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Uniting the Business Enterprise
a&s International 2009/7/3

IP connectivity enables enterprise professionals to tie together their disparate systems into a unified business asset, one that generates ROI and increases management efficiency.

IP connectivity enables enterprise professionals to tie together their disparate systems into a unified business asset, one that generates ROI and increases management efficiency.


Today, the worldwide security market is estimated to be roughly US$104 billion, including physical and electronic security, according to the "Johnson Controls Market Research" report. With so much technology and money being invested into protecting lives, assets and properties, it is not surprising that sophisticated security solutions are witnessing convergence, not only to increase efficiency but also to streamline management processes.


"Globally, the complex integration market is projected to be $24 billion, which includes everything from integrating two simple systems like access control and alarm monitoring, to integrating multiple systems across multiple buildings, to the most complex levels of integration such as integrating building management systems and logical information technology systems," said Andre Greco, Regional Enterprise Sales Manager for the Northeast, Johnson Controls. Gadi Piran, President and CTO of OnSSI, agreed, adding that a digital, end-to-end system featuring a nonproprietary, open architecture design results in a much more manageable system.


Preplanning
Customers often have multiple, disparate systems which create management challenges. The key is to make sure preplanning is done in great detail. For example, when dealing with multiple databases (as is usually the case for clients with multiple existing access control systems), these databases typically run on different platforms and have varying operating systems, Greco explained. Preplanning includes a detailed scope of work, data gathering and drawings, which significantly minimizes potential problems during the execution of the integration project and ensures that the customer's expectations will be met.


With enterprise level software, disparate systems can be brought to a single point of data entry and command and control, Greco explained. Using SDKs from different management systems, a common, cohesive platform is created so that the data from existing systems is converted into data the enterprise software can understand.


Physical and Logical Convergence
Physical access control systems (PACS) can utilize and interact with business information usually controlled by a logical access system, said ShayneBates, Executive VP of Strategy and Global Markets, Brivo. As there is a tremendous amount of power in a person's credential, the more valuable the credential is, the more productive people can be and the more they will care for the card, said Craig Sandness, MD for Asia Pacific, HID Global.


With the latest solutions, customers can now use an existing access card to log onto their computers. This streamlines management, lowers costs and increases efficiency for multiple applications, Sandness said. For the merging to work, a customer's physical security operators and IT staff need to agree on what data will be collected, what will be required to determine how the merged system should be set up, and lend each other the necessary skills and training.


A majority of users do not log off their computers by usernames and passwords when they need to be away from their workstations. Merging physical and logical access systems brings users reliable security and convenient access to their computers and data. When users leave for meetings or lunch, they only need to remove the credential to exit the building, rather than having to manually lock their computers. By default, this eliminates receiving conflicting information where users are logged onto their computers but carded out of the building. "Companies can then muster people based on who is logged into the network instead of who is carded in and carded out, making it a quicker and more accurate process in case an evacuation is necessary," Greco added. A second benefit zooms in on data management. At a factory line, for example, with shared terminals, employees only need to use their access cards to enter the premises. However, for human resources, greater measures need to be taken to protect corporate data, and converged solutions help classify where each individual fits into the organization (for example, line employees will not have access to computers in a different department), Sandness said.


Integrated systems can also be tied to a compliance database to make sure individuals with expired certifications cannot gain access to the premises. With the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the health care market needs to meet stringent requirements to avoid being fined, and integrated systems that link together access and compliance help protect healthcare institutions from potential liabilities, Greco said.


Challenges for convergence varies by size of company, number of users, geographic reach of the company, number of existing data platforms, and more, Sandness said.


Building Automation
Another great benefit of convergence is alleviating the burden of manually adjusting disparate systems. "For example, your credential can let you inside multiple buildings and adjust lighting and heat as you go, depending on the level of integration done between physical security and building management systems," Greco said. When policy based work rules are to be created by senior management, instead of allowing individuals to make arbitrary security decisions, which is often inconsistent, the software makes the decision which creates a higher level of consistency. "Into a single command and control environment, we can bring in any type of alarm — be it water detection, closed circuit television, temperature, access control or intrusion alarms — into one centralized environment, to let operators manage the situation more effectively," Greco said. For example, allowing for software regulated access control significantly reduces the possibility that large-scale facilities, like highly regulated petrochemical plants, are sued for unauthorized access.Another example looks at health clubs, where the PACS used to provide or deny 24-hour access to a facility, can now be programmed via software packages to create a feedback loop, Bates said. This essentially means that if no one is present at the facility at 3 a.m., the software would automatically turn off HVAC and dim lighting, creating greater efficiency and cutting costs.


Marketing and Merchandising
With converged solutions, video surveillance can be greatly beneficial to marketing and merchandising by providing insight into customer activity patterns. Process control benefits result from having on demand, a bird's eye view of manufacturing operations or customer service environments, and maintenance problems can be observed at remote locations without having to send a technician, Piran said. If someone files a complaint, for example, video documentation and access records can provide immediate evidence to counter or prove the claim.


Via video management and control software, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) watches over its multiple public venues. Programs such as smart search and motion sequence search translate video from numerous cameras at multiple sites into usable information, such as people counting, and MCCA can determine the exact count of occupancy within a ballroom at a moment's notice, Piran explained. MCCA plans on exploring using analytic data to generate more income, by placing a higher price on high-traffic areas in the convention center, an idea that could prove fruitful for all convention centers.


IP connectivity brings all the information in a business enterprise together onto the corporate network; from human resources, management, marketing, maintenance and so on. With the sharp economic downturn, it is important that expenditures on security show an ROI, Piran said, and factoring in security technology to other parts of an enterprise can help justify initial investments.


Tapping into the issue of training, if personnel are trained on a single application rather than multiple databases and systems, significant cost savings and possibly employee headcount reallocation can be realized, Greco said.


At the end of the day, converged systems improve management by helping users do more with less, organizing streams of data and opening up boundless revenue-generating opportunities.

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