Home SectorsEducation Enhancing efficiency and the student experience with HID mobile access control

Enhancing efficiency and the student experience with HID mobile access control

by Geny Caloisi

It’s boom time for higher education in the UK. Over 2.86 million students are enrolled in courses at the moment, with the demand for places high. Commentators estimate 30%+ growth with circa 1 million students applying by 2030. This is clearly excellent news for the 277 colleges and 166 universities which make up the UK’s higher education sector.

Such growth presents a whole raft of operational challenges for institutions, not least about how to manage student access—efficiently, effectively and securely.

According to Paul Brady, HID’s End User Business Manager for Physical Access Control (pictured right) this is complex as anyone working in a higher education IT, security services or estates departments will know. One of the primary challenges is the sheer size of institutions given they often have sprawling campuses. The user base adds another layer of complexity. Students, faculty, staff and visitors each have their own access needs, dictating a nuanced approach to control.

The transient nature of the academic community presents another obvious problem. New students arrive, others graduate and faculty members move on. Managing credentials, ensuring timely updates and revoking access for those who no longer need it requires a streamlined and responsive system otherwise breaches and security gaps occur.

Using smartphones for access control

A practical way to address these issues is to transition away from using physical plastic access cards—which utilise RFID technology—to

smartphone-based solutions running on any iOS or Android device. These leverage virtual credential technology connecting to mobile-enabled door readers to allow people to enter.

Mobile access delivers a raft of benefits for institutions, staff and students:

Wireless credentialing

Software-based management running in the cloud makes it straightforward to deal with the licensing, allocation of virtual credentials, setting of building access rights, and validating or revoking of IDs—all remotely. This is ideal at peak times like September when student enrollment can be done at a touch of a button. A student simply gets an email to their phone, they tap on a link, the app automatically uploads and a mobile credential is granted.

Time and attendance

Institutions can introduce time and attendance monitoring to ensure students are attending lectures. It’s simply ‘tap and go’ on a reader leveraging the Bluetooth technology in a smartphone. This provides campus data about whether students are actively taking part in their courses, as well as addressing duty of care issues.

Enhance the student experience

By integrating access control with digital campus cards, institutions can augment the whole student experience. Students then have everything they need in the palm of their hand: a tool to access buildings such as libraries, halls of residences and gyms, as well as other services like printing, vending machines, car parks and so on.

This makes the life of a student far easier, boosts their well-being through secure technology, with the universities and colleges who have implemented such solutions seen a pioneering in terms of how they are improving the working environment.

In addition, the use of campus apps means better outbound communication. For example, health and safety announcements, student discounts and offers, promotional campaigns from brands, along with updates about events and lectures. The smartphone in effect becomes the primary interaction tool between the institution and the student.

Seamless and straightforward transitioning

To implement mobile access, door readers first need to be checked. The latest models support mobile access out-of-the-box. Others can be upgraded [really old ones have to be replaced]. It’s then just a case of obtaining and installing the mobile access solution—a smartphone app and server-side tools—and integrating this with whatever building management or security systems are in place. Products that are interoperable and support industry standards are available so vendor lock-in is avoided.

Many readers support both physical RFID cards and virtual credentials so staged roll outs are possible. This is ideal where a ‘big bang’ switchover would be too complicated or costly.

Enhanced security and safety

Mobile-based credentials and door readers support the latest encryption, communications and authentication standards just like physical access cards. Mobile has other security benefits. Users take far more care looking after their expensive smartphones compared to plastic access cards. Even if someone does lose their smartphone, their digital credential can be quickly disabled wirelessly.

Big cost and environmental savings

The migration away from plastic RFID access cards presents institutions with a real opportunity to save money by not printing, issuing and replacing physical cards. Digital credentials are therefore ‘greener’ with staff freed from dull (card) administrative tasks so they can focus on more productive aspects of their jobs.

A key enabler for a smarter use of buildings

No longer is access control just a way to prevent entry to a building by unauthorised people. It is now playing a far greater strategic role to enhance the operational engineering, maintenance and functioning of buildings. One of the most exciting developments is the forthcoming availability of solutions with built-in ‘identity positioning’. This provides real-time information ‘behind the door’ about how people are using a building—based on data provided by their phones. Anonymised information is grouped to provide an overall picture of trends like space utilisation, occupancy and so on. For example, by providing real-time data like this to an appropriate HVAC system, the AC could be turned up automatically if a group of 200 people gathered in a room for a lecture.

In summary, mobile access solutions are evolving to not only make the whole credentialing process much easier to manage but they offer institutions a way to make their operations ever more efficient and ‘green’. Not only that, but they’re cost-effective and quick to deploy.

To find out more click here.

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