Why You Should Consider an Integrated 1-Card and Security Solution

Proper planning, integration, standardization and stakeholder buy-in will ensure your program is a success.

Sure, it sounds great: an integrated solution to manage both the financial and security aspects of your one-card program. But that’s just for the schools with deep pockets, right? Wrong. There are plenty of ways to benefit from a one-card solution that manages dining, access, activities, alarms and more — without breaking the bank.

Before planning for any one-card solution, it’s important to set your priorities. Why is the solution necessary? What will it do better than what you use today? What benefits do you want to realize right away, and what can come later?

There are many benefits to an integrated one-card and security solution. Some of these are:

Improving Safety: An integrated solution does more than lock and unlock doors to keep people safer. It acts as a force multiplier, putting richly integrated real-time information in front of the people best able to respond. It makes your campus community safer by reducing the amount of cash your students are carrying, giving them a more secure, auditable way to make purchases.

Enhancing the Student Experience: Most one-card offices will tell you their top priority is student satisfaction, although many are also expected to drive revenue. An integrated solution makes it easy to expand services to meet students’ evolving tastes. For example, smartphone apps for spending, access, attendance tracking and more put the power of a campus card in the devices students hold most dear — their phones.

Simplifying Management: Fewer platforms to maintain means less time spent on system management and more time spent focused on your students. Integrated solutions let you automate processes ranging from housing assignments to alarm escalation procedures.

Plan Your Solution Carefully

So what should the ideal integrated solution look like? It should be a comprehensive platform that manages and monitors a wide variety of interactions between an institution and its campus population. This could include anything from buying a soda from a vending machine to GPS tracking via a smartphone app when a student is walking alone.

Because financial and security data is shared seamlessly, without messy interfaces or manual processes, an event in the one-card system can automate another process or display in a unified interface. Take, for example, the following scenarios:

  • A dispatcher receives an alarm that a certain card has been presented and denied at 10 different access readers within the last 90 seconds.
  • The alarm says a certain card has been used at a vending machine five times within a two-minute span.

Both of these scenarios are common “red flag” situations, possibly resulting from someone finding a card and trying to take advantage of someone else’s privileges and funds. These scenarios of “shopping for access” (tapping or swiping a card down the hall, trying to figure out which door it will open) and “vending velocity” (too many transactions in a specified period of time, possibly trying to drain the account) can trigger the system to immediately deactivate the card in question, even though it has not yet been reported lost or stolen. An SMS can be sent and acknowledged, thereby reactivating the card, and a message could be displayed on the reader that alerts the cardholder to visit the card office to reinstate privileges. This is possible with an integrated solution that shares data regarding these events in real time, rather than relying on your human operators to recognize these suspicious activities as they occur.

Integration Makes Video More Effective

Video surveillance is not efficiently managed with separate systems. Operators can spend hours searching through footage to match an access transaction with its correlating video, delaying investigations and often not providing clear enough data to positively identify a suspect. In real-time applications, there is just too much video to watch on a campus.

With integration, video can be monitored, managed and triggered from within the one-card application. For example, live video can be brought to an officer’s attention any time a door is propped open or a card is denied. This instantly matches the event (door prop, access denial or purchase) with the appropriate video footage, eliminating hours of searching.

Some schools are already going one step further by tying video to financial transactions for more detail. At the University of Mississippi, or Ole Miss, employees monitor point-of-sale terminals in their dining venues, matching video footage with the actual receipt data of each transaction. Staff can monitor video in real time, or they can query for video tied to a wide variety of criteria (sales amount, payment type, menu item, cashier, cardholder, time of day, day of the week, etc.). This makes it easy to determine, for example, whether a specific cashier has a history of ringing up sales incorrectly. Staff can click on each menu item in the electronic receipt and view still images or video of that specific point in the transaction. With just a few keystrokes, the details of all applicable transactions can be displayed with correlating video without having to comb through hours of video footage and transaction records.

Within the first day of monitoring, Ole Miss identified several instances of cashiers ringing up items incorrectly. Some were simple errors; others required punitive action. This powerful integration of financial and security data has helped the university recover costs, identify cashier training needs, track sales trends, and keep a close eye on its business. Most importantly, it has improved security.

Phased Installations, Standardization Are Key

Let’s face it: You can shout about all the bells and whistles in the world, but they don’t change the bottom line. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to implement a full-featured, integrated one-card and security solution on a budget.

Consider a phased approach. Many universities with long-term security plans schedule their implementations over many months or even years. Perhaps in year one, you can roll out one-card dining spending, activities management and access control in residence halls. In year two, you can introduce laundry payment, online and mobile account management, parking and expand access control into administrative and academic buildings. Prioritize your needs according to your budget.

Standardize your solutions. Don’t continue the cycle of every department selecting and managing their own access and video systems. Bring all the players to the table, choose a solution that works for everyone and enjoy the economies of scale that come from a campus-wide standard. A single solution means lower costs due to purchasing in larger quantities; less time spent training employees on different systems; and the ability to control the system centrally where needed, and distribute management to the departments where needed.

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