Integrated at the Next Level
Physical security takes advantage of integrated solutions
- By Jumbi Edulbehram, Peter Jankowski
- Mar 01, 2010
The wise philosopher Aristotle said, "The whole is greater
than the sum of its parts." This certainly holds true when
it comes to security systems.
Traditionally, security systems have been composed of
a variety of separate pieces: cameras, DVRs, access control
devices and alarms, among others. Each of these devices
is a critical component of a robust security infrastructure.
But in traditional security systems, these subsystems operate
by themselves, without the ability to connect to the other products. Without
the ability to communicate and share information, critical security incidents or
information may be overlooked, resulting in security hazards and lapses.
In order to address the shortcomings of traditional security systems, integrators
and manufacturers have developed piecemeal solutions by creating interfaces between
devices. When these interfaces are used, separate subsystems can work in
conjunction. For example, events from an access control system—such as a door
being forced open—can be transmitted to the VMS system, which could then display
video associated with the camera focused on that door.
While such interfaces enable users to get more information from their security
system, there are drawbacks. First, the separate subsystems have to be configured
independently and then interfaced, which increases complexity. There also is no
common database structure, which means gathering information out of the combined
system usually involves separate efforts. While some information can be exchanged,
a majority of the potentially rich functionality of each subsystem cannot
be leveraged through a common interface.
Secondly, supporting solutions that are integrated piece by piece is difficult and
costly, and multiple manufacturers and integrators may be involved due to the development
of customized software. Therefore, the solutions can be potentially costly
since each of the systems may require unique or independent infrastructure.
Interfacing can be done physically—using alarm inputs or dry contacts—or
logically, by using software interfaces, such as SDKs and APIs. While integration
at the software level can achieve a higher level of integrated functionality, it requires
more expertise, has longer lead times and must be continuously monitored
to keep the different systems/applications compatible.
A security system enables the protection of people and assets, but its success depends
on getting the right information to the right people in time to prevent a
potentially dangerous breach. As the industry moves away from traditional analog
infrastructures to networked IP infrastructures, the process of transmitting data to
the right parties, such as operators or guards, becomes easier and faster.
There are numerous advantages to choosing IP over traditional analog technology,
such as real-time monitoring of video from any location, including remote
monitoring of numerous cameras from a single site or remote management of
access systems; higher quality images; encryption of data for security purposes;
integration of intelligence; and savings in infrastructure and operational costs. The
use of IP-based security products also enables a convergence of the security and
IT departments within a business' operational structure, furthering costs savings
and risk reduction.
An IMS Research report released in November 2009 states that the market for
IP video surveillance is growing rapidly, with the global growth rate exceeding 15
percent in 2009. Meanwhile, the market for analog equipment remained flat. The
growth of the networked video market is being boosted by the fact that IP devices
are becoming more feature-rich and costs are coming down.
IP networks can and should be leveraged by customers who have multiple
facilities that need to be managed centrally. But installing new networked infrastructure
is an expensive proposition—one that is generally undertaken by large
customers with large budgets. Complete digital solutions are an ideal option
for new buildings or high-end installations, but smaller customers need ways
to optimize the use of their existing infrastructure and take full advantage of
IP networks while staying within budget.
The integration of IP-based security technologies also has challenges, since one
manufacturer's products may not work with another without customized software.
But groups such as the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance and the Open
Video Network Interface Forum are working diligently to develop specifications
that will help ease the integration burden on today's manufacturers and break
down the proprietary protocols that have defined the security market for years.
PSIA's 1.0 API Media Device specification enables interoperability between disparate
video products, and ONVIF's specification defines a common protocol for
the exchange of information between network video devices, including automatic
device discovery, video streaming and intelligence metadata.
These video-focused interfaces for IP devices will make it easier for system integrators
to offer cost-effective solutions to customers, enable end users to select
best-in-class IP security products, regardless of brand, and increase market opportunities
for manufacturers of IP-enabled solutions as products can be easily
integrated with others. In addition, specifications are being developed that reach
beyond video, which will enable separate subsystems, such as access control and
video, to integrate easily.
Integrated Networked Solutions
Although advancements are being made to integrate different subsystems, a security
system that is designed from the bottom up as an integrated and networked—
yet cost-effective—solution truly takes physical security to the next level. These
solutions, which minimize issues with integration and leverage the power of the
network, should combine video management, video analytics, intrusion detection
and access control into a single platform.
These intelligent platforms include a highly intuitive user interface, providing
operators with all pertinent alert and alarm-based information at their fingertips.
The UI—accessed through an Internet browser—should present information from
multiple subsystems in an integrated manner and enable the operator to easily access
correlated events from video, access control and other systems, making them
easy to search and report on. The use of a touchscreen interface, rather than a
mouse, makes the UI easier to operate, since users are already familiar with such interfaces, like on the iPhone.
VMS functionality is one of the most critical components of this integrated,
networked security solution. VMS offers virtual matrix displays of multiple cameras
and the ability to automatically highlight a particular camera during an event.
It enables users to access live video from any camera by simply pointing to the
camera on a map and play recorded video from one or multiple cameras at various
speeds based on timestamps, bookmarks or particular events. It also is able to control
all camera features, such as PTZ, tours, presets, frame rates and resolutions.
But to be considered a truly open and integrated platform, it should incorporate
standards-based protocols, such as those offered by PSIA and ONVIF, and
various compression standards, including H.264, MPEG-4 and MPEG. Networking
protocols—TCP/IP, IPv4 and v6, UDP—security and authentication—802.1x,
HTTPS—and auto-discovery/provisioning—DHCP, DynaDNS—also are critical.
Access control functionality should be completely integrated with the video
management system, sharing the same events database. This enables access events
to be correlated with video, which is essential not only for detecting certain events
such as tailgating or piggybacking, but also for the ability to generate consolidated
reports on information from the different systems.
In an integrated, networked system, video analytics also should be an integral
core function. The power of analytics—people counting, entry and exit monitoring,
tripwire, loitering and object left behind—is enhanced when generated events
are correlated with those from other functions, such as access control. For example,
video analytics has the capability to identify a tailgating event that would
then be communicated to the access control system, generating the appropriate
alarm. The function also can be useful for gathering information used for business
analysis, compliance, operations and resource allocation. A bank could use people
counting to identify the number of customers that enter a branch within a two-hour
time period to determine appropriate staffing levels.
For facilities that have existing alarm systems, it is essential that operators are
able to gain access through the unified interface. Since most alarm systems are
monitored by third-party alarm monitoring companies at central stations, it also is
necessary to have a level of integration with the central station. Then, when intrusion
alarms are generated, the central station operators can leverage the integrated
security platform onsite to correlate the alarm with other information from the
access control and video systems.
The integration of these subsystems into a single device combines performance,
sophistication and functionality of enterprise-class security systems into a single
package that should be easy to configure, flexible, scalable and cost-effective.
Ease of Installation
In traditional systems, achieving a high level of integration and functionality is an
expensive and time-consuming proposition. An integrated, networked system, like
the one previously described, is much easier to deploy, installation costs are low
and the mistakes that result from complicated deployments are minimized.
Auto discovery. The system should automatically discover necessary components
or devices on the network, such as access controllers, cameras or other IPbased
Auto configuration. It should easily plug into existing networks and be designed
to work within the user's network environment with minimal configuration. Once
plugged in, the system is automatically detected and ready for remote management.
This level of automation in network configuration makes it very easy for
security installers that may have limited networking knowledge.
Traditional security systems have a relatively high cost of ownership over their
lifespan since they require ongoing maintenance of disparate equipment and software. A system that is built around an integrated network appliance is relatively
easy to maintain and has a lower cost of ownership over its lifespan. In systems
that have been integrated after the fact, different components—especially software
versions—can become incompatible, making the maintenance of the system arduous
Traditional systems for access control and video surveillance are built around
applications that run on specific configurations of hardware and software. For
example, a version of VMS software will only run on a particular version of Windows
on a computer with a particular hardware configuration. This leads to additional
costs since different hardware and software configurations may become
incompatible in the future. To avoid these issues, advanced applications run on
browsers—such as Internet Explorer and Firefox—making them independent of
the operating system and hardware configurations.
These intelligent networked solutions also can be remotely managed, which
is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses that do not have the manpower to
allocate employees to manage the system. This option, offered for a monthly fee,
automatically synchronizes new devices and upgrades software through a central
As a customer's security needs grow, the system accommodates growth through
seamless scalability. When additional edge devices are added, it automatically recognizes
them and incorporates them intelligently into the system. For example, a
new camera is automatically configured with parameters already set for existing
cameras. Or when a new access point is added, it is automatically configured with
the same permission levels as the other points.
The addition of sensors, including cameras, should be achieved in an intelligent
manner, so there is minimal disruption to the system. This is critical in security since
shutting down the system could result in a breach. Unlike more traditional systems,
the addition of computing resources at the back-end is achieved in a way that has
minimal impact on operations. The system does not need to be shut down when additional
appliances are added, making changes transparent to the end user.
There is a growing demand for integrated networked security systems to have the
capability to integrate with other systems, such as HVAC, fire alarms, lighting controls
and HR databases. This adds additional value by helping to solve traditional
business problems. When the networked system is integrated to building management,
it can reduce energy costs. An ideal example is an employee's office lights
and computer turn on when they swipe their security badges at the front door in
the morning and are turned off when they swipe on the way out. Linking HR and
an integrated networked security system ensures that access to company facilities
is synchronized with personnel moves, without manual intervention.
Today's end users are increasingly requesting solutions that leverage the benefits of the IP network and integrate multiple devices. These solutions need to be
cost effective, feature rich and easy to use. They should combine the performance,
sophistication and functionality of an enterprise-class security system into a compact,
integrated package. In sum, the integration of access control, video management,
video analytics and intrusion detection into a single package is a more effective
security solution that enhances the overall
security of an organization.