In summer 2013, The University of Colorado at Boulder, commonly referred to as CU-Boulder, completed its project to install 5,700 SALTO RFID locks, replacing their previous magnetic stripe locks throughout all of the University’s residence halls. SALTO Systems’ use of RFID technology (Mifare, NFC, Desfire EV1), its robust architecture, and its ease of use all combined to make SALTO the clear choice for the future of CU-Boulder’s residence halls.

Increased security awareness, aging infrastructure and pressure to cut operating costs are just some of the many reasons why schools, colleges and universities look to find new ways to enhance campus security.

Multi-purpose access control system

Student housing in particular is often a key area for upgrade. While each campus housing program is tailored to its individual location, many of the tasks it is required to perform are common across the country. These include assigning rooms, distributing keys, retrieving old keys and issuing new ones, and this can be a time consuming task that can involve large numbers of staff and lengthy waits for students. Then, there is the matter of lost keys and their associated costs which only adds to the workload.

Add to this, that older systems used a card that was just a standard key. Today that same card is now almost certainly going to be a student ID card as well as a room key, campus key, and be used for managing in-room energy usage, purchasing food, study supplies, bookstore supplies and riding the bus to class.

Being required to handle all this, plus providing facility management (remote lock/unlock, scheduling, access rights) requires a more modern approach to security. It needs an increasingly multi-layered approach that can maximize overall security now, while providing flexible future proof technology that will deliver lasting dollar value for the years ahead.

An example of such a multi-purpose access control system installation can now be seen at the University of Colorado Boulder, which has just completed installation of some 3,900 SALTO RFID XS4 keypad locks and 1,800 non- keypad locks.

Time to upgrade technology

CU-Boulder is the flagship of the four-campus University of Colorado System, which also includes the University of Colorado Denver, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and University of Colorado Springs. Situated on one of the most spectacular campuses in the country, it offers approximately 3,600 courses in 150 fields of study in arts and sciences, business, education, engineering, environmental design, journalism, law and music.

There are currently 26 residence halls on campus at CU- Boulder. The residence hall room types range from singles to four person rooms and others with apartment style amenities. Along with that, there are some rooms that have more amenities than others, including a full bathroom and/or a kitchen. The majority of the students living in the residence halls are freshmen, but any year student can live on campus. There are several communities of residence halls located throughout the campus and in a separate area called Williams Village, which is connected to the main campus via the local bus transit service.

SALTO XS4 keypad locks can handle up to 64,000 doors and 4,000,000 users on a single system
SALTO Systems were selected for its use of RFID technology, robust architecture, and ease of use

With this in mind, CU-Boulder’s existing magnetic stripe door access system used in the student residence halls was aging and the university wanted to move their locking systems to newer, more secure RFID card technology. A program was initiated by HDS Information Technology Department to evaluate alternative solutions that could offer them both the higher levels of security that they wanted as well as the encrypted RFID technology that could be leveraged for their transit system and other uses on campus.


Larry Drees, Assistant Director HDS Information Technology at CU-Boulder says, “Having used a mix of magnetic stripe door access systems as well as keypad and PIN enabled locks as a part of our residence room standard for many years; we wanted to upgrade our technology, but still have something that was easy to manage.  

“Our residence halls are busy places with high traffic areas, so any replacement locking system would have to be robust. Encrypted RFID technology was an important requirement for us, but we also wanted something that was reliable and easy to install. Also, we wanted our new system to be capable of integration with our Ecopass transit system and our campus Software House's C-Cure 9000 access control system within the next 12-24 months. In addition, we were impressed with the variety of locking hardware options giving us additional levels of security on a case by case basis while still being capable of management within a single system.

After many months of reviewing the options currently on the market, we settled on SALTO’s XS4 solution as the locking system that could give us the functionality and technology options we wanted, at a standalone off-line locking system price point. The ability to transfer information to and from the lock via an RFID card is also something we think will be helpful in managing these locks over the long term.”

Planning and installation

“Ensuring the safety of students and their assets in residence accommodation is always a high priority,” confirms Tim Moreno, Western Region Sales Manager for SALTO Systems. “Looking at the layout of the campus and the position of the various residence halls, we assessed usage and the level of security required and then worked with Larry and his team to design and subsequently install a highly secure and flexible networked access control system to meet all the needs of the university.”

The solution chosen was the SALTO XS4 keypad lock which is designed to provide increased levels of security and control for doors where extra security may be required. It offers users a choice of multiple security authentication methods to control access including RFID smart cards (DESFire EV1 smart cards at CU-Boulder), combined use of a PIN (Personal Identification Number) code + smart card or a separate keypad code.

The lock can be operated in 3 modes; smart card only, pin code + smart card or keypad code only. With standard smart card mode, the lock is locked at all times until opened with the student’s key card that has access rights to that room.

"Controlling access and securing our residence buildings is crucial. We now have 26 residence halls and 3 administrative support buildings using SALTO locks", says Larry Drees, Assistant Director HDS Information Technology at CU-Boulder

When using pin code + card mode, each student has their own personal code. Typically, this is used where extra security and dual authentication (presenting both a card and typing in the pin code) are needed, and students can have up to an 8-digit pin code.

In keypad code only mode, the lock itself has an access code that is used for student authentication. Every student that goes through that door knows the keypad code. When two students share the same residence room, they are the only ones that know the keypad code of that room, and again, students can have up to an 8-digit keypad code.

“The university also plans to install the SALTO solution into the lobbies controlling the private secure areas of the halls,” Moreno says, “and from a management point of view the XS4 keypad locks can handle up to 64,000 doors and 4,000,000 users on a single system, with each individual lock recording the last 1,000 audit trail events at that door in its memory.”


Larry Drees summarizes, “Controlling access and securing our residence buildings is crucial. We now have 26 residence halls and 3 administrative support buildings using SALTO locks. At this point, we are keeping our system setup pretty simple. Most doors are student rooms which are locked 24/7, and we do not use the calendar features of the system to any great extent at this time. We also plan to work with SALTO to improve the user interface so we can restrict functionality at a more granular level.

Now that the system has been implemented, we’re pretty satisfied with the quality and efficiency of the product. Besides helping us move closer to the university’s vision for utilizing RFID technology, the new system also leverages this technology while helping us meet our goal to provide a safe and secure environment for our students.”

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