Why go wireless on campus


Published April 2020


When it comes to access control on campus, it’s no longer as simple as securing an opening. Expectations have evolved along with technology, and students, faculty and staff anticipate that these systems will contribute to an efficient and convenient campus experience.


Access control is effective in achieving the appropriate balance to ensure a secure environment without impeding daily routines. Plus universities of all sizes reap the operational efficiencies of more connected openings. That's why many are moving—or have already moved—to a keyless campus where everything is accessible via the campus ID.


Wireless devices are helpful in this transformation. Eliminating the need to run wires saves time and costs associated with installation, which allows universities to connect more openings in less time. And by speeding up electronic access control adoption, the path to a keyless campus is achieved quicker.

"When electronic access control is implemented throughout, a single campus card can provide a frictionless experience while users move from one space to the next with ease—using their campus ID for access, financial transactions and more."

Electronic access control and the student experience

There are still some who don’t understand the benefits of moving from mechanical to electronic, maybe because mechanical keys are what they’ve known and trusted. But tech-savvy students have different expectations.


It’s similar to the automotive experience today. If your car doesn’t have a keyless ignition system, you probably won’t mind driving another automobile that requires the traditional key. But those who have experienced the keyless ignition are going to expect that in their next car purchase or rental experience. For them, it’s an obvious step backward with technology. Mechanical keys for doors are starting to be perceived the same way. It already feels outdated to many because they want the convenience of the electronic credential.


This is increasingly important on higher education campuses because the one-card experience simplifies every other part of students’ routines.


“A mechanical key interrupts their flow,” explains Jeff Koziol, Allegion’s business development manager of campus software partners. “When electronic access control is implemented throughout, a single campus card can provide a frictionless experience while users move from one space to the next with ease—using their campus ID for access, financial transactions and more. Having to switch to a mechanical key to access their student room is less than ideal.”


Just as students prefer the convenience of their campus card, the rise of mobile is guaranteed to transform expectations once again. With more campuses exploring mobile credentials, it’s important to think about the future of electronic access control, including credential technologies.


Mobile technology isn’t a fad; it’s not going away,” says Robert Lydic, vice president of Allegion’s PAC OEM business. “Soon students will expect it, and universities will need to prepare for these demands today. Upgrading infrastructure is the logical first place to start, and wireless hardware like electronic locks that support mobile technologies—both near field communication (NFC) and Bluetooth (BLE)—help with this process.”


In a world of connected devices, the possibilities for better experiences continue to grow as more systems are online and new use cases reveal themselves. In a campus environment, this includes potentially anything students interact with that can be automated or electrified. Integrations can be easily tailored so universities of all sizes can improve security, operations and student experiences through their campus credentials. However, for that experience to be complete, access control needs to be in place across campus. Explore more of the benefits of wireless.


Visibility and control

Schools are expected to go above and beyond to show students and their families that their campus is a safe, secure place. Upgrading mechanical doors to electronic access control enhances visibility by providing insights into what’s going on around campus. Audit trails, reports and alerts are available, and with the right technology, users have access to real-time data. Configuring locks and managing access rights can be done from virtually anywhere. Greater control over connected openings means more command over the campus as a whole.


This is especially important for when a school needs to respond quickly in emergency situations, like initiating a campus-wide lockdown or promptly deactivating credential access rights to limit a potential threat from freely moving around campus.


“Credentials play a big part in emergency planning,” says Brian Marris, product manager of Allegion connected accessories. “Unlike mechanical keys, schools can activate or deactivate electronic credentials for students, faculty and staff at any time. Choosing an option that has strong encryption, like smart and mobile credential technologies, can heighten the level of security. Mobile credentials offer an extra layer of peace of mind because students are far less likely to loan someone their phone versus their campus ID card. In addition, mobile credentials can offer multifactor authentication with smartphones, which means there is a much higher probability that only those who should have access to a given space can actually gain access.”


Key management

“Electronic locks and credentials reduce time and costs associated with mechanical key turnover, improving operational efficiency,” says Marris. “With mechanical locks, the creation of keys can be time consuming and once a key is lost, there’s a loss in control over who can gain access. To overcome security threats, rekeying must take place. But with electronic credentials, rights can be deactivated immediately and new credentials issued quickly and efficiently.”


As an example, a language center in New York was experiencing an issue with high key turnover—more than 100 keys a week. The facility operates similar to a university, with students staying in residence halls on campus, but it lacks the routine schedule of a traditional school. To overcome the cost burden and inconveniences, the campus upgraded its mechanical doors in the residence halls to wireless locks with electronic credentials and adopted a one-card solution across campus. Read more about the impact on efficiency and security.


Lydic adds that moving to a mobile credential improves key management even more. “Students are far less likely to lose their phone than a physical credential or key. And if they do, they will notice almost immediately and report the issue. A physical credential doesn’t need replaced and the lock doesn’t need rekeyed. It’s all done through the access control system—saving time and money for both the staff and students.”


The beauty of wireless access control is that it’s flexible so that customers can adopt it in phases and tailor it to fit their security needs. Implement hardware a few doors at a time or building by building. It’s fine to start small and grow toward your ideal state.


Wireless solutions also allow for greater flexibility in how a space is used. Because they are less invasive, they can be easily introduced on new openings compared to hardwired options. This is important to consider if your campus plans to expand or remodel in the future. If the existing security system is not able to be reconfigured easily and effectively, your school may not be able to adapt without costly modifications to its security solutions.


“Versatility also enables end users to upgrade their systems over time,” says Koziol. “Many choose to introduce electronic access control at a small scale, then upgrade more doors down the road. It starts with a transition from mechanical to electronic, with the goal of moving to credential access on every opening.”


Future proof

Technology continues to evolve, and with that comes expectations for more seamless campus experiences. This is evident in the mobile movement. Schools need to be ready.


“Even if a campus isn’t ready to transition to a mobile ecosystem tomorrow, it’s best to start planning from an infrastructure perspective now,” says Lydic. “Wireless devices can help schools adopt the right hardware quicker so that when they’re ready for mobile or other new technologies, the foundation is in place to make the change you choose.”


The solutions chosen should support your migration to mobile, whether that is NFC or BLE. Choosing interoperable hardware can lead to more options down the road. It’s going to be open to new technology as innovations are introduced in the market.



While electronic access control can do more than grant access to a space, it’s still expected to do its primary purpose—provide security. If that isn’t there, the additional benefits won’t matter. So it’s important to be sure that the hardware you install delivers convenience and efficiency without compromising security.


Electronic access control and credentials go hand-in-hand. When you’re evaluating your campus security and solutions, consider how wireless can help your campus become a more convenient and efficient space. Read more about wireless access control basics and the value of a keyless experience in this CR80 News article.

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