Integration. It is a buzzword overly used in the past few years that no longer describes the kinds of advances showcased at recent security exhibitions. What do you call it when information from your surveillance or access control system is utilized to adjust lighting, air conditioning or network privileges? A&S probes into a budding, holistic approach known as situational awareness.
First-generation management software packages typically act as librarians and gatekeepers that simply keep information archived and let it in or out of storage upon request. Often, actionable intelligence passes by unnoticed, causing preventable security breaches and unnecessary losses. When information is now measured in terabytes, managing complex issues and events on every system within your premises requires advanced software engineering.
To better understand and distinguish between different management software packages on the market, A&S broke them into two categories. The first category is for solutions that govern single or multiple security systems, such as video management, access control, perimeter fencing or a combination of these. These solutions do not control or — for lack of a better word — integrate signals from non-security systems, such as fire systems or building automation for elevators or ventilation. Vendors of these types of solutions include Milestone, Genetec, Verint, IndigoVision, Nice, MDI, Mirasys, Nedap, Bioscrypt and so on.
The other category, command and control (C&C), is for software platforms that link every imaginable system onto one inter face. This layered architecture gives security personnel, on site or off site, a complete overview of all subsystems, rather than individual screens or windows for surveillance, access control, intrusion, IT and other subsystems. An ideal C&C platform works as an omnipotent facilitator that allows information to flow freely among different subsystems' management software, gathers useful bits and communicates them to responsible parties for timely, appropriate and sometimes automatic reactions.
For example, if a glass-break sensor triggers an alarm, the system could lock down certain access control points and send alerts to guards with corresponding surveillance footage and floor plan. With unified management of subsystems, swiping a door card does not merely open the door and switch on the lights, but also adjusts for temperature and sends cooled air to the right area. Vendors of C&C solutions include Tyco, Bosch, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Magal, DVTel, TAC, Lenel, CNL, Orsus and so on.
Integrating logical data from all subsystems, along with merging hardware components, makes creating truly integrated platforms a challenge. While linking each subsystem's database or software to a C&C platform can be easily made possible through software development kits (SDKs), commanding specific hardware components a PTZ camera or an elevator directly from the C&C console through proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs) is trickier, when analog or preexisting devices are involved.
The ultimate goal of C&C platforms is situational awareness, or a holistic approach to comprehensive facility management through converged subsystems, giving security personnel a birds-eye view of all alarmed events on a location. To see how this ideal is embodied, we spoke to several vendors about their solutions to find out what makes management software tick.
Keeping an Eye on Video
Milestone prides itself on having an open IP video platform, capable of integrating products from third-party vendors. This allows customers to have more than one hardware vendor, freeing them from "proprietary jail." Milestone's easy-to-manage video management software comes in several versions for different user needs, from a single server solution (for less than 25 cameras) to a fully distributed, multi-server solution that is scalable for an unlimited number of cameras. "The solutions monitor for events, linking servers, cameras and inputs from third-party products like access readers, fire alarms and points of sale," said CEO Lars Thinggard. Security personnel, thus, have a real-time overview of alarms and technical problem alerts, with live verification to deal with any possible issues.
Genetec offers a scalable solution, capable of integrating 50,000 cameras, said Michel Chalouhi , Director of Product Management. "Omnicast is an enterprise-class, IP video surveillance solution that provides seamless management of video, audio and data across any IP network." In contrast to a DVR or matrix solution, the Omnicast solution is distributed over the network, ensuring layout flexibility and high-fault tolerance. Through proper SDKs, Omnicast may be linked to other security or building automation systems.
Designed to run on a standard PC platform and control up to thousands of surveillance and security devices such as cameras, microphones, text channels and electronic locks from all leading brands through one interlinked recorder cluster, the Mirasys V/N solution offers versatility and scalability. It can monitor a small business with four security cameras, or an interlinked security infrastructure consisting of both digital megapixel cameras and analog devices. " The latest version provides tools for combining alarm responses to automatic event sequences," said Susanna Carlstedt, Marketing Lead. "For example, motion detected by one camera can automatically activate other cameras or microphones, change camera resolutions, disable electronic locks, set sound thresholds for multiple microphones, send automated alarm signals, or move cameras to target pre-specified positions." As a result, higher security and lower operational costs are achieved through real-time communication among different systems, shared databases and common user interfaces.
Nice Systems also specializes in video surveillance. The Israeli provider supports distributed architecture with integrated analytics that can run either at edge devices or be processed centrally. While the system can integrate intrusion signals or fire sensors, the core of it remains video. "Video provides you the visual insight that is not provided by any other means," said Nir Hayzler, VP of Marketing. ¨It enables you to understand what is happening in your facility by displaying not just the alert, but all the relevant visual information required to understand better the context of such an event and take an informed decision.
Remote access, for users wi th multiple locations, is made easy with Milestone's solution. Video can be streamed to multiple users once they log in. If users are not in front of a monitor, live or playback video can be transmitted to mobile devices. For live feeds, security personnel can even manually adjust PTZ cameras from their PDAs to focus on areas of interest. The solution also integrates video analytics, such as motion detection.
"Historically, video had not been connected with other information systems . Now we can combine other information sources, such as emergency audio communication with video, so that when events happen, the folks on the ground can not only see what is happening, but also hear the corresponding audio," said Mariann McDonagh, VP of Corporate Marketing, Verint Systems. ¨In the event of an emergency, the system sends alert notifications and corresponding video images to consoles, Web browsers, pagers, cell phones and so on.〃
The Nice video management solution supports collaborative event management, which enables a group of operators to handle events effectively, whether they are in the same control room or at different locations. "When managing events in a complex environment, such as an airport, a transportation terminal or a critical facility, you may have more than one event to handle at a time," Hayzler said. " The management system should be sophisticated enough to propagate the next alert that comes in to an available operator, for effective resolution of multiple events in real time." This management solution enables users to investigate both the event information recorded, as well as the way operators have managed the events by keeping logs of all actions.
Having a flexible and customized inter face gives Lenel an edge. For example, in an art gallery, a customized response to events governs how guards will react to events, said Jeffery Ross, Director of Marketing, Lenel (a UTC Fire & Security company). Should a piece of art be removed, Lenel's solution brings footage to the nearest guard's PDA, sounds audible alarms, alerts the administrator and sends an e-mail to the police when necessary. "It depends on how far you want to use the system. Our solution helps drive business productivity results."
The system allows for scalability from two doors to 20,000 or more. To provide the most well-suited solution, Lenel ha s a range of customization options with its software, including integration with government databases or medical registries.
Integrating Assorted Hardware
Genetec' s solution is vendor-agnostic, allowing users optimal flexibility in selecting hardware. This flexibility, however, presents challenges when integrating products from different vendors to one platform. "Coordination between different vendors is definitely the biggest challenge in providing an integrated solution," Chalouhi said. "We typically help our customers isolate the root of the problem by closely cooperating with hardware vendors in order to offer a first-class service to our customers."
The Genetec open architecture supports multiple devices and has an SDK available for third-party vendors. Its metadata engine accommodates third-party applications, such as access control systems, video analytics and point-of-sale systems. "The different systems will not talk to each other but will talk back to Omnicast, which will merge and provide a single operation interface to the end user," Chalouhi said. The Genetec solution is tailored for large-scale installations, serving vertical market s such as retail, transportation, education, gaming and enterprise.
Lenel offers a platform capable of integrating all systems and hardware. "The best way to look at our solution is to see it as a platform that supports multiple systems anything from access control, digital video, video analytics, intrusion detection and fire detection," Ross said. "What makes it unique is the majority of those products run from a single graphical user interface (GUI), so it is all one fluid system. The second piece that makes it unique is our OnGuard OpenAccess Alliance program that allows for suppor t of many third-party software and hardware systems."
With biometrics, Lenel supports Bioscrypt's technology and other recognition techniques, such as fingerprint, hand geometry and iris scanning. "We want to protect as much of the customer's investment as possible," Ross said. "Open architecture and leveraging existing infrastructure really make us unique in the industry."
"There is a growing demand for all of our product offerings," said Matthew Bogart, VP of Marketing at Bioscrypt, "which include logical and physical access control solutions that can be combined to create a unified authentication strategy that brings together several aspects of security under one umbrella." VeriSoft is a single- or multi-factor authentication solution that provides enterprises with secure access both physical and logical to systems, helping companies meet compliance regulation requirements.
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