How Security Integrators Unified Multiple Penn State Campuses With a Single Platform

Several integrators combine forces to deliver an advanced access control and surveillance solution to one of America’s most iconic higher education institutions.

Pennsylvania State University, better known as Penn State, is a public research university with a network of 24 campuses, including nine with on-campus residence halls, located throughout the state.

As part of a systemwide upgrade, the eight residential campuses under the domain of Commonwealth Campus Housing and Food Services began the move to a single security and event management platform to upgrade campus safety and support their video and access control systems.

This included a new system of wireless locks and upgraded IP cameras, for the residence halls, and some outside group facilities such as the childcare and student centers.

Penn State encompasses 26,742 full-time faculty and staff serving nearly 100,000 students across its University Park and Commonwealth campuses in Altoona, Beaver, Behrend, Berks, Greater Allegheny, Harrisburg, Hazleton and Mont Alto.

The iconic institution includes: a teaching hospital that provides care to more than 1 million patients annually; two law school locations; in excess of $800 million in research expenditures; more than 500,000 active alumni; an online World Campus that empowers anyone to pursue an education – anytime, anywhere; and the largest student-run philanthropic organization in the world.

Penn State representatives worked with several systems integrators and contractors to implement a security solution that includes Software House CCURE 9000 and iSTAR door controllers, along with Stanley’s BEST Wi-Q wireless locks for access control, and American Dynamics victor VMS, Illustra Pro minidome IP cameras and VideoEdge NVRs for video surveillance.

Serving as a possible model for security providers looking to supply solutions within similarly large campus environments, here is their story.

penn state image

Penn State’s 26,742 faculty and staff serve some 100,000 students across University Park / Commonwealth campuses.

Single Platform Unifies Campuses

Penn State, with its myriad campuses across Pennsylvania, was operating on multiple and disparate platforms for its academic and physical security systems.

Further, its stakeholders wished to use Tyco Security Products’ (TycoSP) Software House C•CURE 9000 software as the standard security management platform integrated among the university and its campuses.

With a decision made to standardize on C•CURE 9000 for the access control system, the university also decided to simultaneously upgrade its wireless locking system.

That project presented the new challenge of converting hundreds of locks without compromising access to doors or presenting unnecessary security issues during the conversion process.

In fact, logistics proved to be one of the greatest challenges as the campuses involved spread from one end of the state to the other – more than a seven-hour drive apart from the farthest campuses. Therefore, having a hands-on approach by a single person or integration office wasn’t possible.

All three offices of Siemens in Pennsylvania – Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – aided in managing the yearlong project for the Commonwealth Campus Housing and Food Services.

Wireless Locks, Multiuse Cards Allow Access Convenience, Flexibility

As a longtime user of Stanley locking products, and with the manufacturer’s BEST-branded Wi-Q wireless locks now integrated with the C•CURE 9000 platform, the university system began the process of converting more than 720 locks in a dozen residence halls.

This project would affect the housing for more than 1,200 students at five campuses. The switch to wireless locks improved the ability for programming and monitoring while also providing easier operational use.

The wireless locks, which are mounted on the residence room doors, communicate with a Wi-Q portal gate-way – there are about 90 within the system – which in turn communicate with the C•CURE 9000 software.

“The responsibility of our department is to provide a safe, secure and modern environment for our residential students, and most of our initiatives are modernization projects to improve the facilities already in our network and enhance our residential offerings,” says Tracy Walker, assistant director of Penn State Commonwealth Housing, Food Services and Residential Life.

“The combination of an access control platform such as C•CURE 9000 and wire-less locks like Stanley Wi-Q are a great fit because they enable all the functionality of card-based access control in a solution ideal for a retrofit environment.”

dorm room at penn state

The same card that accesses the wireless room locks is used on hardwired doors throughout the campuses, as well as card readers for copiers, laundry machines, and cash registers.

The same card that accesses the wireless room locks is used on hardwired doors throughout the campuses, as well as card readers for copiers, laundry machines, and cash registers.

The Wi-Q wireless locks offered a tracking piece that regular keys wouldn’t provide and, without having to rely on conventional locking systems, the campuses could cut down on the need for locksmiths and having to change out cores at the door.

Students also had a tendency to lose the keys that they needed to open a door, according to Walker, so the wireless solution would streamline the process of getting a student a replacement key to access their dorm room or other area where they required access.

By integrating with C•CURE 9000, Penn State security personnel could see audit data concerning when a door was offline through the system’s journal feature, if information on door status was changed.

More than 110 iSTAR door controller panels monitor door data throughout the campuses, including University Park, Penn State’s largest campus. The actual user data from the BEST Wi-Q locks is considered private, but some of the information can be used in the aggregate or, in the case of an alleged criminal act, shared with police.

Even though the system was live during the transition, converting the residence halls from hardwired to wireless locks went smoothly, thanks to Siemens’ strategy of reconfiguring one door at a time, says William Werkiser, senior project manager for the integrator.

This part of the project also was planned for the summer months, when the residence halls were mostly unoccupied.

Read on to see what integrators did with the addition of nearly 900 cameras around campus…

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