ASIS Recap: Anti-Predator School Security Exists


In a sad, ironic parallel to the school violence that rocked the country last month, one of the more interesting security products shown on the floor of the American Society of Industrial Security's annual conference and tradeshow in San Diego this past month was a solution designed to better protect students.

Johnson Controls demonstrated its new STAR system, which has just been adopted by Broward County Public Schools in Florida. The system, which uses Sisco's Fast-pass technology, is designed to comply with Florida's Jessica Lunsford Act. The legislation, which went into effect in September of 2005, set requirements for schools to prevent sexual offenders or predators from having access to Florida public school campuses.

The way the technology works, according to Steve Thompson, JCI's director of marketing for fire and security solutions, is that anyone who visits a school is required to check in and present their driver's license. The identification is then scanned by school personnel, where it is checked against national, state and local databases of sexual offenders, including aliases. If a person checks out OK, a printed badge, including photo identification, is issued.

The badge is networked into the system so that if someone tries to gain access in different campus buildings, that movement can be tracked in real time and different alerts can be issued. The system can also be used to confirm authorization for student pick-up.

Besides Florida, several other states have also enacted similar measures: Oregon, Nevada, Alaska, Arizona, Nebraska, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. California will vote on the legislation this November.

As far as other interesting technology on the floor, Dan Leclair, a security consultant with the Fairfax, Va. office of Sako & Assocs., said he was taken with the number of new infrared cameras on display, particularly for night vision scenarios. Additionally, a lot of technology for wireless locks is emerging. In fact, he said, much of the access control reader and panel hardware is moving directly to the door, thanks to Power over Ethernet capabilities.

Besides convenience, such improvements will reduce installation costs, as no wiring is necessary; it's battery powered.

Elsewhere on the floor, other once cost-prohibitive or niche-oriented technologies are getting more play—biometrics, for one. According to Steve Bowcut, business development manager for Torrance, Calif.-based PCSC, the technology is not just for super-secure operations such as pharmaceutical facilities and the like. “More businesses are needing to know who's behind that piece of plastic that just entered their system,” he said.

Granted, there are still concerns about issues with identity theft, but Bowcut said they're really unfounded, especially when they can be tied to smart card technology with special encryption. Unfortunately, there's been a lag in the adoption of the latter.

According to Jerry Cordasco, with Compass Technolgies, Exton, Pa., the problem is that smart cards still cost a lot, and unless you've got the justification to use the other features they offer, they're not as cost-effective as a proximity or magnetic strip card.

Compass displayed its “6e” access control system, which Cordasco boasted as one of the best security systems geared to meet the growing convergence of IT and security systems. This is the case, he said, because its platform is up to speed with the same hardware, software and tools used in IT.

Another more exotic technology getting some promotion was facial recognition. JCI's Thompson said the technology has come a long way and has more practical applications. NIST now certifies that the technology is 99.2% accurate. But where they're applying it is in hotels, to better serve VIPs, or in places like branch banks, where known check-bouncers or the like can be quickly identified and personnel notified.

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