ST Electronics: Benefits of sensors in security and integration challenges

The need for sensors is increasing dramatically, especially with the ongoing boom of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the innovations of sensing technology. The popularity of fusing sensors with security systems for better protection and operational efficiency comes to light, but there are challenges ahead. speaks with Bernard Lee, VP of Sensors Business at ST Electronics (Satcom & Sensor Systems) on the benefits of sensors integrated with security systems, and what challenges may occur in integration.

In today’s society, there are several sensors that are used to cater for different security and commercial applications. Just to name a few, this includes motion sensors, microwave sensors, imaging sensors, infrared sensors and stress/strain mechanical sensors. These different types of sensors often have multiple application potentials. “To stay constantly innovative, it is essential to derive new solutions for applications across different industries,” said Lee.

Sensors fills the gap where video can not

ST Electronics (Satcom & Sensor Systems) taps on the technologies utilized for perimeter security applications to create new solutions for the detection of potential hazards, which in turn protect critical assets. For example, ST Electronics’ AgilFence distributed acoustic sensing system (DAS) has the capability to provide early detection and protection for pipeline and buried cable during excavation works, and also for seismic activities monitoring. Similarly, AgilFence distributed temperature sensing system (DTS) can be used for oil and gas pipeline leakage detection, power cable and transmission line monitoring, and also fire detection in a tunnel.

In December 2016, after several months of rigorous tests to verify reliability, detection performance, automatic and dynamic false or nuisance alarm control, AgilFence PIDS was approved for UK Government use in the protection of critical national infrastructure, covering communications, emergency services, energy, financial services, food, government, health, transport and water sectors.

“As security requirements are rapidly increasing and changing in our modern society to counter the ever-increasing security threats, we see the need to improve the overall effectiveness of security systems,” explained Lee.

Limitations in traditional security systems

Traditionally, only one technology was used to protect or monitor a certain area, be it access control or video surveillance systems. However, the traditional security system has its limitations that can now be solved thanks to technology advancements that make combining technologies easier and more effective, particularly sensors.

One limitation could be the potential lack of intelligence where end users are required to plug this gap. From a holistic viewpoint, this compromises the security greatly as the effectiveness of the traditional security systems is dependent on the judgment and reaction of the operators in the security centers.

The second limitation is that the technology offered by such systems may not meet the demands as a result of rising security threats. “A simple internet search will reveal various ways and methods to defeat such systems,” said Lee. In addition, such systems can only cover specified areas within a site, leaving the blind spots for security patrols to cover.

Today, the use of sensors has expanded past perimeter security and intrusion detection which can be seen in various applications. Some of these integrated security systems are tailor-made for government facilities, military installations and national infrastructures including airports and seaports.

Integration challenges

Integration with sensors is still relatively new, thus there are still challenges that both systems integrators (SIs) and manufacturers need to overcome. In the past, SIs are required to purchase all equipment from the same vendor or resolve the interfacing issues of proprietary protocols. Now, a growing number of vendors in the market offer more open standard systems. This makes integration of security systems easier where the integrator can choose parts which have passed a series of stringent tests.

“On top of this, due to the flawed architecture of traditional security systems, performance tends to suffer setbacks,” Lee explained. For example, in the case of perimeter security, when the video (in this case, it is the “eyes”) fails, the sensors are rendered ineffective as the security center will not be able to ascertain the location of the intrusion even if it could be detected.

“In our view, the sensors are becoming the ‘intelligence’ or principal, while being supported by traditional security systems to create an enhanced smarter security solution to meet the needs of today’s global threat landscape,” Lee concluded.