every new and returning resident,” says Anthony Zamora, head of IT support for the University of San Diego. Students checking in at the university have stood in line for up to three hours, says Zamora. With the Onity kiosks, wait time has been reduced by more than 50%.

Ron Kandcer, Onity’s national sales manager, says the company introduced the kiosks in 2003. “We wanted to give universities the flexibility of not having students stand in line for check in.”

He says that any returning student with an ID card can go right to kiosk screen, insert his ID card, which will then be read, updated and encoded with the new information for his room.

Even if the electronic door locks have PIN pads, students can, with the kiosk, choose their own four digit PINs. We can assign a generic code at beginning of the semester but students are required to go to the kiosk and change their PIN within about two weeks,” says Kandcer.

The software-based access control system uses standalone battery operated locks. “The software enables us to have real-time control over many of the doors,” says Kandcer. “You can update online doors right now. If someone breaks in, a roving officer can be sent an alarm via a cell phone or PDA.

At first Onity was using its hotel room locks on campus, but they didn’t work out, says Kandcer. “Colleges needed something more advanced. You have college students who come in with long-term stays or multiple students sharing one room so if one person lost his card, it wouldn’t affect another.”

Another feature of the system is the way it handles master keys, or those used by campus security. “You want to make sure that card is in the right hands, so you can set up a parameter that the card needs to be checked in every so often at a kiosk. If they don’t validate, the card won’t be valid anymore,” says Kandcer. So if a master key is lost or stolen, “your period of vulnerability is limited. Most universities have that set up weekly.”

Onity Kiosks also feature customization options, such as Internet access that provide users with campus and community information, university resources, weather, news, restaurants and maps.

Duluth, Ga.-based Onity, part of UTC Fire & Security, a unit of United Technologies, is in 185 colleges worldwide and has R&D and manufacturing operations in Spain, Mexico, China and the U.S.

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