Integrated high-tech security lowers risk and costs

May 2008 Surveillance, Government and Parastatal (Industry)

In terms of security solutions, the most prevalent trend in the commercial sector at present is the increased reliance on technology rather than people to physically secure premises.

In terms of security solutions, the most prevalent trend in the commercial sector at present is the increased reliance on technology rather than people to physically secure premises.

Lowering operational costs is one driver of this trend, but there are others. In particular, technology advances and new security strategies that take advantage of the integration of disparate building systems are providing energy efficiencies, improving response times and lowering risk.

While manpower - security personnel or guards - can never be fully replaced by technology, they are expensive to employ. Armed guards also introduce an element of risk (human error, collusion with criminal elements) and unpredictability. As security technologies advance, they are enabling organisations to minimise the number of security staff they employ and, at the same time, enhance efficiencies and improve controls and security.

In general, a comprehensive security solution in the commercial sector will include access control, intrusion monitoring and prevention solutions, perimeter protection, fire alarms, CCTV and building management systems.

Previously separately managed, these systems are now being integrated and managed from a single central console. Installation can thus be expedited and ROI is better and, with more in-built intelligence, buildings become smarter.

Tech intelligence optimises manpower

Where previously organisations would rely on security staff staring at a bank of monitors and be dependent on their levels of awareness and ability to make the right decisions, with an integrated building management and security platform greater consistency and predictability is introduced.

Using video analytics, security systems alert staff to anomalies in behaviour (eg, an abnormal change in traffic flow) or if suspicious objects are left (eg, a bomb sized package) or valuable objects (eg, a PC or painting) removed from a site.

Utilities such as airconditioning and lighting (a considerable operational expense) also no longer rely on simple timing devices - access control systems can intelligently turn them on or off to meet the real needs of staff in the building.

In addition, in crises or alert situations, these integrated systems provide better control. For example, in the case of fire, CCTV systems and access control systems will enable staff to not only monitor the situation but know who is in the building and where they are, opening escape routes that do not compromise security in other parts of the building.

Since these systems are also simpler to use, staff no longer need to go on five or six courses to understand proprietary technologies. Rules are built into the technology at set up and drive decisions. In addition, since these systems are Web-based, they enable staff to view reports and even access different camera and reader information on the move via cellphones and PDAs.

Casing the joint

However, security technology is advancing at a rapid pace and to achieve a fast ROI and lower implementation costs it is advisable to make use of specialised consultants to scope the organisation's unique needs and set up the systems. Solutions were implemented by Johnson Controls at a large parastatal organisation and a highly publicised school for the underprivileged.

The parastatal organisation leased its premises to a government department over 25 years and had two key requirements. It wanted to maximise the efficiency of the building to ensure a faster payback over the long term and the government department needed to manage high volumes of public traffic through the building as well as provide security for senior government officials. Johnson Controls thus implemented an intelligent building management system, an access control and CCTV solution. Energy costs are lowered through the access control system which measures and monitors occupancy and adjusts the utilities accordingly. The access control system registers people quickly through a special public enrolment system, and is connected to the CCTV system, enabling fast identification of risk.

The school campus required a more complex solution. A private learning and residential environment, the campus comprises 21 buildings, including classrooms, computer and science laboratories, a library, a theatre, a gymnasium, sports fields, a wellness centre, dormitory facilities and a dining hall. Stringing multiple cables between the buildings presented a risk. A fibre Ethernet backbone for all the buildings was thus created and Johnson Controls ensured all equipment was IP compatible. A central server enables close monitoring and management of all systems.

The campus also had to be secured without the learners feeling they were in a prison environment. Smartcards, access control, intelligent video analytics and a CCTV system combine to provide a comprehensive solution to meet these requirements. The smartcards enable the system to monitor movements and issue alerts to relevant personnel when certain thresholds are exceeded; CCTV cameras are placed in identified high security areas, allowing security staff to monitor situations where learners wander into areas that are off limits without causing undue alarm; and video analytics alert staff to anomalies in behaviour, suspicious objects and intrusions. In addition, there are 62 panic panels placed in key areas throughout the campus.

Can security staff be entirely replaced by technology? Never. Technology can only deliver reports, human intelligence is needed to interpret these reports and, if needs be, react to resolve a problem. Can security technology enhance safety, improve protection of assets and personnel, and lower costs? Without a doubt. As technology continues to advance, however, security practices and approaches must evolve to leverage new functionality.

Organisations need to remain aware of these advances if they want to improve efficiencies and ensure their security strategies meet best practices and remain uncompromised.

Neil Cameron is the divisional manager at Johnson Controls Systems & Service.

For more information contact Johnson Controls South Africa, +27 (0)11 921 7100, [email protected],

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