Being Bold

Being Bold

Redefining the role of commercial security providers

Interface Security Systems (ISS) is a cloud-based managed security services provider. The company integrates network and security needs into one platform, with the goal of being a singlevendor source for their customer’s needs.

Through its Secure Managed Broadband Service, Interface provides a PCI compliant private network to connect POS systems, credit card authorizations, inventory, security, VoIP and WiFi. Interface also integrates intrusion detection, fire safety, access control and video surveillance to create one aggregate network for a more complete, secure and economical solution. The company’s expertise spans many different business categories including retail, restaurant, hospitality and convenience stores.

Bundling Security

ISS’s unparalleled security services bundle is deployed by many of the top brands in the country, including Dollar General, Michael’s Craft Stores, Applebee’s and GameStop.

The company started as a small commercial security monitoring company in 1995. By 2001, it had grown to become one of the top 20 security companies in the country (based on industry rankings). In 2002, Interface began using the Manitou alarm monitoring software from Bold Technologies to handle its alarm monitoring services.

Always thinking forward, the executive team at Interface identified an emerging trend, which was the convergence of internet protocol and information technology with security applications. The team recognized that “the combination of physical security (buildings) and logical security (network and computer technologies) would redefine the role of commercial security providers.”

In anticipation of this trend, Interface acquired Loss Prevention Management - a company that had developed a private, secure-managed, wide area broadband network. Interface integrated LPM’s IP infrastructure and network operations center into Interface’s secure operations center, which created a unified platform from which to deliver IP-based physical security services over a PCI compliant, private secure managed broadband network.

Beginning with the acquisition of LPM, a service company that provisioned and managed wide-area networks for multi-site organizations, Interface’s vision to deliver a highly innovative IP services bundle with both physical security and logical security created some unique challenges. A pillar of Interface’s secure operations center was the Manitou alarm monitoring platform.

Traditional physical security data (burglar, fire and open/closes) was managed through the Manitou platform and the Interface team was confident in the Manitou solution; however, Interface was now managing various, non-traditional, products and services that were not monitored in Manitou. As part of the managed services bundle, Interface was monitoring multiple functions of their broadband services including router status, primary circuit status, and VPN tunnel status, among others.

“These services and devices were, at the time, being monitored by Help Desk representatives using separate tools and applications open on multiple screens,” said Dan Reynolds, senior vice president of customer operations at Interface. “We had to streamline the process to make it more efficient.” The Interface team knew from the start that the solution was to integrate these nontraditional signals into their Manitou alarm monitoring platform.

Addressing the Needs

The teams at Interface Security Systems and Bold Technologies worked together to find a solution to address ISS’s needs. Together, they determined that data from the different systems and devices must be interpreted by Manitou similar to traditional alarm events, and processed using the Action Pattern functionality within Manitou. Action Patterns deliver step-by-step instructions on how to handle an alarm and ensure consistency. Delivering the data from multiple systems into Manitou would allow Interface to process all information through one system and provide detailed instructions to their dispatchers on how to manage each event. These discussions led to the development of Bold Technologies’ UniversalConnector.

The UniversalConnector was designed to convert signals from non-traditional transmissions into regular signals that are processed by Manitou. The UniversalConnector can take data from a variety of sources including SMS, email, ODBC database tables, FTP, TCP, GPRS, RSS, UDP and simple files. In the case of Interface’s broadband services, any “change of state” data was being stored on a MySQL database, so the UniversalConnector took the data from the appropriate ODBC database table and delivered that data into Manitou.

The implementation of this solution was a matter of determining how the signals would be translated into Manitou. The software had to interpret the incoming data, whether it was a primary circuit status changing from up to down, or a network latency signal presenting as an email. The data needed to be presented in way so Manitou could decipher it and create an alarm event to be actioned. Bold’s development team found the solution by using datamaps to organize the information for Manitou to read.

A datamap is used to determine which database fields from Manitou are to be populated from the available information. Each piece of data is mapped into a specific field, such as date/time, transmitter ID, event code, etc. In the case of email notifications, the datamap organizes the data including the subject, date and time, email body, and attachments into separate database fields to be read by Manitou. Once the datamaps were completed for Interface, the data from the different types of broadband services were then sent into Manitou and presented as alarm events.

Controlling the Events

In order to control these broadband alarm events both globally and separately from other alarm activity processed in Manitou, Interface set up a UniversalConnector receiver at the administrative level, and created a set of unique event categories and unique event codes for each of the new signal types. The event codes were set up with attributes that gave them the same characteristics as traditional opening and closing events. When a service was determined down, or a problem, the associated area would be placed in an “open” state. When the event recovered, the associated area would be placed in a “closed” state.

This allowed for quick reference visibility using area status, as well as bulk reporting, to show areas that were in an “open” state. The event codes were also set up with attributes to give the m the same characteristics as an alarm which could be cancelled or aborted. This allowed for timers to be placed on an event. If the recovery event reported in before the timer expired, the event would simply log to the activity log and not drop to a queue, much in the same way a cancel aborts an alarm.

Employing the solution to Interface was a seamless event. The alarms from the various devices and applications were delivered into Manitou just like the traditional burglar and fire alarms that Interface’s dispatchers were already accustomed to handling. “The UniversalConnector makes it possible for us to manage multiple products and services through one event monitoring platform,” Reynolds said.

Setting a Goal

The primary goal was to streamline the process at Interface so that all monitoring could be handled using Manitou. The first result of implementing the UniversalConnector achieved this goal by removing the multiple tools, applications, and screens which dispatchers had previously checked for status updates. With all events coming through the Manitou platform, efficiency immediately increased.

More importantly, the UniversalConnector solution was designed as a future-proof solution which has brought additional revenue opportunities to Interface. Since it supports multiple formats, monitoring any new non-traditional device simply means creating a new datamap. For Interface, this is an important component to their goal of being the single-vendor source for their customers.

“We need as many connections as we can have for all of the unique services we offer,” Reynolds said. “This solution has enabled us to offer additional services to customers and promotes ease of use while providing those services.”

The Interface Security Systems and Bold Technologies relationship is a true partnership, with both parties working to recognize trends within the industry and use available technology to improve and expand service offerings.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.

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