In a survey by of students at the 100 most populous U.S. colleges and universities about their top safety concerns, nearly one third of respondents said they had no worries at all. While college administrators and educators may be pleased to learn that many of their students feel completely safe on campus, they know they can’t afford to view the issue through rose-colored lenses. Protecting the students in their care requires evaluating all potential safety risks and taking proactive steps to mitigate them.

Increasingly, those security measures have included a high-tech component.

Here are four examples of how technology is helping to make college campuses more secure.

Smarter Identification and Access

Keeping college students, personnel and visitors safe includes protecting the campus from intrusion by people who might want to do them harm. While meeting that charge, college officials also need easy methods of verifying the identities of those who are part of the campus community so they can quickly access facilities and go about their business. On a growing number of college campuses, the gatekeepers have gone digital.

The industry trade publication, Campus Security & Life Safety, has noted the expanding use of memory chip-embedded smart cards for photo identification and access. The multitasking purpose of these cards also extends to their use as debit cards and bus passes.

Biometrics – the measurement and analysis of unique physical characteristics like fingerprints, faces and irises – has also seen increased adoption as a tool for identifying who belongs on campus and who doesn’t. As reported by Smart Cities Connect, an organization promoting smart technology solutions,  biometrics has potential applications beyond controlling campus access that include test taking and attendance management..

Easier Intelligence Sharing

For all the tech-enhanced identification tools at university administrators’ disposal, an iris camera will never replace the role of the human observer in recognizing potential security threats. Another report in Campus Security & Life Safety magazine suggests that methods like tips lines, call boxes and email alerts have not been very effective in getting observers of suspicious behavior and potential dangers to relay those concerns to campus security officials. The article mentions several possible reasons, including cumbersome communication devices and a perceived lack of anonymity, that people might be reluctant to say something when they see something.

But almost everyone carries a smart phone with them all the time, and they could easily use it to connect to security with the click of an app button. Education Dive has reported on the growing use of mobile safety apps on college campuses, noting the view of campus police that their popularity owes in part to students feeling more comfortable sending messages through an app versus calling.

According to the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS), most personal safety apps are free for individuals to download and use, although those versions may have limited functions. By purchasing subscriptions to more advanced apps, institutions can acquire more bells and whistles, such as the ability to connect directly to the campus safety via the app and use it to conduct live GPS location monitoring or record video and audio. The information the apps collect can be saved on a secure server, where it can be available for use in criminal investigations, the NCCPS notes.

Digitized Surveillance

While the role of alert individuals is critical to campus safety, schools sometimes turn to technology to broaden the scope and capacity of their surveillance. One example is geographic information systems (GIS), computer-based tools that analyze and display information about the geographic location of people and objects. An explanation from the U.S. Geological Survey of GIS technology points out that most of the information we have about the world around us includes references to locations. GIS analysis can offer insight into behavior patterns that helps security officials recognize when something might be amiss in one of the campus spaces on their watch.

Indoor positioning systems (IPS), which have been described as the indoor counterpart to GPS, are another device campuses are employing to enhance security. IPS technology relies on signals broadcast from Bluetooth emitters, or beacons, to locate people inside a building. The technology can be a critical element of an institution’s emergency response plan.

Tech-Enabled Theft Prevention

In the survey, students named theft/robbery as one of their top three concerns around campus safety. From laptops, bicycles and cars to the goodies packed in the care packages they receive from home, college students worry about their property being stolen. Lighting, locks, security cameras and other conventional theft-prevention measures continue to be the first line of defense, but campus administrators also look for ways to use technology to take property security to the next level.

Implementing a secure tech-enabled package delivery and retrieval system, for example, can help reduce the loss of property through mail theft. Pitney Bowes recently introduced Intelligent Lockers, a secure, 24/7 self-service, system that assigns a unique barcode to each recipient that allows them to pick up packages from a designated locker compartment.

The Intelligent Locker system “accounts for every single package that comes into the university,” says Stephanie Benedetto, Director, Product Marketing, Shipping and Receiving SaaS Solutions at Pitney Bowes. “Once mail center employees scan the package barcode with our integrated receiving software,   the captured data goes into a database. From this point, the user is able to assign the package to a designated locker. When they’re ready to deliver it, they scan the barcode once again and deliver it to the pre-assigned locker”

Everyone who picks up a package at an Intelligent Locker signs for it at a kiosk on site. The lockers are lit, and schools have the option to install cameras around them to enable additional security steps like photographing each person as they sign for packages.

Intelligent Lockers, smart cards, mobile safety apps and location-finding systems are just a sampling of the ever-evolving impact of technology on campus security. Reactions to high-profile security incidents and college administrators’ ongoing commitment to improving campus safety are pushing the demand for even more tech-enhanced solutions.

Implementing these kinds of tools into their overall security strategy lets higher education institutions show current students and recruits that their safety is a top priority.

To learn more about Intelligent Locker systems, visit Pitney Bowes and download The New Parcel Management eBook: Higher Ed Edition.

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