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Digital Workspace Unified Communications
5 minute read

Innovating Physical Security in Higher Ed Using Smart Cameras

WWT experts discuss how Meraki Cameras were the best option for a higher education customer looking to centralize campus surveillance, reduce supporting infrastructure and eliminate shadow IT.

In This Article

Physical surveillance is extremely important to higher education institutions which have a great deal of responsibility in always protecting their students and staff on campus. Many institutions struggle to combat shadow IT and growing infrastructure costs to maintain optimal surveillance platforms. Simplifying, centralizing, and securing these systems provides immense value for all customers but especially for the education vertical. 

WWT helped a higher education customer thoroughly evaluate multiple physical surveillance systems, identify pros and cons, and fully account for implementation and ongoing support costs for said systems. The customer evaluated legacy systems with NVR/DVR as well as various cloud surveillance options. Ultimately, legacy systems priced themselves out and the customers final decision came down to Verkada or Meraki. WWT was able to help the customer setup a side-by-side comparison of the two technologies and help them to determine which was the best fit for their specific requirements.

I interviewed Justin Graham, a WWT Consulting Systems Engineer focused on SLED customers, who helped the customer design, test, evaluate, and overcome technical and operational challenges to finalize this surveillance solution. 

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SLED expert Q&A

Kait: Justin, take us back to the beginning, who was determined to be the final decision maker and how did things get started with the customer?
Justin: The key decision maker was the director of infrastructure services. And he was able to lay out the problems they were having with their existing setup and identify future requirements for us. 
Initially, when we were working with the customer, they let us know that they had an issue with campus security being able to provide surveillance across the entire campus. They had multiple different systems in use by different departments with some shadow IT occurring in different areas. They wanted a system that would allow them to cover the entire campus with one centralized platform.

Kait: Disparate systems and shadow IT tend to be very common in the physical surveillance space. It sounds like the customer had a strong focus on finding a system that would allow them to centralize management and get into a singular platform?
Justin: Yeah, a single approach for the whole campus - really a single, centralized platform was the main requirement. They did look at having offsite storage and an ability to have their video stored in a different location. While they did not want all the storage on campus, they also did not want mega over head with the storage either.

Meraki Smart Camera cloud storage message

Kait: Ok, so we're helping the customer evaluate different platforms and approaches, were there any technical obstacles that we ran into?
Justin: Initially, some obstacles were trying to figure out what solution would work best. The customer looked at systems with NVRs/DVRs and other on-prem hardware. But the overall cost of implementation and the ongoing management of those systems was determined to be far too costly to continue moving forward with. The customer ultimately decided on a Meraki Smart Camera solution, and the part of the Meraki solution that really caught their attention was being able to do the on-prem and cloud storage as needed. They really liked the flexibility of being able to choose which cameras needed the cloud storage and which did not.

Kait: Once they realized that a traditional on-prem solution was going to be too costly, did they compare Meraki to any other similar cloud systems?
Justin: Yes, they were also looking at Verkada alongside Meraki. We were able to help them do an apples-to-apples comparison and really uncover the differences between the 2 solutions. In the end, the customer really preferred the Meraki features and functionality. They also liked overall look and feel of the management dashboard much better, as well as the fact that Meraki has an additional physical surveillance portal for users that only need camera access and do not need management access. 

Kait: It sounds like we were able to help them really think through the business processes that each systems’ features would align to and help them make the decision that best suited them. I know we provided a demo to the customer, when we showed the Meraki capabilities and how to take full advantage of the system, what was their feedback?
Justin: They were extremely impressed. We gathered both our main contact in infrastructure services, as well as all the other key stakeholders and presented the solution to them. They were impressed with the technical capabilities as well as the depth of knowledge that WWT was able to provide really. 
The customer was able to see how the feature sets would truly help them reduce time and cost during investigations, and again, the flexibility to choose which cameras would do onsite storage and which cameras would have cloud storage really helped seal the deal. 

Smart Camera person recognition

Kait: Alright, last question… I know the customers plan includes a long-term roll out, but how are the initial phases of the deployment going?
Justin: Things are going well, the customer is very happy. A couple hundred cameras have been deployed and the customer is really impressed. Outcomes are aligning with their expectations, and it has been a really great experience for them
They do have plans to do a slow roll out but once that roll out is complete, we will help them start to evaluate what types of advanced analytics they can grow into with this solution. 

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Conclusion

Higher Education institutions have a responsibility to protect their staff and students. To effectively accomplish this, they require innovative physical surveillance platforms. WWT's experience in evaluating systems, offering scalable solutions and recommending platforms that can enable future enhancements help our education customers choose the solution that is best for them. Request a briefing for more information, or try out our lab