North Park University Addresses Access Control Concerns With New System

North Park University of Chicago chose to install a keyless access control solution to address entry/key problems, without the need for expensive wiring or Wi-Fi infrastructures.

Founded in 1891, North Park University (NPU) is a private four-year liberal arts college with a campus occupying the space of a few city blocks on the northernmost side of Chicago. With roughly 3,200 students, the university includes schools of adult learning, business and nonprofit management, education, music, nursing and community development, plus a theological seminary.

Due to its location in the urban fringes of a big city, NPU officials decided to upgrade its conventional lock-and-key system with a more efficient and effective access control solution. With its more traditional key system, administrators ran into a problem of accounting for the numerous keys in the security department’s logs.

As a result, university authorities agreed to deploy a keyless access control system to monitor students and faculty entering and exiting campus buildings. Additionally, officials determined that the solution would assist security officers — mostly off-duty officers from the Chicago Police Department — in protecting the site.

Researching Access Control Technology

Although six residence halls and a number of smaller apartment buildings required a technology upgrade, NPU administrators decided upgrade its newly renovated Burgh Hall dormitory first.

To determine the best solution for the buildings, campus officials turned to NPU’s IT department, a dominant part of university security. NPU Director of Computer Services Steve Clark took the lead to find the most cost-effective access control system for the university.

In line with his security planning responsibilities, Clark attended the ISC West trade show, where he talked with representatives of Atlanta-based Salto Systems, an access control products provider. During the discussion, Clark learned about the company’s new keyless Salto Virtual Network, which uses distributed intelligence both in locks and in key cards.

Unlike NPU’s previous system, the Salto system does not require officials to replace locks when key or code security is breached. Instead, because there are no keys, codes can be reset. The solution can also integrate with an existing IT system to permit key cards and locks be updated, restricted or even deleted remotely.

All locks in the building or on the system communicate with the central server by using the key cards as their network, achieved by strategically placed online access readers that also serve as data transporters. The system also lets security managers monitor all main access points and interior doors, and offers audit-trail capabilities to show who was where and when.

Upon receiving that information, Clark concluded that the Salto system would be best for the campus.

Covering the Important Campus Areas

Originally built in 1956, Burgh Hall, a four-story dormitory housing 200 students in 120 rooms, underwent renovation in 2008. The IT department, with the assistance of the plant management and security departments, replaced all traditional locksets in the building, including those in the basement, with a Salto lock. Every lock communicates with a central server with key cards serving as their network.

Additionally, the installation team added a front-end component to the Salto software, which ties into the school’s enterprise management system. It helps the security department keep track of which students are staying in particular rooms, and automatically updates the Salto database.

The university also upgraded the access control technology at the Helwig Recreation Center, which features a state-of-the-art workout facility, 200-meter indoor track, 35-yard practice football turf, basketball courts and more, and the Sawyer Court apartment complex.

Since the system’s implementation, NPU has issued more than 6,000 cards for full and part-time students plus some 700 faculty and staff.  Currently, all residence halls have at least one exterior entryway controlled by the new system. To date, at least 15 buildings are part of the program.

By the end of this fiscal period, North Park expects to have the new security system applied to at least one exterior door in every building.. In the future, the university plans to install the system at the entrance of Carlson Tower, the main classroom building, and other buildings containing important labs. A number of elevators in various buildings due for replacement will also receive an access control upgrade depending on specific needs of their venues.

Staff Enjoys Benefits of New System

So far, university officials, such as the IT and security departments, are thrilled with the new solution.

The IT department appreciates the user-friendly aspects of the new viral network, which requires all authorized users to have an ID and sign a waiver to gain access. Without the waiver on file and the control card in hand, the applicant will be denied entry. Everyone who wishes to use a specific door has to have a card programmed for that door and be granted access via Salto.

Steve Clark is a North Park University’s Director of Computer Services. He currently heads up a department of 13 technicians.

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