Feb 09 2022

TCEA 2022: 3 Questions to Ask When Modernizing Campus Security in K–12

Physical security expert shares how combining the cloud, integration and analytics can contribute to a safer school campus.

What does a safer school campus look like today? When it comes to protecting a school’s physical campus, times have changed, and school security should reflect those changes, said security expert Matt Tourney in a TCEA 2022 session.

Analog cameras connected to closed-circuit TVs and coaxial cables in a tiny closet somewhere on campus are no longer considered a best practice, said Tourney during the session “Improve Physical Security in Your School the C.I.A. Way.”

A physical security solution specialist for CDW, Tourney said the next generation of campus security tools is a lot more sophisticated. “Today, all of these systems are IP connected,” he said. “They’re connected to networks. They’re generating data that goes across networks, across your internet.”

And as more of it connects to the network, it becomes the domain of IT, which can gain a lot more information and control with the right infrastructure. Tourney shared the three questions that schools should ask when modernizing their physical security system.

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Is the Cloud Right for Your District?

“Today, we tend to default to the cloud as being better than having on-premises storage,” Tourney said. “Plus, the subscription, pay-as-you-go model makes it more attractive from a finance point of view and for adoption.”

However, Tourney noted that while there are benefits to the cloud such as savings on maintenance, administration and internal operations costs, it is not always right for every school.

He recommended that schools take time to determine what features they want and how well those new features would work with existing cameras.

“A lot of the cloud-based solutions out there are very closed systems,” he said. “You can very easily lock yourself into something that you have to forklift upgrade into, and if you want to move away from it, you’ve got to forklift to move out.”

READ MORE: How can school districts shift to the cloud successfully?

While it might be advantageous for large schools to manage their video surveillance system on-premises, smaller schools might not want to manage the infrastructure and could do well with a cloud option, Tourney said. However, he noted that a hybrid approach could work for districts that have a combination of large and small schools.

“Don’t fall for product pitches,” he said. “Look for a solution that adapts to your needs as opposed to you adapting to the solution.”

Do All Parts of Your Ecosystem Talk to Each Other?

Tourney noted that in the old days of physical security, many parts of the platform were isolated. Today, the physical security space has caught up with the rest of the world. Instead of closed proprietary systems, many software programs now include an application programming interface that can be used to integrate products from different vendors, which ultimately works to the school’s benefit.

“We want to get as much value out of a physical security investment as possible,” he said. “We want systems that talk to each other. We want to be able to automate.”

Matt Tourney

“We want to get as much value out of a physical security investment as possible,” said Matt Tourney, physical security solution specialist for CDW, at TCEA 2022.

For example, a video access control system that connects to a school’s perimeter doors could limit access to certain parts of the campus based on a person’s badge.

Or, during an emergency, a well-integrated system would allow an administrator to press a button to lock the school doors while simultaneously triggering an automated message to let students and parents know there is an emergency. The integrated system could also automatically open a Microsoft Teams conference bridge so that administrators and authorities can quickly collaborate.

“When you can automate in an emergency situation, then you have fewer things you’d have to remember to do in order to act,” he said.

MORE ON EDTECH: IoT tech powers learning as well as district operations in K–12 schools.

What Can You Do with the Data You Generate?

Finally, Tourney said, because next-generation physical security systems generate a ton of data, they should be considered information systems. With smart cameras, schools can improve operational efficiency by running analytics on specific events.

“When an unusual event occurs, such as an object detection — let’s say someone crosses the perimeter of a school — we can run analytics to find out the number of people or vehicles in the camera’s view, and that can be automated,” he said.

Instead of having school personnel manually go through hours of video surveillance footage, schools can automate the process with smart cameras.

“Data shows that after about 15 to 30 minutes of reviewing video, people miss 80 percent of what happens on the screen,” Tourney said. “But if you’ve got a smart system with analytics that can detect the things that you want to see and alert you to the ones that you really need to pay attention to, then that is real value.”

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