Jan. 11, 2018

Campus security systems integrated for a safer UCalgary

Broader video monitoring coverage, increasingly centralized security controls improve how Campus Security keeps us safe
Brian Sembo, chief of campus security, in the Security Operations Centre, where recorded data from more than 1,100 high-resolution digital cameras across campus is monitored. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Brian Sembo, chief of campus security, in the Security Operations Centre. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Campus Security is closing in on its long-term goal to have a fully integrated electronic security system that incorporates all surveillance, electronic access control and alarm tools used on campus.

In 2015, the University of Calgary began transitioning aspects of the campus security systems to the Genetec Security Centre Unified Platform. Genetec is an industry leader in internet protocol (IP) based security solutions, serving clients around the world. The Genetec platform manages a number of electronic security systems, including closed-circuit TV (CCTV) video monitoring and data collection, electronic access control, and alarm devices. 

Brian Sembo, chief of campus security, says an integrated system brings further centralization and efficiency to the processes that help protect and assist the campus community.      

The big picture — live from CCTV cameras across campus 

Just before transitioning to the Genetec platform three years ago, Campus Security was using an analogue CCTV video monitoring system with only 80 cameras. Since then, more than 1,100 high-resolution digital cameras have been installed. 

CCTV-recorded data has been used in numerous situations relating to damaged property, physical conflicts and various thefts. Video from the UCalgary campus has even played an important role in identifying prolific thieves who target multiple locations. 

“In one 2017 case, we provided police investigators with our video-recorded data, which placed a subject in the vicinity of reported thefts on numerous occasions,” Sembo says. “Police were investigating similar thefts at other post-secondary institutions and they used our video recorded data to determine that the same individual had been to those campuses as well.”

The significant increase in CCTV monitoring coverage on campus does not mean reduced privacy where it counts. Cameras are never placed in private offices, labs or washrooms, and they are never directed at the windows of private workspaces or residences. 

A building priority list for CCTV deployment was established through a risk-based approach and so far, close to 30 buildings on the main campus are compliant with CCTV standards. CCTV installations will continue according to building priority and budget.    

Centralizing access controls 

The Genetec Security Centre Unified Platform also supports integrated electronic card access, which makes it possible to schedule and control the locking and unlocking of doors from a central location. This automation eliminates the need for Caretaking or Campus Security employees to physically lock and unlock buildings. Additionally, centralized access control can be a vital tool in lockdown situations.  

To date, the new electronic card access system has been implemented in a number of areas including: Kinesiology A/B, Math Science, Biological Sciences, Earth Science, the Campus Security office in MacEwan Student Centre, Science B, and Scurfield Hall. 

The older electronic card access system can’t be integrated with existing surveillance or alarm systems, but since the existing doors on campus are fully operational, the integrated electronic card access system will be deployed slowly in conjunction with construction and renovation projects. The same is true for alarms on campus. 

“We’ve been working towards integration since 2015 and we’ve made excellent progress,” says Sembo. “We’ll continue to strategically transition our security systems to the Genetec platform in tandem with other campus projects where possible and as necessary for campus safety.”