- Security TWENTY
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Security at universities is one of the themes at Security TWENTY 17 North Conference and Exhibition, at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate on Tuesday, July 4. In the security industry, we all know that the challenges it raises are also considerably complex. Security mechanisms at educational institutions, where the future of the country is formed, are of vital importance, writes Jason Keye, pictured, of software firm AGORA, one of the ST17 Harrogate exhibitors.
International recognition of the quality of our universities has gone much further than the old Oxford–Cambridge rivalry, and dozens of institutions appear in rankings of the best universities in the world year after year. Currently, more than half of students at the prestigious Imperial College London come from abroad, which demonstrates its international recognition.
Training the most qualified professionals in the world is a task for the classroom, but universities consist of many other areas within these education buildings such as halls of accommodation and outdoor spaces. Security cannot be overlooked in any of these places because there are diverse physical and psychological threats, including thefts, muggings, vandalism and assaults on students and members of staff. A recent survey of roughly 2,000 people on university campuses in the UK showed that 64pc of students say they leave valuables like wallets and electronic devices out of sight. Almost half (48pc) of those who stay at halls of residence admitted that they do not lock the main door to the building before going to sleep, even if they arrive back late.
A little caution and responsibility would not do these students any harm, but enhancing security at universities is, of course, not their job. The only moments of tension experienced by students during their academic life should be due to demanding exams or tight work deadlines, not incidents caused by lack of security. Counterbalancing the relaxed lifestyle on university campuses, which no-one wants to see change, is up to security mechanisms and systems like AGORA.
To overcome universities’ security challenges, AGORA software includes solutions that can be adjusted to the different areas found on a campus, whether they are classrooms, laboratories, libraries, dining areas, sports facilities, halls of residents or others. The software’s multi-functionality is the result of a series of procedures that are defined to meet user needs.
This makes day-to-day life in control rooms less hectic, precisely as a result of implementing those procedures. Whenever the security system warns of an event, AGORA shows the operator the most efficient procedure to follow, thanks to its intelligent workflow. An essential tool for dealing with exceptions to the everyday routine, such as delivering keys or cleaning services, is provided by AGORA’s on-demand alarms. These alarms establish procedures to streamline the resolution of situations that, although common in everyday life at universities, pose problems for inflexible security systems.
More and more UK universities request a service to escort people. AGORA also provides that service, which is so important for people leaving the university late, at times when there are few people present, which is the case for post-graduate students and members of staff.
As soon as an emergency is identified, the system shows the operator how to respond. If the procedure to follow involves calling law enforcement, the relevant contact details are displayed immediately. Response times to events are therefore reduced. In short, AGORA Intelligent Workflow enables more effective, quicker and less costly security compared to increasing the number of night guards patrolling the campus every night. As well as keeping students and staff safer, operators also appreciate AGORA solutions, particularly the automatic, digital activity reports it generates, which frees them from having to spend a large amount of time recording data in Excel tables.
AGORA does not live by procedures alone, it also stands out by automatically selecting the most suitable camera for evaluating a certain event, however far away it’s happening. If operators receive better information, it is possible to drastically reduce the number of false alarms, a situation that causes disturbances as well as unnecessary costs. With ubiquitous control from a central point, there is no need for multiple control centres spread around the campus. All the data collected by cameras and sensors is channelled into the same place, which is also, of course, good news for university budgets.
The data collected by the system also makes it possible to improve operations by using Business Intelligence tools. AGORA provides security directors at universities with activity reports, which are essential to achieving the best possible management of resources, in terms of distributing security staff and security equipment such as cameras and sensors. Analysing this data can be particularly important when, for example, students leave to give way to other kinds of visitors at the dozens of halls of residence that become tourist accommodation in the summer.
It is clear that there are many reasons for AGORA to be offered a place at universities in the UK. Resources are optimised, costs that weigh on budgets are reduced and, most importantly of all, the balance between efficient security and the relaxed atmosphere usually enjoyed on university campuses remains.
Jason Keye’s email address: email@example.com.