When dealing with a security incident, we want to be presented with as much detail as is available so we can take the proper action. If an alarm sounds, but we have no information on why it sounded, what choices can we make?
There's an old saying, “Half a loaf is better than none.” While that might be true for bread, it's not really true when it comes to security, is it? Rarely are we satisfied with just a little bit of information about a situation. Rather, as inquisitive human beings, we want to take in as much information as possible, especially when there's a critical decision tied to it.
When dealing with a security incident, we want to be presented with as much detail as is available so we can take the proper action. If an alarm sounds, but we have no information on why it sounded, what choices can we make? Do we dispatch someone, only to find out later that it is a false alarm? Or do we wait until we have confirming data, and risk that something untoward happens — a theft, an attack or some other event? If, on the other hand, there is an alarm and we have video that immediately pops up to show us the scene that goes with it, it's that much easier to react appropriately.
The industry has a name for this operational benefit: situation awareness. Situation awareness involves providing operators with a complete picture of what is happening in the incident location so they can better understand threats, evaluate risks, and make better decisions. The advent of integrated systems has helped us improve situation awareness and brought us that other half of the information we are missing. Whether it's a business looking at providing security for its employees and premises, or a consumer interested in a home security program, integration of alarms, access control, and video gives a more complete picture.
Integration not only allows us to react based on better information, but it speeds up the entire process. No longer are we waiting around for more data to come in; instead it is presented to us all at once. When an alarm sounds, we aren't going to a secondary source to find the appropriate video that matches the time and location of the alarm — it's all tied in together and presented in real time.
Having access to integrated information can be a cost saver as well. False alarms are a distraction and there can be costs with having an outside source, such as the police, respond to them. Or even if it's only the internal security staff that has to check out each alarm, the cost of that response quickly adds up in the time wasted and resources squandered.
Today, more and more applications are being integrated to the benefit of security system users. Beyond the traditional video, access control, and intrusion alarm systems, we're seeing the addition of video analytics, perimeter detection, tracking, and mass notification systems. Even systems that aren't typically thought of as security related, such as building controls, are being tied in because of the important information that can be provided. For example, just think how timely it would be to be able to know and confirm that there was a water main break and a building was flooding.
While it seems great to know that all these systems can be integrated, there may be some concern about the cost and complexity. Wouldn't hooking up all these systems and maintaining integrations be cost prohibitive? And won't people become overwhelmed by all this data coming from multiple systems? The good news is that technology, in the form of physical security information management systems (PSIM), has allowed for these different systems to be integrated onto a single platform. With PSIM solutions as few or as many systems can be brought together as needed. This means someone could start out by just tying together alarms and video, but then easily progress to the next levels of adding in video analytics or perimeter monitoring without having to undergo a lot of additional training.
With today's integrated systems it is becoming easier to gather information and make the most informed decisions yet. And get the complete answer.