Security: A $3 Million Investment in Electronics

At a press conference Wednesday, officials from Penn and the Sensormatic Electronics Corporation--described as the world's largest security firm--announced a $3 million program for technological innovations to increase control over access to Penn residential and classroom buildings, and for monitoring selected areas on and near campus. It is part of a longer-term security plan that will interface with school and center needs that are being studied separately.

"We have been working with Sensormatic for over a year on a long-term security strategy," said Executive Vice President John Fry, who joined the company's Steve Hall in the announcement.

Penn's present Blue Light Phone system (see map), already scheduled for expansion, dovetails with the Sensormatic system. The $3 million contract also includes the design of a central command and control center for University security, in two phases--starting at the current site in Superblock and expanding when the University Police move to a new location in the 40th Street area.

Blue Light Phone upgrades are scheduled to start by November 1, with 66 to be added. And, said Tom Seamon, managing director of safety and security, the new phones are self-reporting, so that if a phone is out of order a signal is received at the command post.

Closed-circuit television monitoring and programmable video cameras are key items in the new system. Selected phones will be monitored by video cameras so that when the receivers are lifted, command center staff can see on-screen what kind of assistance a caller needs, such as ambulance or police. Videotape recordings from these cameras can also provide evidence in court, Mr. Seamon said.

Questioned by a community reporter about the "big brother" aspect of video surveillance, Mr. Seamon replied that such surveillance is already part of the city scene, with not only banks and ATMs monitored by such methods, but with some 200 devices now on the streets in Center City. They are even more common in European cities, he added.

To another question--on the cost of the program and reliance on devices as deterrents--Mr. Seamon pointed to a higher cost in infinitely increasing personnel.

In residence halls, the present card entry device can be superseded by one that matches a multipurpose identification card's electronic strip with a "hand geometry reader" to ensure that the card belongs to the person using it.

Sensormatic used some of these devices this year in Atlanta, where it was the Official Electronic Security Supplier for the Centennial Summer Olympics. The 28-year-old firm, which until about ten years ago was known primarily for the tag used in retail stores to prevent theft of clothing, is now the leader in the electronic security field with some 6000 employees in 70 countries on five continents. Its client list includes not only a roster of Fortune 500 companies, but also Florida State, Virginia Commonwealth, and Stanford Universities, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin, and other educational institutions.

"We have partnered with Sensormatic not only because of its enormous experience in the corporate sector," said President Judith Rodin in a statement issued before the press conference, "but also its success with many prominent universities throughout the country."


Volume 43 Number 8
October 15, 1996

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