Biometrics to help curb university security risks
Biometrics-based access control and authentication could help universities and colleges to improve on-premise security, while forming the foundation of more efficient student management systems.
This is according to Nicolas Garcia, Senior Manager at Morpho South Africa, who notes that security is a top priority at all international higher education institutions, but possibly more so in South Africa, where protest action, violence and arson (among other concerns) have posed risks to students' safety and university property in recent months.
On campuses around the country, protest action has caused extensive damage to a number of institutions. Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande said recently that 2015/16 protest action had cost universities at least R300 million in damage to property.
In addition, curbing the risk to students' and staff safety meant institutions has to invest in additional security services. After student protests early this year, University of Johannesburg (UJ) vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg said that some Gauteng higher education institutions had been forced to spend up to R2 million a month on additional security.
Garcia says: "The biggest threat to tertiary intuitions today is controlling access to unknown individuals." To curb the risk of attacks and protests instigated by outsiders, institutions must know who accesses the campus, at what time, and event where they are and when they leave.
Linda Glieman, GM Client Services at Morpho partner company Impro Technologies, says: "The problem with traditional card access is that anyone carrying that card is able to enter the campus. Students lose their tags and often go for days without reporting it or needing to access the facility, which creates a security risk.
"Managing access effectively for the vast number of students is challenging, and the only way to ensure that the correct person enters the campus is via biometrics, because biometrics can't be shared, lost or forgotten," says Glieman.
Not only does biometrics allow for foolproof access control, it also presents opportunities for tertiary institutions to build on biometrics authentication systems for systems beyond security, such as payments and exam control.
Glieman says: "Exam entrance control is still in its infancy when it comes to biometric access, but educational institutions are starting to embark on implementing solutions to control access to these venues. The problem historically has been that these are not fixed venues and therefore installing hardware in the venue for exam purposes was not practical, speed of access is another barrier to adopting a controlled solution. However, with the introduction of mobile biometrics in the form of mobile readers and tablets this can now become a reality."
However, to deliver value and effectively secure campuses, the biometrics systems in use must be world class, she notes.
"When selecting a biometric product, one needs to select a supplier that has a number years of experience and offers reliable accurate results. Using a lower grade supplier presents a risk to your entire security system. The access control system behind the biometric solution also requires some very unique features to facilitate fast and accurate enrolment and control. Integration with the university student management systems is a critical factor to ensure success in managing who has access to the facility," she advises.