Oglethorpe U. Secures Its Doors With RFID Access Control Solution

Published: October 18, 2013

ATLANTA — Since 1835, Oglethorpe University has served as an independent liberal arts institution located in Atlanta. With an enrollment of more than 1,100 students, the university utilized an archaic card access control system that constantly caused students to be locked out of their dorm rooms.

So, Oglethorpe began looking for an economical solution that offered a number of capabilities. Officials sought a cost effective, expandable access control solution for buildings on campus.

After considerable research, Oglethorpe’s IT services department decided on a SALTO Virtual Network (SVN) wire-free system. The SALTO SVN system pushes and pulls data from the university’s “hot spot” entry points to all their offline locks.

By choosing a wire-free solution, the university only had to run wires to their exterior doors. The interior doors do not require wiring as these locks are stand-alone wire free locks. This is an advantage, especially for older buildings. With a wired lock system, installers have to run wiring to every single door in every single building, which is expensive and difficult to do.

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To date, the university has two dormitories on the system. That’s seven wired exterior door locks with hot spot readers and 103 interior wire-free doors. Atlanta South, a SALTO certified installation company, did the wiring. Eventually the aim is for all the buildings on campus to use the SALTO access control system.

Oglethorpe has issued smart cards to all its full and part-time students, faculty, and staff — about 1,600 people. The cards have a smart chip on them and an antenna.

To gain access to a building, exterior doors have a wired card reader and are hot spots. Hot spots read information from and write information to a card and the security system. When a person presents his/her card to the reader, it takes information from the card, which includes all the doors that the card has been to, and uploads it to the main system. It also then downloads any new access credentials, and updates the card’s information. Door No. 1, for example, will read a card, recognize when a user has access to Door No. 1, and opens it for the user.

Once inside the dormitory, a student has access to all of its four floors, but to gain access to their room, they have to present their card to the reader on their door lock. The interior doors have no wires, just individual locks with a reader built-in to the door handle. Once a person goes to an interior door and presents their card, they authenticate with that door and the door writes back to the card information from the log files it keeps at that door including battery status and similar information. These subjects then get transported on the individual card. The card also retains information about where the student has been.

The next time the card hits a hot spot, all the information gets uploaded to the main system. Now the university has a detailed log for each door, and a complete access control log of who has been where including any failed entry attempts.

The smart access control cards also function as student ID and meal plan cards, eliminating the need for a student to carry multiple cards. The cards are encoded with a student’s complete information, so when they go to the cafeteria, for example, they simply present their card to a reader which checks them in. The students are very happy with the cards and especially happy to have uninterrupted access to their dorms.

The university plans to install the system in the library and two additional buildings this year. Within the next two to three years, hopes the entire project will reach completion.

“Oglethorpe University is a very forward thinking institution,” Dallas Holmes, southeast region sales manager for SALTO Systems, says. “With the incorporation of the latest SALTO wire-free access control technology into their campus, they have taken the necessary steps to ensure they will be able to achieve far reaching and long lasting control over their security requirements.”

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Strategy & Planning Series