Another problem was that the early electronic controls were operating on a transaction-based system, which incurred fees based on usage. While this might have worked for operations such as the bookstore or food service, which generated cash transactions, it was not feasible for housing, which would have become liable for the cost of its percentage of card swipes. Between the cost of initial installation and ongoing charges, a better solution was needed for the housing applications, as well as one that would apply to other uses.
Campus growth made it both practical and necessary to consider a broader role for electronic access controls. Student population had doubled, new buildings were being built, and two locksmiths were handling all key and lock issues. The time and cost of changing locks when keys were lost was becoming prohibitive, especially in the case of a sub-master.
The initial interest in electronic locks as a possible solution was precipitated in part by a magazine article on another university’s solutions to a similar problem. The article described how the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University used Schlage offline CM locks with PIN codes to secure its residence facilities. Further investigation led Kutztown University to explore a broader range of electronic access control solutions.
To make the transition to electronics work more smoothly, Rhode proposed consolidating responsibility for the technology under the facilities department. Proposals were then requested based on a five-year contract.
Rhode says, “We wrote a contract that allowed us to itemize options. We were looking for manufacturers and vendors that could bid by item pricing so we could use it like a shopping list, with prices guaranteed for five years. Products had to be available through multiple vendors to keep the bids competitive, and the products had to ‘play well with others’ so they could supplement what we already had.”
Labor rates for technicians and other support people were also included in the bid to provide flexibility when help was needed on specific projects. As part of the solution, software needed to be an SQL (Structured Query Language) program that was OBDC (Open Database Connectivity) compliant so it could grow with the University’s needs well into the future. After bids were received, final vendor selection was made by a committee that included representatives from all interested departments, including IT, the one-card office, administrative services, housing, facilities, construction and public safety.
The committee selected a solution by Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies that included mechanical hardware as well as electronic access control and software integration. An important factor was the availability of products from multiple distributors and integrators, which facilitated the competitive bidding necessary for a public institution while preserving the components of the basic solution selected by the committee.
Because the University’s existing one-card system was used for credentials, purchases and other functions, the access control software had to be easily integrated with it. Part of the initial program included writing an interface between the one-card system and the Schlage SMS system.
According to Rhode, this makes the information easily available for access control without the need for massive data entry. “We partnered with the one-card office, and we are able to serve our students seamlessly without requiring additional action on their part. If a student’s card is suspended through the one-card office, that information comes over to us and automatically suspends that student’s access privileges.”
Electronic access control provides a higher degree of security with greater flexibility. Once a student’s demographic information is available in the SMS system, he or she automatically gets access rights to the front door of his or her residence hall. Currently, three residence halls are equipped with electronic access controls inside and out. Rhode states that other buildings will be upgraded to include interior door control as budgets and renovation schedules permit. When installation of card readers and electronic hardware is not in the budget for a project, wire runs will be included in the building to simplify later hard wiring.