The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) recorded a 17% fall in the number of first year undergraduates at UK universities in the first year of higher tuition fees, including a 1% decline in non-EU students. Universities are under pressure to attract more students. For many, this requires an investment.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) says that universities are prepared to make the significant infrastructure investments necessary. However, the sheer size of the vast campuses occupied by universities – many of them the size of small towns – mean that expansion and improvement could be costly.
When you also factor in the need to keep sites, and the students that occupy them, safe and secure, universities are faced with a dilemma; the need to invest and expand without compromising site security, versus the need to cut costs. It’s a dilemma that is prompting many to look closely at their surveillance.
Surveillance integration and operational efficiency
Today’s open platform surveillance systems facilitate multiple levels of integration and data management, and therefore offer universities more than just a way to ‘monitor cameras’. They offer a way to monitor and control operational efficiencies and that is an attractive proposition when budgets are under scrutiny.
Universities are spending an average of £2bn per year to run their properties. A major cost contributor is the sheer number of separate site management systems that need to be in place. From perimeter security, intruder alarms, fire detection and access control to critical access tracking and building management systems; smarter integration of the latest surveillance systems enables these disparate elements to be monitored and controlled through one platform.
In addition to reducing staffing costs and review time, marrying high quality footage with operational data also gives universities a perspective on site management that simply wasn’t possible previously. And that facilitates potential cost savings.
Key practical applications include:
- Intruder alarm integration to enable remote video verification of activations, remote setting and resetting of alarm systems, and to provide an operational overview of locked/secured premises, reducing the need for unnecessary guard dispatch.
- Integration of fire detection systems to enable operators to check for visual evidence of a fire, therefore avoiding false alarm costs.
- Integration of heating and ventilation system monitoring devices to allow monitoring of potential failures that could limit facility use.
- Integration of lighting and motion detection to reduce power consumption in campus areas not in frequent use.
- Rapid identification of individuals engaged in unauthorised use of access cards that have been reported lost or stolen, or have been deactivated.
- Real-time tracking of individual card holders, including confirmation of access requests to high risk or data sensitive areas.
- Integration with auto counting software that allows accurate tracking of student numbers entering and exiting facilities to ensure capacities for events remain at safe levels.
- Automatic detection of anomalous activity, such as loitering or left items (e.g. rucksacks) that may warrant more in-depth investigation.
Protecting now, protecting tomorrow
But while using integrated surveillance solutions in this way may bring about cost and efficiency savings, isn’t that outweighed by the cost of investing in such technology in the first place? If universities had to operate a ‘rip out and replace’ strategy – yes it would. But they don’t.
The best way to achieve the level of integration outlined here is by moving from analogue technology to an IP-based system. But this doesn’t have to be achieved in one step. Instead, universities can adopt hybrid systems that seamlessly integrate legacy analogue cameras with new technology on an IP-based system.
This has several benefits. As most universities have their own IP network anyway, using this for surveillance removes costs associated with leasing fibre connections from third party providers. Additionally, hybrid systems enable additional cameras – for example HD IP cameras – to be added in-line with the expanding security needs of a growing campus at a pace which suits.
Implementing an IP-based solution now, that enables legacy and new technology to work hand-in-hand while seamlessly integrating with a range of site critical systems, offers more than an immediate solution to a current problem. It offers scalability.
It means that universities can invest in surveillance at a level which suits specific needs, without having to worry about the future. Add in the cost and efficiency benefits of using a surveillance monitoring and control platform as a site management tool, and it is clear to see why many UK universities are seeing security technology in a new light.