IP video integration

Integrated at the Next Level

Physical security takes advantage of integrated solutions

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.

Piecemeal Integration

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.

Strengthening Communication

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.

Standard Play

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 devices.

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.

Reduced Costs

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 and expensive.

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 management service.

Seamless Scalability

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.

Beyond Security

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.

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