Dorm security standards are too low, key cards are the root of the problem

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AI-powered computer vision technology has become a new access control method of choice for student accommodation.

The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.


The Ministry of Education reveals that in 2020 alone, more than 28,000 criminal offenses were reported on college campuses. We can safely assume that with many unreported cases, the true number is much higher. Some of the most serious crimes, including violence and sexual assault, can take place in student residences or dormitories on campus.

Ask any student and they’ll tell you it’s not hard to get into a dorm that isn’t yours. With the proliferation of key cards as the access security method of choice, stumbling across a card left in a classroom, dropped at a party, lent by a friend, or even stolen, can all of a sudden allow you to enter the living quarters of hundreds of students.

Adding to the concern, students living in dormitories frequently leave individual room doors open and unlocked as friends migrate down the halls and stop to say hello. Given this, it’s surprising that dorm security hasn’t become more advanced over the past few decades, where more secure solutions than key cards were available.

Coming out of the pandemic, many institutions have decided to finally tackle the problem as part of broader facility upgrades. Computer vision technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI) has become a new access control method of choice for student accommodation due to its high security and convenience, coupled with reasonably priced software and hardware options. inexpensive and flexible.

The era of magnetic cards

Key cards have long been the most convenient and cost-effective security tool, so it’s understandable that they have become the most prolific method of access control for many years on campuses. Inexpensive cards are easily purchased, programmed, and distributed, and students and staff gain a sense of security knowing they must swipe to enter a building.

In reality, key cards provide the illusion of security rather than security itself. With no guarantee that the key card user is its intended owner, and no verifiable record of who entered the building when, they become frustratingly opaque when campus security needs to figure out who entered or you you wonder how a stranger ended up in your dorm room. With thousands of students on campus, the odds of running into a lost ID badge on any given day are pretty high.

While key cards have long been known to suffer from these security weaknesses, the fear of losing their convenience and low cost has for some time held back progress. Finally, the focus on security upgrades and touchless solutions has resulted in the adoption of more modern access control technology, especially to protect more vulnerable student spaces, such as dormitories. .

Enter: AI-based security

AI biometric vision technology is seeing some of the fastest adoptions on college campuses around the world. Schools like Beijing Normal University were early adopters, first using AI to secure their women’s dormitories more than five years ago. Many schools in the United States have integrated this technology for the first time this school year.

Biometric AI vision for access control works by comparing an individual’s live video to a known facial template. Students enroll in the program and provide consent as part of their dorm agreement, and from there, they enjoy extremely high security in their living spaces, as well as unparalleled convenience when it’s all about having 24/7 access to their dorms whether they’re in or not. have a map on them. Students from Beijing Normal University specifically mentioned these aspects when describing their great satisfaction with the new security system following its implementation in 2017.

Since then, AI vision solutions have only advanced, with leading industry vendors achieving near-perfect accuracy and offering extremely adaptable options. Thanks to highly flexible SDKs and low hardware requirements, it’s often a matter of adjusting or supplementing existing visitor management systems (VMS) or security systems, rather than starting from scratch. The software can even be programmed to alert specific dorm security guards if an unrecognized or banned person enters a certain room.

Another reason why AI Vision has become one of the leading new security methods of choice on campuses is its ability, unlike key cards, to ensure both that the intended user is the one who accesses entry and provide verifiable entry records, an essential forensic tool. for security administrators and the police.

Some schools, such as UCLA, inquired about using the technology and ultimately did not move forward with the integration due to privacy concerns. Today, many leading facial recognition vendors follow very strict privacy guidelines, and the software is fully compliant with biometric privacy laws in all states. Major vendors offer software that does not store any facial photos at any time, but instead uses secure, encrypted facial vector templates that are unintelligible if breached. Student security and privacy have never been more important, and AI vision security has offered a leap forward on both fronts.

After two years of blended and distance learning environments, more students than ever headed into their first full academic year on campus this fall. Their security must be a priority, and to do this we must move beyond the obsolete era of magnetic cards.


Terry Schulenburg is the Vice President of Business Development at CyberLink. Terry’s 35+ years of technology experience includes roles at Blackboard, Genetec, Apple and more, as well as specializations in campus security and AI security.

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