Maximizing and Future-Proofing Your Security Investments

Maximizing and Future-Proofing Your Security Investments

With the struggling economy, security practitioners have turned to doing more with less, essentially protecting existing infrastructure and investment with cost-effective upgrades. A&S investigates the conditions for which upgrading proves to be a smarter and cheaper option.

With hard times come higher crime rates, and the security industry is barreling ahead despite the sour economy, developing and upgrading to accommodate various needs from price-conscious end users. 4A International forecasted that electronic security products will post stronger sales than traditional, mechanical security equipment, shaping a gradual move toward integration of security electronics with IT/logical security systems.

A&S explores the ways in which industry players offer cost-effective upgrades to maximize user investment with minimal spending. A top-down perspective looks at the benefits of planning, installation and education; upgrading different security systems; the advantages of choosing open architecture; the importance of maintenance; and the conditions in which replacement of current systems is necessary.

Planning, Installation and Education
To ensure that site and solution considerations meet user needs, practitioners must thoroughly assess and plan before installation. “A great deal of time should be spent with the customer to discuss their needs and requirements to make sure that the right equipment is specified,” said Carolyn Bixhorn, Product Manager of Fireand Security Solutions, Johnson Controls.

"A full risk assessment should be performed at the facility involving all departments concerned to verify that every department's needs are being met, and in many cases, the budget for security can be shared.” Many manufacturers offer courses to fully train distributors and system integrators for proper implementation of systems so that these channel players know which products fit which market conditions for end users.

However, independent assessment experts such as Doktor Jon, a 30-year veteran of the video surveillance industry, cautioned that “a lack of genuine knowledge, at both the installer and end user levels, will frequently result in systems that are inefficient and far more expensive than need be.” As a simple example, if an installer bought a top-of-the-line camera then powered it using a poor-quality power supply, over a relatively short period of time, Jon said, the overstretched powering device may well fail prematurely. The high-end camera may stop working simply due to the poor decision of choosing an inadequate power supply, saving a few dollars upfront but eventually costing far more to replace the failed unit.

Hence, the most important aspect of the relationship between the industry (i.e. consultant, manufacturer or system integrator) and the end user is the role of education. It is only through the end user having a full understanding about the technology and the product can the maximum benefit be obtained, said Ilker Dervish, Director of Fairlink Systems. For example, “users should have an understanding of the capacity of one's resources (such as RAM and processing power to display video); otherwise, the proper network infrastructure cannot be put in place and video solutions will not perform to their fullest capacity,” described Bixhorn. As such, pre- and post-sales training and understanding of IT/IP technology is a must in today's security environment.

Well-educated users can ensure the lengthening of their investment's lifespan, improve cost-effectiveness, reduce hidden maintenance and operational costs, and provide a peace of mind on installed products and systems, said Vincentius Liong, Director for TAC Building Management Systems Indonesia (a Schneider Electric company).

Up grading Existing Solutions
"As the financial/economic storm progresses, I can imagine that some customers prefer to extend the lifespan of their security installations instead of investing in a new installation," said Ivo Henckens, CCTV Product Manager, Bosch Security Systems EMEA.

Today, upgrading video surveillance systems mainly covers migrating from analog to digital; though replacing camera components such as lenses for better image quality is also a popular option. Providers such as Pelco, Bosch Security Systems and Johnson Controls are now offering migration paths that elongate their products' lifespan. Rather than replacing existing analog systems with completely new network cameras and NVRs, manufacturers have provided options for upgrading to digital with supporting software, firmware, DVRs and hybrid DVRs.

"It makes more sense to move cross platform towards an IP solution than to remove all the existing analog components that function adequately,” explained Rob Morello, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Digital Systems, Pelco (a Schneider Electric company), “because analog video, whose image quality and latency is excellent but doesn't provide the flexibility of an IP network, can be leveraged as a base for the move toward IP. Users don't need to make a forklift upgrade by replacing all existing systems with IP.” He added that the cost of such an upgrade is relatively inexpensive, typically ranging from 5 to 25 percent of the original equipment price.

"Hybrid DVRs provide another upgrade path that is future-proof,” said Bixhorn. "They use the same transmission and recording media capable of supporting both analog and IP signals, and offer flexibility, scalability and efficiency by using standard IT components that make economic and operational sense.” Upgrading to IP is appealing particularly to large-scale projects, where installation costs would be considerably higher with coaxial cables.

Customers who invested in analog systems and wish to expand the system to include IP benefits can choose to upgrade their systems to support network cameras without the need to replace any of the hardware, said Henckens. Note that the cost of implementing a firmware upgrade is only a fraction of purchasing and mounting brand new cameras; and users who choose this path can also opt for the latest compression technology to improve storage with less bandwidth consumption, leading to longer retention times without additional investments, suggested Henckens.

Since DVRs represent roughly 70 percent of surveillance systems in use today, there is a great deal of risk and cost with the storage deployed, said Jeff Whitney, VP of Marketing for Intransa. One way to minimize spending is to use shared, external IP video storage systems. This improves disk capacity because 25 to 30 percent less storage is typically required when external IP video storage is used for two or more DVRs or NVRs, which grows as additional DVRs and NVRs are added, elaborated Whitney. Thus, the use of shared storage, rather than fixed or captive storage (DVR storage), results in dramatic cost savings and improved effectiveness of infrastructure.

By treating storage as a strategic solution, security practitioners can cut storage costs and improve performance of surveillance systems, said Whitney. Additionally, another advantage of using shared IP storage systems has to do with integrating other applications of a facility such as access control, life safety and various other utilities.

Access Control
According to the Freedonia Group, access control will see the fastest gain in the United States up to 2012, based on innovations that make it more accurate and easier to use. However, industry studies reveal that security managers wish to secure more locations, but are badgered by high installation costs when looking at the available wired solutions currently on the market, said Christophe Sut, Director of Wireless Lock Platforms, Shared Technologies, ASSA ABLOY. As such, upgraded and integrated solutions are the most acceptable and cost-effective solutions for customers who want to keep existing systems but seek higher performance and / or the latest technology, for example IP-based or Web-based systems, said Liong.

"Traditional access control platforms have a wide cost variance per door, attributing to several factors such as door configurations, locking hardware, shared cost of underutilized access controllers and supporting hardware,” said Dave Adams, Director of Product Marketing for HID Global. “New IP access controllers reduce installation time and provide better cost per door for future expansion, saving users roughly 39 percent in labor hours, outright sales and material costs overall.”

To this end, upgrading security and increasing the number of doors can be done by installing battery operated locks on mechanical doors and wirelessly connecting them to an existing electronic access control system. This eliminates the need for wiring doors, and bridges the gap between mechanical and electronic access control, said Sut. With batteryoperated locks, users increase security levels without having to change all their access cards, saving around 30 percent or more in wiring and replacing cards, said Sut. According to research conducted by ASSA ABLOY, respondents thought that adding affordable wireless access control functionalities to more doors would provide convenience and flexibility.

If wireless solutions are connected to sophisticated access control solutions, other advantages involved could include eliminating the need to drill holes for cables, enhancing automation to scan authorization databases and taking management action such as blocking long term unused credentials, and advancing monitoring and control options such as directing a PTZ camera to a door when someone presents a false credential to it, said Joffry Maltha, Product Manager of Nedap Security Management. These benefits suggest that electronic and physical securities need and should be considered together.

Integrated Systems
Existing proximity readers, for example, can now be integrated with biometric readers or facial scanners in the same building or facility using a new front-end software platform and controllers. Depending on the size of the building and the equipment involved, upgrading all components of an electronic access control system could save users 10 to 30 percent, while simultaneously reduce labor costs and time spent, said Liong.

Take a large facility that already has a myriad of stand-alone security systems for example. End users typically have thousands or even tens of thousands of access cards for employees, contractors, visitors, etc. Rather than replacing and buying new equipment to unite systems, end users can opt to use their existing readers/scanners and Photo-ID access cards and integrate their separate systems via software and controller upgrades. Additionally, they can upgrade lacking components by adding new door controllers and I/O modules for environment monitoring or intrusion detection, all of which can be integrated with central monitoring, said Liong. Users can also choose to either swap out the existing card/reader system or enhance new buildings and badge holders with multitechnology solutions, creating essentially a mixed population of technologies, added Adams.

Technical and economical advantages include a reduction in training for administrators and users, saving time and cost. Thus, improving existing systems is far less taxing on support infrastructure, said Liong, so long as the existing components are fully capable and scalable.

"Steady and regular maintenance and upgrading equipment will result in less downtime and reduced labor and energy usage, all of which are ways to save money while protecting existing systems,” said Liong. “A good budgetary number to start with is to allow up to 20 percent of the budget to be devoted to assessment and maintenance,” said Bixhorn.

Indeed, encouraging manufacturers to be more proactive by educating users on the benefits of assessment and maintenance would be a very beneficial move, one which could easily improve system performance beyond expectations for relatively little investment, said Jon.

Replacing Systems
As surveillance technology develops, customer expectations for image quality and frame rate increase exponentially. “This culture is being driven by a better, faster, cleaner image and now we have the technology to accomplish just that,” said Morello. Because of this, leveraging existing infrastructure might protect its lifespan, but at some point, existing platforms will have to be replaced with new technologies. Criteria for replacement include life time, product quality and reliability, and open or proprietary systems. Clearly, older, low-quality and proprietary systems could make upgrades difficult and in some cases, replacement necessary. Users should keep in mind that improving existing products can lead to customers investing further into non-extensible solutions, particularly for proprietary systems, cautioned Adams.

A Hopeful Future Course
Though many will continue to use existing analog systems, upgrading to IP will dominate future trends for security systems. As such, users will shift focus from simply improving the efficiency of separate systems to improving the functionality and interconnectedness of all systems, be it video, access or otherwise. Correlating digital information from various sources can better system automation and reliability, providing the right response to real security events that demand attention. An industry source agreed: In terms of cost-saving options, interconnecting an organization's existing proprietary systems enables the organization to leverage and build off its existing investment, rather than undertake a rip-and-replace approach. In this age of budget constriction, users can breathe easier knowing that upgrading their existing systems is not only a temporary solution, but one that can be built and expanded upon, provided that their existing infrastructure is compatible and open.

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