High-End Solution Satisfies Higher Ed Requirements
Find out how the University of Kentucky is investing $5 million to renovate its decades-old standalone legacy systems
The majority of the 41,000 students, faculty and staff members that ply the University of Kentucky (UK) are today toting newly issued ID credentials. These are multitechnology badges that provide centralized access control for dormitories and hundreds of other buildings. Strolling the tree-lined walkways on campus, they will notice blue emergency notification towers have also been erected over summer break. As well, numerous IP-based video surveillance cameras are newly mounted on facilities across the 900-acre campus, located in the urban core of Lexington.
The ID cards, blue towers and surveillance cameras amount to but a hint of the exhaustive security renovation the university has undertaken since launching the $5 million project in March. While work on phase one of the project will continue through the end of the year, a momentous deadline has been achieved. As classrooms began filling on Aug. 28, the first day of the fall semester, the proverbial switch had already been thrown to bring on line a state-of-the-art unified security management system.
Some context is in order to illustrate how far the university has traveled these past several months in its mission to modernize its security systems. Anthany Beatty, the university’s assistant vice president for public safety, served as a police officer on campus during the early 1970s before joining the Lexington Police Department. He would rise through the ranks to become police chief before an eventual return to UK to assume his current post.
“For the 35 years that I was away from the campus, little had really happened in terms of moving to the next level of security,” Beatty says.
He returned to find the physical security measures throughout the university were disorganized and antiquated. About 70 disparate legacy systems were still being independently operated. Video could not be centrally monitored or retrieved. Plus, there was no centralized means of sending out emergency alerts.
University administrators were convened, and soon momentum was rolling to fund a massive security makeover. A request for proposal (RFP) was drafted to identify a systems integrator as well as the technologies that could meet the university’s needs.
Multiple Companies, Departments Form Unified Team
Beatty turned to BCCLT Consulting Engineers to lead the charge on the security project. As a long-time electrical and mechanical consultant for the university, the firm was asked to evaluate technology that would provide a unified networked solution to manage the standalone legacy systems as UK brought on new systems.
In due course, the decision was made to write the system requirements around Next Level Security Systems’ (NLSS) Gateway appliance, an IP-based solution that combines video management, access control, analytics, audio and intrusion into a single platform. (Note: UK did not implement the appliance’s intrusion functionality.)
UK would eventually award the contract to Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Dallmann Systems, which serves as the general contractor. Advanced Digital Solutions (ADS) of Charlotte, N.C., is also a key integration partner, providing the actual design and implementation of the NLSS solution. Rounding out the installation team is locally-based Dixon Electric. Also working closely with the integration team and providing project management assistance are representatives from NLSS.
“Dallman Systems takes care of the edge devices — mounting cameras, putting in door hardware, things like that. They are responsible for the billing of the project,” says Brad Pyles, ADS’ vice president of business development. “Dixon Electric has been an electrical and network contractor at the university for 10 years. It just made sense to keep them involved. It really is a team effort.”
The initial contract calls for securing 18 buildings; mostly academic facilities, plus residence halls. The Gateway appliances will integrate existing Axis cameras, about 25 new Talk-A-Phone emergency call stations, plus the legions of students, faculty and staff who are enrolled as cardholders. Initially, about 300 new 1,080p megapixel cameras are being installed, including indoor models by Sony and outdoor models by Samsung.
Eventually more than 3,000 cameras, including a mix of pan/tilt/zoom and fixed types, are expected to provide comprehensive coverage across the campus.
“This is a multiyear, multiphase project and we well have to figure out how to fund those as we get to them,” Beatty says. “But the first phase is the biggest phase because it sets the tone from this point forward. It sets the standards for new construction and infrastructure installed in the buildings and the unified concept of a single security platform.”
While establishing centralized control of security operations was a primary goal of the makeover, it also presented a considerable challenge for administrators. Users of the standalone legacy access and video systems in the individual buildings had long grown accustomed to controlling their own systems. Much politicking ensued to decide which entity would take the lead before the UK Police Department eventually emerged. The department was already handling cameras, access control and IDs at a healthcare facility. Now it solely manages the issuance of cards, video storage, retrieval and monitoring, among other responsibilities for the new solution.
“I’m not aware of another university in the U.S. that is integrating multiple platforms of access control, video cameras, emergency notification and ID cards into one comprehensive security system,” says UK Police Chief Joe Monroe. “It is a continually evolving process as we move forward restructuring different units within the police department to manage this system long-term.”