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Security and Commercial Value for Higher Education

April 17, 2024 by Alistair Enser

Universities and other higher education establishments are exciting places, pushing back the boundaries of knowledge and understanding, developing new technologies and enhancing existing ones, and blazing a trail with their use of integrated digital technology in their security and access control systems.

No longer simply centres of learning and research, today’s universities are very much competitive, commercial businesses. With over half of the UK’s young people now going to university, the UK higher education sector’s total income in 2017/18 topped £38 billion. Students are seen not merely as academics, but as customers, and universities compete for them vigorously.

Meanwhile, with diverse indoor and outdoor facilities, often spread over wide areas, with large numbers of individuals coming and going at various times of day and night, universities typically face complex security and access management challenges.

It’s Not Just About Safety and Security

Access and security control have of course long been deployed to make university properties safer. Today, however, they are also being used to help make campuses more intelligent, enhancing student experiences and making establishments more attractive to each year’s potential student intake.

This extension of the purpose of, and benefits offered by security and access control technology is mirrored by a similar widening of the remit of security staff: ProtectED research shows that the second most common need addressed by university security officers today is student welfare.

A Joined-up Approach

Maintaining necessary security and ensuring the well-being of students, staff and even the general public, while delivering consistently positive experiences and protecting the establishment’s assets can only be achieved through intelligent, carefully planned integration of today’s digital technologies.

Indeed, genuinely joined-up approaches using digital technologies are already enabling a move away from traditional, disparate systems – an access control system for this building, a CCTV system for that playing field, and so on – towards holistic systems integrated into the organisation’s broader IT estate.

Seamless

This drive towards tighter integration is being fuelled not only by the need to maintain and enhance security while delivering exceptional experiences, but also by consumer expectations.

Seamless integration not only makes life easier for us all, students included, as consumers, but also for organisations like universities.

Security systems are becoming embedded in universities’ wider IT ecosystems, feeding back useful data on individuals’ locations, entry control systems’ status and more. With such data, from multiple sources, social media and IoT technology, curated and filtered by intelligent algorithms, universities can extract trustworthy, actionable information.

With such systems in place, universities gain valuable insights beyond security, supporting better, faster, more effective planning and decision making. Examples include information on footfall patterns, building usage and attendance, highlighting higher risk areas for potentially vulnerable individuals such as lone students.

Real Commercial Value

Decisions to implement state-of-the-art security systems are still usually driven by security concerns and cost/risk assessments. However, the rich flow of data that such systems generate can deliver real commercial value, increasingly making security less a cost centre and more a revenue source.

For example, most universities have numerous CCTV cameras and other sensors. The large amounts of information captured by these devices provides a golden opportunity to deploy analytics software.

Analysing individuals’ and crowds’ behaviour, such software can help detect and even predict suspicious activity. Changes in attendance patterns can be identified and unused rooms highlighted. This information can support improved space planning and reductions in heating and lightning wastage, saving money and cutting carbon and other emissions. These are just a few of the possibilities.

A Smarter Approach

With smartphone use near universal among students, universities are increasingly providing apps to deliver security and safety information to students, and to enable them to communicate with security staff if they feel threatened.

Smartphones can also be used as intelligent access cards as students move from halls to lecture theatres to sports venues around the campus.

Innovations such as these contribute to that much sought-after superlative student experience, while at the same time increasing security and cutting costs for the university.

It’s Happening Right Now

All of this and more can, and is being done, today, at universities across the country. With the reliable, real-time collection and analysis of diverse types of data from across the campus and student body now a reality, all manner of new capabilities are becoming possible.

Contact us at Reliance High-Tech on 0845 121 0802 or at info@reliancehightech.co.uk to find out more about the possibilities, and how we can help you deliver what your organisation needs.