Wireless Technology Makes The Grade For School Security
Integrator Central Data Inc. earned $120,000 by developing a high school's security solution that included wireless LAN, wireless telephony, and digital surveillance equipment.
It's important for a VAR or integrator to have a few accounts that showcase a particular technology or vertical expertise. Central Data Inc. (Titusville, FL) found such an account when the integrator began working on a wireless project for a 1,500-student high school in Florida.
The school was already a customer of Central Data's for PCs and networking infrastructure products. In February of 2003, school administrators (e.g. principal, IT director, security director) asked Central Data for help with improving the school's security and increasing network access for students and teachers. "There were really three parts to the solution we recommended," states Scott Nelson, the Central Data account manager for this project. "We had to install a wireless LAN [WLAN], wireless telephony equipment, and a digital surveillance system."
WLAN Improves Staff Communication, Internet Access
The WLAN served two purposes for the school. First, since ports on the school's wired network were becoming scarce, the WLAN offered administrators additional access to e-mail and attendance data (housed on an AS/400) and Internet access for students. As with most WLAN installations, this option was less expensive than running additional cabling. Forty Compaq Armada laptops equipped with Cisco Systems' NICs (network interface cards) all contained in two mobile carts were sold to the school for this part of the project.
The second purpose of the WLAN was to increase wireless communication for administrators throughout the school's campus. Previously, the teachers used walkie-talkies and some cellular phones to communicate when paroling school grounds.
"The school was built for level 3 to 5 hurricane standards," Nelson says. "That means thicker walls and more rebar were used, both of which interfere with radio signals. Consequently, the teachers had problems communicating inside and outside of the school grounds."
Central Data contacted Tech Data for the Cisco components of the WLAN. The integrator then installed 30 Cisco access points (a combination of Aironet 340, 350, 1100, and 1200 models) throughout the campus and equipped teachers with 12 SpectraLink wireless phones. The SpectraLink phones connect to the WLAN and replace the need for a teacher/administrator to carry both a walkie-talkie for in-school communication and a cellular phone for external communication. Teachers can also forward their classroom phones to the SpectraLink phones when out monitoring student activities.
"On average, the school was paying $722 per month to communicate with the cellular phones and walkie-talkies," states Nelson. "That meant the payback for the wireless telephony piece of this installation was about 18 months."
Eliminate Videotapes With Digital Surveillance
When school is not in session, the digital surveillance system takes over as the final part of this new total security solution. The school purchased Central Data's digital surveillance server (DSS) for storing and enabling access to images captured via analog or digital video cameras. Forty of these cameras (most of which were color Pelco models) were installed throughout the school and campus at all entrances, exits, parking lots, and hallways. "As compared to an analog (i.e. tape) surveillance system, the DSS eliminates the cost of videotapes, offers quicker image access, and is safer because information can't be lost by forgetting to switch tapes," Nelson says. The DSS also has a built-in e-mail server function that can immediately notify an administrator if a camera has sensed and recorded movement. The feature is useful during evening hours to prevent vandalism or trespassing.
Nelson says this was Central Data's first total security solution for a school. The company is currently using this $120,000 project as a showcase account when pitching to other schools. "It is a combination of technologies that we have been supporting for quite some time," concludes Nelson. "It was just a matter of packaging them all into a total solution."