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Equipment Security for Classroom Technology

Jan 21, 2009 12:00 PM, By Linda Seid Frembes

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Secure projector in a classroom

It is an unfortunate fact that theft of AV equipment is a constant concern, especially for schools that have installed integrated classroom AV systems. Equipment that must be in plain view to operate—such as projectors, flatpanel displays, and loudspeakers—are often targeted as high-theft items. "As we are putting in more smart rooms, security issues have become even more important. As the number of installations increases, unfortunately, so does the potential and opportunity for loss." says Michael Field, senior technical support specialist at Temple University in Philadelphia. "Sometimes small items are taken by accident and the person will bring the equipment back once they realize they took it by mistake."

Temple University takes a tiered approach to their classroom equipment security—from visible deterrents such as cables and locks to less visible security such as a contact closure wired to a silent alarm that alerts staff and campus police, and regular monitoring by Classroom Technology Staff with AMX's Resource Management Suite classroom manager. "There are also staff members who make regular rounds in each area," Field says.

Because some rooms don't have installed equipment, portable carts are still in use at Temple. Portable equipment on a cart is tied down with cables and locks at all times, and it is a priority for staff members to be there to collect the cart once the class is over. Field says that cart usage decreases each year because each revision of Temple's five-year plan includes more smart classrooms.

Equipment security is a constant concern for Malcolm Montgomery, president of EduTech Consulting Services in Cincinnati. As an educational technology consultant, he includes equipment security in all of his smart-classroom designs. During his 28 years at the University of Cincinnati (he retired in 2006), he saw a rise in theft as the university installed more fixed equipment in the classroom.

"Some schools have less of an issue with theft, like my current client that is a seminary graduate school in a remote area," Montgomery says. "The other end of the spectrum is an open campus in a city setting. The bigger problem is professional thieves who hit the school and take lots of equipment at one time. We had installed 15 remodeled classrooms at the University, and thieves came and took seven to eight projectors over the next holiday weekend."

Montgomery adds that the best approach to the problem of theft is two-fold: make the equipment hard to steal, and make the equipment less attractive and therefore less profitable to the thief. "Projectors are high-theft items because they are small and light," he says. "They need to be physically secured via steel aircraft cable to a permanent part of the building. Almost all projectors have a Kensington slot where the cable slides through it. You can also invest in projector mounts that have security screws, but most have heads that fit tools you can buy at any AV shop. To slow down thieves, you can use a variety of head types in the same hang."

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