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University of Baltimore credentials get smart

New access control system leverages NFC-capable aptiQ readers from Allegion

Andrew Hudson   ||   Oct 22, 2014  ||   , ,

When it comes to technology, simpler is often better. At least that’s the idea at the University of Baltimore, where faculty, staff and students were carrying a photo ID card and parking card, each adorned with stickers for further use at the campus library and recreation center.

The university’s ID card system was fragmented, dated and problematic. The university was facing a challenge that required a smart solution, which came in the form of the new Bee Card.

“Initially the campus had both online and offline door readers supporting both mag stripe and prox,” explains Zach Griffey, campus card manager at the University of Baltimore. “These locks were not uniformly installed across campus and were not used to the best of their capabilities.

Because the card readers installed throughout the campus were primarily offline, it prevented instantaneous, campus-wide lockdown of buildings – a vital function in emergency situations. They wanted a true access control solution that would protect its people and assets, as well as help the university better manage and monitor its services.

Realizing the limitations of both magnetic stripe and proximity cards – not the least of which is that the cards are easily duplicated – the university decided to pursue a more secure and advanced method of access control.

The solution

The university started the multi-use card program in July of 2010 and went live in October 2011, says Griffey. The institution is using CardSmith for its transaction system, DataCard’s ID Center for card production software and DataCard SP75+ printers. The university worked with Allegion and Capital Card – now owned by IdentiSys – for cardstock, printers, software, and support, Griffey explains.

For access control, the university upgraded to Lenel On-Guard in 2013 and chose Allegion’s aptiQ multi-technology readers and contactless credentials.

With the new system, a single smart card can be used for multiple applications, helping consolidate services and provide greater convenience for the cardholder, explains Griffey. The MIFARE Classic cards can be used for access control, data storage, cashless vending, parking and campus transit.

One lock, multiple technologies

The University of Baltimore is an urban campus, making student and faculty security of the utmost priority. “The initial launch first covered the outer doors of each building for ingress and egress,” says Griffey. “From there, we expanded inward to several suites, tech spaces, rooms, labs and special areas.”

At the onset of the project, the university installed 70 aptiQ multi-technology readers on both academic and administrative buildings throughout campus. The benefits of the readers were evident from the start as quick-connect cables and simple mounting brackets simplified installation.

The multi-technology capabilities of the readers provided the university with a level of flexibility that made the transition from the existing system simpler. The aptiQ reader interfaces with nearly any credential type. This enabled the university to transition in phases while still having a reader that worked with the university’s existing credentials that would remain in use until the system was fully implemented.

The aptiQ multi-technology reader handles applicable ISO standards – 14443A, 14443B, 15693 – is FIPS 201-1 compliant, and can also read 125 kHz proximity in a single unit. Multi-technology magnetic stripe readers are also available.

Griffey also highlights the aesthetic aspect of the new readers, which feature a sleek design that blends well with the university’s brand. The readers are easily identifiable without being intrusive on building architecture.

Management of the Lenel/aptiQ access control system has been a partnership between the University of Baltimore Police Department, the Office of Campus Card Operations and the Office of Technology Services. There are now several secure buildings on campus that leverage the card readers, and the university is able to monitor, track and control access into those buildings. As an added security feature, campus-wide lockdown can be initiated with the push of a single button.

“To date, the university has upgraded all readers on campus to online MIFARE locks that are centrally controlled by Lenel On-Guard 2013,” explains Griffey. “Since the project started in 2011, we’ve also expanded from 35 readers to over 120 readers.”

The Office of Campus Card Operations manages the card technology, including production and distribution of the Bee Card. Prior to the implementation in 2011, Griffey worked with Allegion and IdentiSys and found that they could not only record the secure number from each card, but also encode different information on the MIFARE chip inside each card. At present, each Bee Card has several sectors encoded with information that enables control of multiple functions with the single card.

Baltimore’s demands for an open architecture access control system included:

  • Greater security and more immediate access control
  • A consolidation of multiple campus services onto one card
  • An improvement to the overall student/staff experience
  • Integration with Lenel and the university’s existing PeopleSoft system

The Bee Card serves 10 different campus functions:

  • Photo ID
  • Building access
  • Library checkout
  • Campus Recreation and Wellness Center membership
  • Parking
  • University shuttle access
  • Rental of AV equipment and laptops
  • Bookstore credit
  • Campus Cash (on-campus locations, vending machines and a dozen off-campus establishments)
  • Time and attendance
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