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The Increased Use of Access ID Cards For Security in Universities

Sep 8, 2008
Have you ever considered how many times a day you use an access card? Not many people think about this simple piece of plastic which they carry around with them everywhere they go. Yet life would not be the same without this small modern equivalent of the key.

Universities have been very quick on the uptake of access card technology, and this can be seen with a simple search on the internet for the term "access cards". Interestingly, university websites seem to devote a large amount of time to the procedures that must be followed when students lose their access cards - I suppose that this is to be expected from such a large body of young students who need their access cards to open a whole range of doors at their universities.

The trend towards swipe card access at universities began with the use of smart cards at librarys. This was a natural progression because every body expects to carry a card to a library so that a record of the books that they take out is linked to them. Moving to an entry system using a swipe access card was a natural progression. This was also forced by a large and growing amount of petty theft from university libraries.

Another driving force for the growth of access cards within university campuses was the students unions or student clubs on campus. To keep out non-students, a strong form of access policing has always been needed - the temptation for non-students to use student bars, with their lively atmosphere and good prices, has always been high. In the past, it was often necessary to use a bouncer on the door at large events. This bouncer would check photographic identification to ensure that it was a student entering. This of course has led to a market in counterfeit or copied identification.

With the advent of automated access card systems, often integrated to a CCTV or closed circuit television system, has meant that on campus security has been greatly improved lately. Using modern access and control systems, it is possible that an automatic barrier only becomes unlocked for a valid user, and that only one person can enter the building at a time. It is also a simple matter to trigger the camera system to film a timestamped entry of the student.

As the risk of unauthorised entry to university buildings has grown, and the value and portability of the equipment has increased, it has more recently become vitally important to prevent or control access to a wide range of areas within universities. This includes computer rooms which may contain many tens of thousands of pounds worth of state-of-the-art computer equipment. Chemistry areas are a security risk because of the wide variety of chemicals which could be stored, and even in general areas there is a risk of damage or theft of furniture or stationery.

The combination of an increased security risk and the decrease of the cost of installation and supply of access card technology has meant that it is now typical for a university campus to have access card points on all building entrances, and also to specific areas. The technology is advanced enough to only allow access to specific areas. This means that an engineering student cannot get access to the business school, and the business school student cannot get into the engineering building, yet both are able to enter the library or common areas.

It is unknown whether universities are combining the computerised access systems to keep a track on students. It is completely possible that the attendance of a student could be tracked using a computerised system - if they are not in the building for a lecture then the system could flag it to their tutors! However, the use of computerised access systems have revolutionised life at universities.
About the Author
Mr Bradfield is a copy writer and publisher who represents 'The Cardnetwork' (http://www.thecardnetwork.co.uk), the best known manufacturer of ID Cards, ID card printers and card supplies in the UK.
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