Physical Security Going IP

Physical Security Going IP

The advent of IP networking has revolutionized security integration, as described by Patrick Lim, Director of Sales and Marketing, Ademco Far East.

If we weigh the pros and cons of adopting IP-based systems, we will start to see what is driving this global trend. We occasionally have end users or consultants tell us, “IP systems are not as robust as traditional systems!” Although it depends on the product and the system design, such perceptions are usually due to the general lack of education in IP-based security systems. More physical security systems have become IP-based in the last few years, resulting in more questions being asked on the advantages and over-reliance on IP networks.

Better Integration
Before IP networks, security systems such as intrusion detection, access control, PAVE/intercom and surveillance tended to be fragmented. Each system worked independently and provided little useful information to the end user. There was no common infrastructure to encourage high-level integration. If there were any, it was usually costly, complicated, unreliable and difficult to support.

Just a few years ago, Ademco integrated a security system with a popular building management system (BMS) for a government building. The cost was high, functionality was limited and the integration tedious because the BMS did not support an IP-based infrastructure. Thus, everything was done through an RS-485 port.

With IP networks, integration among systems has a common infrastructure . Benefits of integration have resulted in a growing trend of more businesses trying to utilize security technologies as an efficient and integral part of business management.

We have done several projects with integrated security that feature sophisticated realtime integration to business systems, such as human resource , asset management and business intelligence. Access rights for contract workers are automatically disabled after their contracts expire. Once an employee leaves the organization, computer log-ins and access to files are automatically disabled. Current workers can track equipment, meals and even uniforms with their access cards.

Business activities are tracked by video surveillance and sensors, so resources can be allocated efficiently. Such high-level integration would have been more costly and complex without fully IP-based systems.

No Borders with Merging of Di gital and Physical Domains
In the past, the management of expanding businesses worries about overseas operations issues, such as asset protection and unauthorized access after office hours. Then, the only solutions were stand-alone systems or security manpower, which usually turned out to be either ineffective, costly or both. Now, remote or central security management across several countries is no longer an issue with IP-based systems.

Public safety projects have thousands of cameras across a city. Without the use of IP networks and network cameras, many of these projects would have been too expensive to implement.

Bulletproofing the Security Network for Facility and Building Security
With such convenience, there is concern about over-reliance on a single network in facility or building security. It all boils down to looking at the right places and putting in the right solutions.

Even though IT departments are now more open to security systems riding on their business networks, there will always be exceptions. It is a misconception that if security systems do not reside on existing IP networks, all benefits are diminished.

Getting all security systems and safety communications systems on a single IP network is a significant advantage in terms of cost-savings for initial setup, maintenance, expansion and future-proofing. Anyone who has seen the cables from traditional systems in a building will notice a marked difference.

Therefore, making sure the IP network does not go down or affect other networks becomes critical. It is common to put network cameras on a private network to prevent nonauthorized users from accessing the surveillance footage. Mean while , authorized users have the ability pull video out easily across the general network or video network. As video requirements grow rapidly and facilities get larger, gigabit fiber optic networks have become obvious choices to provide more bandwidth and longer distance runs.

Another consideration is network switches, especially those with abilities to power IP or PoE devices such as cameras and readers. These switches are vital “traffic junctions.” Special hardened grade switches should be mounted in risers or outdoor enclosures, especially when high ambient temperature and dust can be problems.

We have implemented IP-based systems that support full network redundancy. Two load-balanced networks are in place, so when the main one is down, all devices and servers will intelligently switch to the backup network. The key here is to select the right intelligent system with the hardware and software that fully support redundant network configurations. It must be able instantaneously switch over, should the main server go down.

Another consideration is power. This is not a unique problem to IP-based systems, as traditional systems suffer the same issues. It is common for power to all IP-based security devices — from head-end to back-end devices, computers, and switches — to be centrally supported by the building's emergency power source.

Lastly, IP-based systems use a common standard network infrastructure, which has fueled the growth of many open standards software and hardware-independent systems. This is especially so in the IP video and NVR sector. With less proprietary hardware and more software on a common infrastructure, facility owners do not need to worry about changing out the most expensive part — infrastructure. This is a leap forward from traditional security systems, where end users had to spend huge amounts of money on the wiring infrastructure when changing out an obsolete or unsatisfactory system.

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