Today's security threats and economic realities demand new strategies. Organizations need to connect knowledge in order to see the big picture, speed response times and reduce risk to people, assets and property. Intelligent, converged technologies protect critical infrastructure and commercial establishments from threats such as terrorism, theft and business espionage while controlling overall cost.
This article discusses how diverse technologies, along with more established ones, can be converged to provide integrated displays, semiautomated decision-making, enhanced reaction tools and true situational awareness. These can leverage the building's existing network infrastructure, reducing capital expenditure and operating cost. This in turn helps security managers keep their facilities safe and secure during a time when they have to do more with less.
In low-level convergence, these disparate systems may only ride on a common infrastructure. Higher-level convergence means bringing these systems together into common user interfaces, where the sum is greater than the parts. Take a public train station. A fully converged security solution might tie together surveillance, access, fire, public address and HVAC systems so that if a fire alarm were activated, it would bring up any cameras in the vicinity to allow for rapid confirmation. If confirmed, a single user action could release exit doors, trigger announcements and alter ventilation to minimize smoke. In the past, different system providers offered solutions with proprietary protocols that restricted choice among end users. With the advent of standard communication protocols, it became possible for hardware from different technology areas to speak to one another and for software to be able to manipulate and present data in an integrated and more acceptable form for the end user. Open architecture became increasingly important to this new way of knowledge management, resulting in physical security and IT becoming more closely aligned.
Technology is not an issue. Adoption of it does, however, call for a new mindset. The move from proprietary protocols to IP has opened new challenges for security managers, especially those who do not yet have sufficient technology background needed to appreciate and view the opportunities that the new formats provide. Their understandable comfort with legacy systems and limitations of existing internal organizational silos are hindering the adoption of more effective and lower-cost security solutions. That is where a company's choice of IT networks, technologies and equipment catering to open-architecture norms can add huge value.
Middle East Gathering Pace
The Middle East, with its focus on new construction and commitment to critical infrastructure protection, is well-positioned to capitalize on this new converged world. Designers, developers, building owners and those entrusted with the creation and protection of critical infrastructure know all too well that decisions taken at the initial design phase of a project have far-reaching financial and operational implications. In addition, the ability to collect, process, distribute and display more data, more quickly and in a more coherent and reliable way makes for a safer facility for the end user.
The converged approach to building control continues to accelerate, thanks to two market forces:
* The emergence of stand-alone, multifunctional building systems operating on standard communication protocols that bring together building management systems/controls with fire and security systems;
* The convergence of multimedia voice, video and data services onto IP-based infrastructure, bringing together diverse technologies and proprietary networks.
In the context of day-to-day security management, converged solutions offer:
* Interoperable access control, video surveillance and asset management over an IP network
* Situational awareness
* Effective security strategies with accurate, real-time and rapid communication of emergency status
* Refined regulation of access control
* Reduced theft, misappropriation and vandalism through enhanced, IP-based surveillance
* Empowered security personnel
* Remote control and reporting of building security, life safety and building management systems
* Asset management and tracking
* Enhanced regulatory compliance
Facility management is not the only area to benefit. High-speed Internet access, IP telephony and unified communications come at lower costs, and operational budgets will deliver capital savings — energy included. An organization will see improved productivity and the creation of virtual workspaces for flexible, more efficient working. Resource planning will improve. Sales and marketing will be able to boost revenue streams through the delivery and onward selling of technology to tenants and customers. Centralized management will also make it easier to integrate new businesses and new facilities.
Under the proverbial crunch, security and facility managers and building owners are seeking new ways of working. Converged building technologies create new business opportunities for all the key stakeholders in the building value chain and reconcile the competing need for improved security, accessibility and business opportunity.