Yale spearheads security overhaul

The completion of Evans Hall marked not only a significant leap for the School of Management’s educational experience, but also launched a campus security overhaul poised to fortify safety across University grounds.

Among the many amenities at Evans Hall, which opened its doors on Jan. 13, is the cutting-edge Symmetry security system, developed by California-based AMAG Technology. At its core, Symmetry is a software application that centralizes the many functions of building security, including access control, identity management and alarm management.

Additionally, 120 proximity card readers and 100 cameras were installed in the building to complete the University’s most intricate, building-wide surveillance package. Similar upgrades are set to take place in every other campus building within the next few years, University officials said, with the new SOM building serving as the initial testing ground.

“We purchased the old access system many years ago, and it is reaching the end of its life,” said Janet Lindner, associate vice president for administration. “Our old system is held together with glue and paper clips, so we are delighted to be implementing the new, more advanced system. We’ve had recent examples that the old system is obsolete, with a few breakdowns — and this reinforces the need to replace the access control system, particularly in the residential college areas, in which students need 24/7 access.”

Lindner added that the level of security on campus varies from building to building, and the relevant department decides how accessible each building will be. Laboratories and other workspaces, for example, are among the areas that most often require key-card access, while other buildings are consistently open to the public, she said.

AMAG’s website, which contains a case study profile on the firm’s partnership with the University, reveals that the former security system was implemented in the 1990s, and that after it became clear that it was outdated, a lengthy planning and design process preceded the installation.

“It took over eight months of research to find a cost effective and forward thinking approach to change the current system,” the profile reads. “Symmetry fit that plan and 10 more buildings have been converted with little to no disruption to the Yale community. Over the course of five years, the whole campus is to be converted to the new system.”

Associate Director of Security Project Management Dave Nevins said Symmetry’s compatibility with existing infrastructure was a large reason that the University chose to work with AMAG for this project.

Lindner agreed it was important that the process go smoothly without disrupting students, noting that installation mainly involves replacing card-readers around campus, as opposed to massive equipment changes that would have been more “cumbersome, expensive and frustrating.”

A product description on AMAG’s website promotes the streamlined interface of the program, claiming that Symmetry is compatible with buildings of any type or size. Add-ons like video and hardware are also available to help the University tailor the system to the building in question. This flexibility, according to Nevins, was another major factor in Yale’s decision to hire AMAG, which has also worked with the United States Department of Defense to outfit the Pentagon.

Nevins added that the greatest value of a cutting-edge security system lies in its ability to digitize information, eliminating the risk that keys fall into the wrong hands, for example.

“Building security is extremely important in that it protects against crime, loss of assets and more importantly helps provide for a safe and secure environment for the building’s occupants,” said Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Steven Woznyk.

Evans Hall takes up 242,000 square feet of space on Whitney Avenue.

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