published: July 31, 2019
As students and teachers prepare to head back to the classroom, we sat down with Avigilon’s Laura Schroeder, Regional Specialist – Education Vertical, Southeast North America, and Dan Gabbert, Regional Education Specialist, Southern North America, to get their opinions on what we’ve learned over the last school year.
As a specialist in security solutions for schools at Avigilon, what is the biggest security problem or need that you see schools facing today?
Laura Schroeder (LS): Prioritizing budgets is a conversation I often have with school officials. Funds are limited, and they want to make sure they are utilizing every dollar wisely to protect their campuses. The lack of integration of security and communication systems is definitely something they’re all thinking about — in an active situation, disparate systems make it very difficult to combine efficiency with communication, yet so many schools have a hodgepodge of legacy systems that are not interoperable with other systems or technologies, especially the newer ones. Integrations between Avigilon and Motorola Solutions softwares provide an effective solution for the rapidly evolving needs of schools, offering more seamless operations between video security and critical communications systems. And since the majority of Avigilon’s products are built on an open platform, they can easily be integrated with third-party software and hardware, which gives you the flexibility to leverage your existing resources and investments during an upgrade.
How effective are security solutions in keeping schools safe?
Dan Gabbert (DG): With the proper system, schools can decrease the time and resources needed to monitor and investigate while increasing the effectiveness. Education has limited people and resources. By offering technologies that leverage AI to help take care of the monitoring aspect of video security, Avigilon does a great job of helping users do so much more with less. Security operators can focus their time and attention on response rather than watching video feeds around-the-clock.
How are smart technologies, such as video analytics, helping schools stay safe?
LS: With the use of video analytics, the dynamic of how effective a video system can be drastically increased. A complete Avigilon system combines AI technology with high-quality video, which helps make a security camera system proactive as opposed to just reactive, and that assists the security operators who protect a campus by directing their attention to where it matters most. It can help them have ‘eyes on everything’ — someone loitering in a stairwell, someone coming onto a playground from a wooded area off-campus, someone approaching a door after school hours and more.
DG: I agree with Laura. Based on my experience, the big push right now in education is trying to find a way to move from reactive analysis to proactivity. Video analytics are a big step in making that transition. Being able to get alerts of what is happening right this second helps districts reply with a faster, more appropriate level of response. It’s a big piece of the puzzle in terms of helping prevent major issues before they happen. The latest version of our video management software, Avigilon Control Center (ACC) 7, does a great job of this. ACC™ 7 introduces our new Focus of Attention interface, which uses AI and video analytics technologies to determine what information is important and should be presented to security operators. Essentially, it has the potential to revolutionize how school security operators interact with and gain situational awareness from their security camera systems.
Are access control solutions suitable for schools? Why or why not?
DG: Absolutely they are. I believe every school in the country needs to know their facility is safe and secure. They need to know who is in the building and where they are. Drills are done several times a year to help prepare for emergency situations, and access control solutions help bring that process into the digital age.
LS: In my view, being able to electronically secure a campus is a crucial element in the overall safety of the school. There are so many scenarios campuses find themselves in, whether it’s allowing and managing the community to utilize part(s) of their campus for activities or an active situation, where the ability to have flexible and even automatic lockdown capabilities is paramount. Managing physical keys has become a tedious task for most who are not utilizing an access control system… in some cases, there are out-of-date lists tracking who has keys, keys aren’t returned, or keys are loaned out to those who shouldn’t have access, and that can be a real problem for school security. Access control solutions can help mitigate those risks. The Avigilon access control solution is based on our Access Control Manager™ system — a platform that can scale to the ever-changing needs of schools yet is 100% browser-based, which means it’s easy to set up with no software installation required. Once you’ve got it installed, there’s peace of mind in knowing that you can limit access to certain areas of a school with the push of a button, should the need ever arise.
What are some use-case examples of challenges that schools often face that Avigilon solutions can solve?
DG: Stairwells, hallways and bathrooms are often problem areas for schools. Avigilon can help school administrators identify where their students are and whether there is any abnormal activity happening in those areas. Many schools also allow the community to use their buildings for various reasons (charity events, sports games, elections, etc.) and in those instances, Avigilon can help monitor and control access from a mobile device. No longer do you have to send someone with a key ring to ensure the doors are locked properly afterward.
LS: The Avigilon Access Control Manager™ system enables security operators to lockdown a campus with the push of a button. The H4 Video Intercom is effective at securing access at points of entry, as it allows you to see and communicate with the person before letting them in. For schools who face limited manpower, Avigilon AI-powered solutions — such as self-learning video analytics, Avigilon Appearance Search™ and Unusual Motion Detection technologies — can help take care of the monitoring aspect, leaving security operators to do what they do best: take action.
For schools that do not currently have a security system installed, where do you recommend starting?
LS: Gaining the ability to lock down the campus, establishing secured points of entry and video monitoring the ‘hot spots’ is always a good place to start. While a school may not be able to afford to put video security cameras or access control solutions everywhere they would ultimately like to have them, a phased approach is better than no approach. There are best practices that security professionals can provide, and from there, a security plan can be designed and catered to the determined budget.
DG: I recommend starting with getting a proper security assessment; know what your biggest issues are and solving those problems first. Bring in the experts in each area identified and put together a solution with forward-thinking companies that can work together to solve your unique needs. School districts are a reflection of the community. No two communities are the same.
For schools that currently have an existing but outdated security camera system, what upgrades are most worthwhile?
DG: In this case, you want to get the biggest bang for your buck. In my opinion, getting analytics in key areas will make the largest impact. Use an Avigilon Artificial Intelligence Appliance to add advanced video analytics to your older system and grow over time. No need to rip everything out when a few changes can make a large impact in time and money.
How can schools protect their existing security investments?
LS: Some legacy equipment can be brought into newer systems and still serve a purpose. It is crucial that a non-proprietary system is chosen in order to provide a platform that not only will incorporate any existing compatible equipment, but also be able to utilize future technologies, as well. The ONVIF® standards that Avigilon adheres to are used for the video security market and are key to ensuring an open platform system.
DG: Schools need to choose a partner and manufacturer that are looking to the future. Knowing who is financially sound as well as innovating may help you save money in the long run. Finding providers who integrate with many systems is critical for protecting your security investments. For cameras, ONVIF compliance is a must. There are many levels of compliance. Be sure to see what will be best for you.
Outside of video security and access control solutions, what can schools do to proactively secure their campus?
DG: The integration of Motorola Solutions CommandCentral Aware system with Avigilon Control Center™ video management software is helping districts improve operations during active situations. It gives dispatchers one source for real-time intelligence to remotely assist officers in the field while providing first responders with information — including live and recorded video feeds, camera location information and alerts — to help them make the best decisions possible in the most critical moments.
LS: If we’ve learned anything over the last year or so, it’s that communication is key. Responses need to be immediate and collaboration with local authorities in some capacity is crucial. Whether it’s radio communication, the ability to ‘look in’ on the cameras or lock a building down with the push of a button, having an integrated system that takes some of the thought processes out of an active situation is paramount. That’s why the growing synergies between Avigilon and Motorola Solutions are so beneficial to end-users.
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