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Barcode Readers

Carmen Manly Comments
Barcode Readers
A case study

By Carmen Manly

No two university campuses are alike. Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and State of New York (SUNY) Maritime College, in Bronx, N.Y., are rooted in the nation’s history. Each offers plenty of natural green spaces and attractive groupings of welcoming collegiate buildings, blending rich historic landmarks with contemporary designs. The commonality shared is a preoccupation with providing parking and security, while maintaining a hold on the good old hospitality.

Emory University has a 72-acre, walking campus that practices environmentally sustainable concepts. It offers curvilinear landscapes with a series of formal and informal walks set around the main campus. It has been ranked 18th best by U.S. News & World Report, from among 1,400 of the nation’s accredited universities. Chartered in 1836 by the Methodist Church when Georgia was primarily a wilderness, it’s located just 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta.

The college opened its doors September 17, 1838, with a class of 15 freshmen and sophomores. Today, records indicate an 11,800-student enrollment with 2,500 faculty members. It’s home to nine major academic divisions, numerous centers for advanced study, plus a host of prestigious affiliated institutions.

A transformation during the late 1900s clogged the campus with buildings, cars and population growth. A major modernization process, begun in 1998, focused on returning the main campus to the original greenway parkland. Shuttle buses were added to connect residential halls, parking decks and remote campuses, with the main academic buildings not only eliminating traffic, but also cutting back on parking space.

The University’s parking operations supervisor, Charles Raudonis, says while this approach stayed with the walking-campus idea, parking spaces became scarce. Soon, complaints surfaced of unauthorized parking. Security codes, hand transmitters and magnetic cards were apparently being loaned, lost or exchanged.

One smart and cost-effective solution taken at the Clairmont Campus, co-owned by University Housing and the Clairmont Campus, was to shift to a barcode reader and barcode decals. In 2001, four state-of-the-art graduate and undergraduate wings were built around two, new six-floor parking decks. Raudonis says security reasons led management’s decision to install a barcode reader. The system decodes a barcode decal attached to a car window, which triggers the gate. Such a significant switch also solved the unauthorized parking dilemma.

“Everybody who lives at the Clairmont Campus has a car,” Raudonis says. “With resident parking limited, the barcode system stopped the card swapping. It allows entry only to the registered students with decals. Once attached, it eliminates the possibility of them swapping cards.”

Derek Layton, the community and parking director at Clairmont Campus, says since the installation, the barcode readers have proven highly effective. “Both parking decks are full and people go in and out all day long. So the readers do a ton of work out here, especially during the academic year,” he says. “Since we have strict rules concerning how the decals are placed on a car window, swapping is not possible. Decals also make patrolling the decks easier and more efficient because we can identify unauthorized cars quickly.”

Ensuring Safety

A barcode reader also helped guards secure the SUNY Maritime checkpoint. The 55-acre, waterfront campus has a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline and the Long Island Sound, which extends to the Atlantic Ocean. Originally it was the site of Fort Schuyler, a massive stone-faced defense structure built in 1836. In 1874, SUNY Maritime College was established at the site, as the first New York Nautical School, aboard a second-hand sloop with 26 students aboard.

Today, the academic center occupies the entire peninsula with more than 1,500 cadets receiving nautical instructions in a setting of modern dining halls, residence halls, lecture halls, recreational and athletic facilities, and science and engineering laboratories. At pier-side, cadets can get hands-on experience on the Training Vessel Empire State VI, a 17,000 ton, 565-foot training ship that sails around the world during summer. Graduates move on to government, military, and private industry careers.

Ensuring safety at the college campus is the prime duty for the university police. Although the college population is less than Emory’s and parking is not an issue, the regimental campus maintains a high level of security control. During the 9/11 attack, students at SUNY Maritime College reportedly witnessed the unfolding events from shore. Later, the institute became homeport for a study by the New York Strategic Center for Port Security aimed against maritime terrorism. They offer a graduate degree in homeland security to prepare graduates as private security advisors.

The campus entry has a guardhouse and barcode reader authorization operating the gate. The perimeters are clearly defined for visitors who must check in with the guards. Once authorized, identified personnel with barcode decals attached on a car window can move through without stopping.

“There is only one way in and out and that is through the guardhouse checkpoint,” says Lt. Myron Pyrmak, the security director at the guardhouse. “The reader frees up the guards so they can check visitor and delivery IDs and assign day passes. The unit operates day and night, in hot or cold, without failing.”

Access-Control Specialist Jack Koff of Eastco Manufacturing Co., in Pelham, N.Y., says when SUNY Maritime College first met with him, he knew they were not a cookie-cutter installation. He considered customization, cost, long-term durability, reliability of working mechanical components, integrating components with existing systems and record retrieval. He then decided to introduce the concept of barcode readers and they liked it.

“The barcode decals with Maritime’s logo make it easy for staff to detect people who aren’t authorized to be in the area,” Koff says. “The system has been in place for nearly three years and, so far, operating expenses have been minimal. They are happy with the reader’s top performance.”

The Access-Control Alternative

When considering vehicle access-control equipment for gated communities or private parking areas, barcode technology is often overlooked. Barcode readers for access control were first pioneered more than 15 years ago and have continually improved over the years to give even better performance and reliability. One major advantage to a barcode system is increased traffic flow. Because vehicles are read automatically, they can move through the gate as quickly as it can open.

The basic system consists of two parts: the barcode reader, which is mounted near the gate, and the barcode decals, which are applied to vehicles or ID cards. The reader projects a beam of light from a laser diode in a vertical line. This laser line hits the decal and is reflected back to the reader, which analyzes and decodes the reflections to read the barcode.

Today’s barcode readers will read standard-size automatic vehicle identification (AVI) decals at a 6-foot distance in direct sunlight. Depending on the manufacturer, the maximum speed that a vehicle can pass by the reader varies between 10 mph to 25 mph. This relatively low vehicle speed is not a problem for most gated installations, since it is preferred that vehicles stop in front of the gate. The barcode decals and system components are compatible with access-control systems via Wiegand 26-bit output, or can connect to a computer security system via the RS232 interface.

General specifications require the reader be installed at least one car length before the gate. It doesn’t matter on which side of the road it’s mounted, as long as the barcode decals are placed on the same side. Some manufacturers also offers a standard mounting post that is intended to be used on a 6-inch curb or concrete mounting pad. It’s a heavy-duty modular system with internal temperature control, which unlike the RF-ID, is immune to interfering radio frequency. The manufacturer also offers retro-reflective barcode decals. The cost is about $3 each, compared to a $29 transmitter. The reader will reject photocopies. Most also feature a two-year basic warranty that can be upgraded by purchasing optional extended warranties that run up to five years from the date of purchase.

Rain or fog will not affect barcode readers until it’s impossible to physically see across the 6-foot reading distance. The decals have a waterproof adhesive backing that will last up to five years, making it hard to remove or steal. Once installed, regular maintenance on the equipment consists of cleaning the optics and reader window.

Carmen Manly is the public relations manager for Barcode Automation Inc., a Winter Springs, Fla., manufacturer of barcode systems for automatic vehicle identification and access control, offering products through a network of dealers and integrators nationwide. The BA-200 system provides the user a highly effective tool for managing right of entry into private or secured areas such as gated communities, military bases, parking lots, airports, hospitals or other sites requiring high standards of vehicle access control. The company has been in business since 1997, working with dealers and installers nationwide. For more information, call 800.528.9167; visit

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