Jan 1, 2002 12:00 PM

Situated on 103 wooded acres 50 miles south of Los Angeles, Soka University of America is an idyllic retreat from the bustling pace of Southern California life. Running trails and bike paths criss-cross the campus, fanning out from newly constructed buildings perched on a sloped hillside located less than two miles from the Pacific Ocean. A 4,000-acre wilderness preserve lies just outside the borders of the campus.

The university, a private liberal arts school founded by Japanese educator Daisaku Ikeda, is a veritable international crossroads. Here, students from around the globe are immersed in the study of comparative Eastern and Western philosophies deeply influenced by the ancient Buddhist principles of peace and human rights.

Ironically, the campus is also an ultra-modern expression of wired technology. Every one of the 120 students who signed up for the school's first class this fall carries a shiny new laptop computer dispensed during orientation last August. They have no problem plugging into the information superhighway at any of the more than 3,800 access ports found in every building and even at some outdoor locations.

Five years ago, when Soka Gakkai Intl. decided to add an undergraduate college to the graduate program already in place at its Calabasas, Calif., campus, the goal was to create a pacesetter in higher education. The expectation extended to the security system.

"This campus was going to be a keyless society," says Bret Schatz, president of Schatz Consulting, Irvine, Calif. "All card-driven technology was to be used."

With technology in place, cards would allow students access to computer labs and dorm rooms and would be used as debit cards and picture IDs. Students would be able to use the card to purchase their books, wash their laundry, and grab a cup of coffee between classes.

When students arrived on the campus last August, Soka had largely realized its high-tech dreams. Not every component is in place, but the university expected to have the bugs worked out in the coming months.

"We're still very much in the implementation phase," says dean of students Ed Feasel.

University IT experts are still working on the point-of-sale technology. For instance, washers and dryers don't yet accept students' card swipes.

However, the access control and security aspects of the venture are operational.

When staff and students arrive at major buildings and offices each morning, they find the central computer system has unlocked the doors at a predetermined time. At night, doors are also automatically closed and locked.

"There's both an on-line and off-line system," explains Feasel. "A computer program controls the on-line system where they set the times for the external doors of the building to open and close. You have to make sure you get the times right."

When the bookstore opens, for example, they have to make sure that bookstore personnel are actually there. When the bookstore opens, the doors unlock and remain unlocked.

"You program it to the best of your ability, but there have been times, especially at the beginning, when security was doing its rounds and found a door open," Feasel says. "Whether it was programmed correctly and someone was supposed to be there and wasn't, you have to make sure people understand the logic of the system."

At the heart of the operation is InfoGraphics' DIAMOND series access control system, manufactured by Garden Grove, Calif.-based InfoGraphic Systems Corp. All components of the security system are connected via Lucent Technologies' fiber optic cable, which allows data to be transferred to the central system.

"(The campus) is really widespread," says Bill Vuono, president of Irvine, Calif.-based ASSI Security, which spent 18 months installing various components of the access control system. "Not only are we doing all the card access on one card, but we're also gathering a lot of alarms from the various buildings. It's really spread out. We had to pick a system whose hardware could deal with a campus-wide environment in terms of the one card and the multiple facilities and alarms we were bringing in."

The Microsoft Windows NT-based InfoGraphics system had to interface with the University's human resources department. When students are added to, or deleted from, their records, that data had to be transferred to the access control system. Cards could then be programmed with the proper access levels. A student's card will admit him or her into the main door at the dorm and then into an individual room. The cards might also be programmed to provide access to the computer lab or classroom building.

Officials note that students understand the importance of holding onto and protecting their cards.

"We have had some occasions where there has been a lost card," says Tom Harkenrider, chief of operations. "Usually it's reported fairly quickly through a number of means. We have a system administrator who can be reached by phone or e-mail. Many times that information will come through a resident assistant."

The cards themselves are HID's Duo Prox II. They serve as both a proximity card and a data-storage card, and are equipped with a magnetic stripe on the back. A total of 500 HID ThinLine readers are spread throughout the campus to give access to various doors.

The integration of proximity cards with door locks initially presented a challenge. Five years ago, prox card/door lock technology was just developing, and integrators weren't entirely sure they could make the systems compatible.

"My position in the whole play, once we received the contract, was to be able to get a hardware manufacturer to develop these technology locks that would accept proximity cards," Schatz says. "I put HID and Indianapolis-based Best Access Group together and they came out with the first technology lock for this project. Because of the expense of being hard-wired door-to-door, we decided that Best would use battery-operated locks incorporating the single-card technology and have two different types of security systems ! on-line and off-line. Both would use the same card."

A couple years later, Best unveiled the first prototype lock for this application. Schatz says that by the time the buildings were ready to be built, they were a year or two down the road in technology and had proven that it was a viable access control option.

The result was the 700 Best Access Systems battery-powered proximity lock, with HID's embedded eProx technology. The eProx lock module enables major lock manufacturers to integrate proximity card reading capability into their electronic locks.

At the same time, integrators realized that they had to meet life-safety requirements specified by the local fire department.

"All panic devices are tied into the fire alarm system," Schatz says. "The fire department said they wanted those doors in the stairways to unlock. So at that point we had to go in and devise an electric locking trim, which are the lever handles tied into the fire alarm only. So you have two separate electrical devices in this exit device. One (lock) giving you card access and the other tied in separately to the fire alarm."

Doors that are propped open generate an alarm that alerts security to investigate. The InfoGraphics system generates reports on who has either entered or attempted to enter a particular door or area.

Cameras also play a major role in security at Soka. Some 225 Philips cameras ! a combination of fixed 1/3-inch format high-sensitivity color cameras and AutoDomes ! make up a CCTV system that monitors buildings, parking lots, and other exterior areas. The AutoDomes offer over 200-times zoom with 360-degree continuous rotation. Some of the outdoor domes are attached to poles that elevate them above the surrounding areas for increased field of view.

In the control room, rows of 9-inch and 17-inch Philips monitors are constantly surveyed by campus police.

The Allegiant 8800 Series switcher control is used to offer full matrix-switching capabilities that can be programmed to display the video from any camera on any monitor via independent switching sequences. The LTC 8800 can accommodate up to 256 camera inputs.

Code Blue emergency call stations throughout the facility give immediate access to the on-campus central monitoring station that is operating 24 hours a day.

"When you get alarm activation, the CCTV camera closest to the alarm is automatically activated via the InfoGraphics system talking to the camera system, as well as the intercom system, (and) the emergency address Code Blue system," Vouno says. "All that reports back to the InfoGraphics system, and it routes the appropriate camera to be called up. It also gives a graphic display of where that is occurring."

The system provides e-mail notification that allows a jpeg image taken from a camera ! perhaps activated by its motion detector ! to be e-mailed to the appropriate person.

All participants in the Soka University project agree that it has presented a challenge to systems integration.

"It's not only calling up cameras, alarm points, and dealing with intercoms, but it's also connected to a Seaboard system that's also connected to an HR system," Vuono explains. "There are a lot of things that need to be tied together and programmed to make it seamless."

Randy Sutherland is an Atlanta-based writer and regular contributor to Access Control & Security Systems.

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