Photography by Francisco Anzola.
Access Control Upgrade for Yale University
Surrounded by historic buildings, students, visitors and staff navigate the campus unaware of the advanced technology keeping them safe.
Established in 1701, Yale is situated in New Haven, Connecticut where more than 12,000 students aspire to become the best in their field.
Securing a prestigious university in a busy urban area presented challenges, however, as high expectations amongst students, parents and staff, combined with modern security and environmental factors, demanded an exceptional solution.
Yale began a search for a new security provider in anticipation that its security technology was due to reach the end of its life, and Yale’s Public Safety Department wanted the best alternative available to replace it.
Yale had three goals; to manage its security from a single point of contact, to increase security and enhance the ability to monitor the movement of all identity types through onboarding and offboarding of permanent and temporary employees and others, including implementing visitor management and to enhance self-service access control where students pick up their badges that are managed by Yale’s security team.
In order to meet their vision for campus security, Yale’s Director of Information Technology, David Boyd, and Chief of Police & Director of Public Safety, Ronnell Higgins, along with a selected team of other Yale stakeholders, decided to upgrade their legacy Casi Rusco Picture Perfect System to G4S-owned AMAG Technology’s Symmetry SR Retrofit System.
“Some of our buildings are 200 years old with three-foot stone walls,” says Boyd. “Not having to do a ‘rip and replace’ of our old system saved millions of dollars. Plus, with Symmetry, we have a single point of contact and can manage threat levels and identities.”
The innovative AMAG approach provided Yale with a cost effective way of upgrading their entire security system. Symmetry SR Retrofit System is designed so that the end user can utlise their existing wiring and card readers, avoiding a prolonged and complex upgrade. The unique plug-and-play design allowed Yale to swap out old controllers and replace them with Symmetry SR Controllers. In addition, it also provided Yale with a range of advanced integration options, so that additional security measures can be added, if and when required.
AMAG's Vice President, Global Sales and Business Development, Jody Ross, says:
“Working closely with Yale and making sure that they were able to keep their existing infrastructure absolutely gave AMAG the edge over our competitors. We worked with Yale and their integrator during the university breaks and holidays to ensure that people on campus do not notice any change.
“In addition to the huge cost saving, using our innovative technology meant that we were able to carry out the work with minimal disruption to the students, professors and lecturers on campus.
“For the first two years of the project, we had an AMAG engineer working on site as part of the Yale team. We listened to Yale’s requirements and what they needed to successfully secure the campus. We worked together meticulously through each phase of the upgrade.”
TACKLING 350 BUILDINGS
Yale’s central campus covers 310 acres with the buildings representing every period in its history: New England Colonial, High Victorian Gothic, Moorish Revival, as well as contemporary buildings. In addition, the West Campus sits on 136 acres with 1.6 million square feet of research, office and warehouse space, with more than 600 acres of athletic fields and green space.
The old Casi panels were replaced with Symmetry Retrofit panels. Given that there are almost 900 controllers throughout the University to replace, AMAG worked with the integrator and upgraded the panels building by building and Yale chose to vet all users in the process.
“We wanted a clean system. We sat with the building managers of each building and made sure the right people had access and had the correct access levels assigned to them,” said Boyd. “In the end, the transition will have taken longer, but we’ll have a brand new, clean database.”
AMAG’s Professional Services team wrote a customised interface to Yale’s proprietary internal database to easily pull data into the Symmetry access control system. Deployment was straightforward. The integrator tested the old system and scheduled the changeover for each building. In each instance, the old Casi panels were swapped out for Symmetry SR controllers, plugged in and the panels went live in a matter of minutes.
Yale uses a one-card system. Student IDs are used to purchase food, borrow library books, and as an access control card. Students and staff were completely unaware and unaffected when the migration to the new system took place. Student access cards operated normally regardless of whether a building had been converted to Symmetry or not.
STRIKING A BALANCE
According to Chief Higgins, parents make decisions about where to send their children to college based on what they see and feel. Yale is mindful of that, and is careful to articulate how safe the campus is.
A college campus must be open, yet safe and secure. An active shooter hoax a few years ago forced Chief Higgins and Boyd to look at their security program from a different perspective. They examined what happened versus what they would like to see happen in the future.
“Tragedy trumps tradition,” said Chief Higgins. “We averted tragedy but determined it was time to make some changes.
“That incident showed us we needed a way to manage threats so we can lock down the school or an area with the click of a mouse,” said Boyd. “Our new Symmetry SR Solution has Threat Level Manager.”
Threat Level Manager allows Yale to lock down the university in the event of an emergency, but still provide an open campus the rest of the time.
Boyd and Higgins have big plans to do more to ensure a secure campus for students and staff.
Jody Ross believes the relationship with Yale will continue to grow:
“Increasing efficiency is a large part of it. As an institution Yale continues to grow and expand and is always looking at ways to break new ground in their approach. It is a traditional university, but their attitude for cutting edge technology is anything but old-fashioned.
“We are looking into a self-service web page to increase efficiency,” said Boyd. “Rather than email changes to a central scheduler, we want building managers with proper authority to make changes on a website to increase efficiency. The cost savings would be substantial.”
AMAG’s identity management software will help streamline Yale’s internal onboarding and offboarding process to improve workflow and better operationalise their business.
Between students and staff, the number of changes being made to the system on a daily basis demands an efficient approach. Symmetry CONNECT minimises cumbersome paper and multiple email requests, saving time and money.
Yale also plans to integrate Symmetry access control with a video management system allowing events to enable video when an alarm goes off. Intercoms are located on campus and the team plans to tie together the audio and video so live feeds appear on the Symmetry system.
“Once we implement these upgrades, that’s when the end user will see a difference in our systems,” says Boyd. “And that’s our plan.”
“Symmetry has helped us service our community in the most optimum way,” says Chief Higgins.