Achieving Integrated Security Excellence

Achieving Integrated Security Excellence

In lean times, system convergence can help businesses do more with less

With the number of IT devices used in businesses today growing rapidly, organizations are seeking solutions that not only reduce risk and secure property and staff, but also offer IT and security convergence for maximum protection of people and property across buildings systems. In addition to these considerations, today’s security directors face less-than-favorable economic conditions that have caused many U.S. companies to cut capital and operational expenditures across the board.

With the expectation to do more with less, many companies and organizations are considering integrated security systems that unite all components of a security infrastructure over the corporate network to deliver a single, intelligent solution that provides clear, real-time information. With this interface, security staff can quickly and accurately analyze information and respond to events through an efficient operational model, creating a more secure business environment.

Why Integrated Building Systems?

There are many factors driving the uptick in demand for integrated security systems, including the fact that emerging building management systems and operational components now inherently possess technology and therefore already require a certain level of IT management. Also, with rising energy costs and corporate sustainability taking center stage, facilities managers are looking at methods of creating more-intelligent buildings.

One such method of achieving more streamlined, standardized operations and energy-efficiency within buildings consists of moving to a converged model, where maintenance, IT and security departments can merge functions such as access control, video surveillance, heating and cooling, lighting, energy management, power management and IT room management to deliver further savings and efficiencies to the facilities and IT departments.

However, for many organizations considering implementing an integrated buildings solution within their facility or multiple campus buildings, this task can seem like a tall order, especially in existing buildings that have multiple sets of disparate infrastructure in place.

As recently as the late 1990s and early 2000s, security command centers were commonly constructed to operate in silos in order to protect information. Also, because processor power and computing system memory were often limited, multiple controllers were necessary to support several areas of security. This approach created a model in which each day-to-day operation— access control, video surveillance, intercom exchange, intrusion detection and biometric enrollment—required its own user interface, reporting process and audit trail, which requires significant capital and operational investment to operate and maintain.

Creating an Effective Integrated Security Model

To help address the complexity organizations often face when pursuing integrated security systems for their buildings, Schneider Electric opened a Customer Solution Center (CSC) in Dallas in late 2009. The CSC was designed by Schneider Electric’s Security Center of Excellence (CoE), a group of security specialists in integrated solutions. Through the Security CSC, Schneider Electric provides information, live demonstrations and expertise about IP convergence with security and building managers to create a solution for each individual organization’s needs with commercial, off-the-shelf components.

In engaging with the Security CoE and visiting the CSC, organizations can understand how an integrated system would function and affect processes in their building through hands-on virtual demonstrations of the processes and technologies involved.

At the center, both potential and current customers can experience how a security scenario that relates to their current needs would play out in the real world. Through this demo, a customer can understand how each part of an overall security system functions, including the daily tasks of security personnel, back-office processing, administrative functions and how all security technologies tie together to form a complete system.

For example, a large telecom customer that already had a building management system and card access system recently visited the Security CSC. There, the company learned how it could complement its existing systems with an IP-based intercom that ties into its manned command center. In the demonstration, the intercom was mounted at an unmanned facility’s front door. When a contractor was not able to gain access to the facility, he was able to contact the command center through the intercom, which also activated video, and the representative at the command center was able to access all three kinds of security information from one screen and grant access while speaking with the visitor in real time.

In the past, these systems would have resided on separate platforms and would have to be accessed individually, one at a time. The demonstration showed how an integrated security system could generate efficiencies, especially for large command centers that need to respond to numerous access requests at any given moment.

In addition, organizations that engage with the Security CoE also have supplementary opportunities to receive training not only on integrated security systems but also in other general energy competency areas such as HVAC and energy management. These courses, which enable organizations to learn about current and future opportunities to make the most of their security and energy solutions, are available in Dallas; North Andover, Mass., and Rockford, Ill. Several courses also are offered online for those unable to travel.

Solution Best Practices

After the solution is installed in a building, Security CoE professionals continue to work with security and facilities organizations to ensure successful implementation of their new integrated security system. Through this experience, Schneider Electric’s staff has found that this process is typically much easier for employees to adapt to than other system installations because they have to train on only one common, simplified platform. However, there are common areas in which Schneider recommends customers maintain best practices to prevent common issues, including:

  • Make sure you’re performing day-to-day maintenance such as backing up your database to ensure there is no loss of critical information. This is a simple process that often is overlooked until data has been lost.
  • Work with the IT and facilities departments to measure and provide key information on how the building is operating through the integrated system. With this information, the security, IT and facilities teams can come together to identify opportunities for additional energy/operational savings and make adjustments to processes accordingly.
  • Adjust your security system to work for you. In the beginning, your new software may be generating alarms that are not necessary to your security staff. Identify which alarms have the highest priority, and modify your system’s preferences to reflect this information. This allows your security personnel to focus on and respond to the alarms most critical to your organization.

Looking Forward

By implementing an integrated system, security and facility managers can better protect their organizations from risk, property theft and workplace violence, and they can minimize response time to incidents in a more efficient manner. They also have an opportunity to create a more sustainable business operating model that reduces capital and operational expenditures.

Because organizations continually seek to mature and get the most out of their security systems, buildings professionals at Schneider Electric have been assisting security departments to extend their integrated security software to accomplish security-related tasks that, until now, were not possible or being underused. Using actionable data generated by integrated security software that shares an IP-based IT backbone drives even more efficiency, sustainability and operational effectiveness while decreasing human error. This, of course, generates a favorable ROI.

Training allows organizations to learn how to converge infrastructure components in innovative ways. For example, one customer is using the security system to manage a pneumatic tube system in a medical facility to ensure medicine is delivered to the correct, authorized recipient.

There is no doubt that creating a converged system model offers security organizations numerous benefits in reducing threats to their overall business. However, in order to make the most of the system to achieve security goals, meet regulations and maximize integration efforts, it is crucial to properly understand how security convergence can work in your facility to ensure your security model is as effective as it can possibly be. By continuing to work with experienced professionals in the field of integrated building systems, you will also be able to identify new ways to use your system to achieve additional operational excellence.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Security Today.


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