Integration is the norm

June 2012 Integrated Solutions

Integration is key to successful security installations these days. It is only in exceptional or legacy cases that businesses are happy to have various security systems running independently, each managed by separate people. The benefits of integration are tremendous, but the skills required to link systems that were not designed to play nicely with others are also immense.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions invited a few people to attend a round-table to talk about integration. Our attendees were Tim Timmins from Stanley Security Solutions (recently acquired by EOH), Stanley is a system integrator doing full integrated security systems up to building management systems (BMS) and life safety systems; Gert Byleveldt from Sentronics (recently bought by Westcon – readers may notice a trend here), a distributor of CCTV, access and integrated systems; and Gerhard Furter, R & D manager for Cengence International, the company that developed the Cengence intelligent integration platform.

Tim Timmons, Gert Byleveldt and Gerhard Furter.
Tim Timmons, Gert Byleveldt and Gerhard Furter.

While integrators and installers are likely to push the idea of integration as it means more work for them, there is a definite trend in the market to integration. Timmins says that from a security point of view it makes sense to integrate at least CCTV, intrusion and access control because the business can extract a lot of information from all these sources. If you want to see who clocked in with a certain identity card, a linked system will take you to the time and place the person came in and show you the video footage, for example. The real push, however, is being felt in the BMS segment to integrate all this information into a central management system.

From a skills perspective this makes even more sense as personnel need only be trained on one platform to be able to handle almost everything happening in a building or on a campus. Timmins says that from the facility manager’s perspective it is also crucial as a single dashboard can give him a complete overview of his domain.

Byleveldt says that integrating security systems is a foregone conclusion, “you know it is needed, everybody can accept that you require it and you know when it is done correctly the results are there. The important thing to consider is once you start tapping into sub-systems and start integrating things, you start becoming aware that this is not just scope for the surveillance arena, but you have got an operational capability coming out of the system as well.”

He gives the example of a fuel depot where integrated systems can monitor the health of certain operational systems operating in that environment. With an integrated solution, the depot will not only maintain its security level, but its operational level as well.

Furter agrees, but says it is becoming more important to add in analytics. “More clients now not only want the operational side or the security side, they also want to gain intelligence and knowledge which they can more easily derive from integrated systems. The knowledge base that is generated is much richer and much wider, and hence the analytics that are gained from it is much more powerful. Trend analysis, pattern recognition, predicted finalities become much better when the systems telling you they are co-operating as opposed to one system telling you something by itself.

“We refer to things that are talking by themselves as opinions. You have the opinion of the access control system, but you have the intelligence of the access control, BMS and surveillance system working together.”

Operational information from data

In terms of what information can be garnered, Furter also provides a mining example. “We have some mining clients using these systems where the combination of basic operational systems, such as their machines, process control mechanisms, basic PLCs and so on, combined with safety and security systems like access control, has allowed them to do something as basic as knowing they have staff moving through specific points at specific times. This can assist them in knowing that their energy load at specific points in time will be as more machines will be in use, or there will be more staff coming in between 8am and 10am, which means showers will be busier.”

Data analysis will also allow these companies to manage flows during a crisis situation. “I know I have six operators on six different machines in this specific area of a workshop and because of situation of awareness, the analytical systems can determine that we have a situation of a certain nature and therefore specific actions need to be taken to resolve it.”

Timmins adds that with the cost of electricity rising rapidly, managing your utilities through a BMS is important to manage the cost as well as usage. If you are not using a certain section of your campus, which you will know since nobody has accessed the area; you can shut down the lights and air conditioning, for example.

Byleveldt mentions a vehicle assembly plant as an example of integrating multiple streams of data. “Say, for example, someone pushes the emergency button every now and then, causing the whole assembly plant to stop. Now you have three or four hundred people in that area, you do not know who is pushing the button and you are losing money. But as you start tracking the PLC data with that button being pushed, you can look at the access control records and find that a certain person is always in the area when the button is pushed. If you have CCTV coverage you can identify the person.”

Of course, this only works when the systems in use are designed to share information. Timmins says that most of the major developers of these systems have acknowledged that standards are important and design their solutions accordingly. Byleveldt adds that customers are driving demand to open protocols while insisting vendors make software development kits (SDKs) available to make integration easier.

The right service provider

A question always asked in the security industry is if the service provider you choose to do the job will have the necessary skills to do the integration correctly. In the convergence field we often hear about installers who are brilliant at installing analogue systems, but fall flat when they have to start dealing with IP products. And we will not mention what happens when they have to deliver hybrid solutions.

Timmins says that as the industry moves to IP (or IT), service providers need to ensure they have these skills aboard. And it is not someone with an A+ certificate either, installers and integrators need to have people with experience and insight into the way IT systems work to be able to effectively install and maintain these systems.

Sentronics often has to drive a project internally and make skills available to some installers to ensure the final project does what is required, adds Byleveldt. “The problem is that the technology is so new and the knowhow involved in rolling out such a project is very limited, as is the pool of skills able to do it, so we have to get involved. In 10 years from now the systems will be easy to implement, but until then we are going to be sitting with skills problems.”

Furter notes that the traditional security market is dominated by people who learned their skills on the job. Unfortunately there are few companies actively upskilling their employees in IP to meet the requirements of modern systems. Learning the ins and outs of IP on the job is not advisable, especially when messing with IT’s network.

Many of the issues integrators face when trying to install integrated systems comes from the traditional security manager who is not able or bothered to adapt to the new converged world. The conflict between IT and security is a result of this reluctance to change and learn. The result, according to our attendees, is that the traditional security manager will not exist in a few years unless these people ‘upgrade’ themselves to become risk managers.

The current job of security managers is likely to become an IT function, managed by an IT person who understands the issues of networking and bandwidth and is able to balance the company’s security needs with the efficient running of the network. The security manager will need to operate at a higher level, overseeing risk mitigation.

Furter notes that the University of the Free State is already offering Risk Management degrees, in which traditional security is only a small component of the syllabus.

Where to start

It is all very well to talk about integrated systems and the benefits they offer, but when companies look at integrating products and creating a single interface or dashboard, how or where do they start?

Timmins says it depends on the facility. Is it just one building or is it multiple buildings? Is it a new building or an existing one? However, he says that for big corporates it makes a lot of sense to have fully integrated systems. “How you phase that in over your existing systems is another story, it depends what infrastructure you have got or do you have to install an infrastructure and so forth. There are a lot of questions to answer.”

The usual path is to immediately integrate alarm systems and intrusion detection on the perimeter with surveillance. The next step would then be access control, while full BMS integrating is left to last. “I do not always agree with this because I find BMS to be the most intelligent systems from which you can actually get a lot of information, whereas security systems tend to be not as intelligent,” adds Furter. “Perhaps it is a case of getting quick returns on the project without spending too much to prove its value?”

“I think the biggest issue is that security managers, which are our target audience today, have the least amount of access to budget and if you can find ways of creating return on investment quickly you are going to be getting a lot more traction in this,” adds Byleveldt.

The benefits of integrated systems are too great to imagine that this will not be the norm in a few years time. Apart from the analytics one can perform to extract real information from integrated solutions, the operational benefits of having a single management interface and access to everything from perimeter alarms to surveillance and BMS functionality will ensure companies opt for integration. The catch, for now, is that integration requires specific skills and the management platforms available today are still expensive and require training to install and use effectively. But as with all technology, these systems will evolve and become easier to use and less costly as more people adopt them and competition in the market grows.

The question for the end user is not whether an integrated system is necessary, but rather how to go about integrating the systems in place at the moment. Where does one start and how do you ensure you and your service provider have the skills required to ensure business gets the returns it demands.

The reality of crime statistics in South Africa leaves us constantly in search of a total security plan that ‘watches over’ every step of our day. This growing demand for a security service that incorporates all aspects into one integrated solution is a fast growing demand from both the business and residential sectors in an effort to combat crime. The introduction and rapid technological advancement of sophisticated IT systems that facilitate state-of-the-art system integration of perimeter control, alarms, armed response, guards, remote video monitoring, CCTV and access control into tailor-made solutions is in itself a clear indication that this is the way of the future, according to Anthony Feuilherade, director of Enforce Security. Feuilherade shared some insights and developments in this growing trend of integrated security solutions.

Are businesses really focused on integrated solutions?

Feuilherade: While businesses are most definitely focused on security, the traditionalist security professional may not have been exposed to the new technology solutions on the market so will by and large have to be introduced to the concept and educated on their benefits.

Are vendors focused on developing products to open standards to promote integration with other vendors’ products?

Feuilherade: Individual manufacturers are focused on their own technology and expertise, so experienced security consultants play the role of evaluating the best integrated solutions and bring these together to provide a sound solution.

Are integrators able to handle multi-product integrated installations?

Feuilherade: Enforce is a pioneer of integrated solutions and is certainly geared and experienced in the provision of integrated solutions.

What are the implications to the buyer when multiple installers and integrators need to be called into a project to deal with multiple technologies and specialisations?

Feuilherade: Enforce handles all its own integration, but should specific expertise be required externally then our expert consultants will project manage the process until the perfect integrated solution is implemented.

Are customers able to oversee and manage the implementation of Integrated Security Solutions? Or do they close their eyes and hope their service providers do a good job?

Feuilherade: Customers introduced to integrated solutions for the first time mostly understand the benefits and outcome, but do not necessarily understand, or need to understand the back end of the technology. That’s why they engage security experts to manage and advise their requirements.

Are security managers ready for Integrated Security Solutions?

Feuilherade: The benefit of an integrated solution is that it invariably has the ability to provide a better solution while saving costs. This is a major factor which impacts on business and insurance, so mostsecurity managers are open to the new technology and strategy.

What are the benefits of Integrated Security Solutions to the company, assuming the project is a success and delivers as expected?

Feuilherade: Integration of human resource and high-tech equipment has the ability to reduce excess capacity and provide a better return for both the client and the security service provider. Enforce looks to saving a client up to 30% on certain new solutions.

Honeywell’s Richard Creighton was unable to make the round-table and sent us a few notes on the topic.

Are businesses really focused on integrated solutions?

Creighton: Yes. There are proven benefits both from a capital outlay and operational efficiency perspective to ensure they take integrated environments seriously.

Are vendors really focused on developing products to open standards to promote integration with other vendors’ products?

Creighton: With the market shift to an open environment and greater commoditisation of certain product lines, it is imperative that vendors develop technology that is open. In some applications however (highly sensitive facilities such as prisons, cash handling facilities etc.), there is a very clear case for a very tightly controlled proprietary system. It is really about the client’s needs at the end of the day.

Are integrators really able to handle multi-product integrated installations?

Creighton: Few integrators are truly capable of acting as a master system integrator due to the breadth of skills required to do justice to the implementation. It is important when selecting an integrator to ensure that all disciplines are well provided for under their capability statement.

What are the implications to the buyer when multiple installers and integrators need to be called into a project to deal with multiple technologies and specialisations?

Creighton: When multiple installers are used, the end-user/main contractor has several complexities that need to be dealt with, such as multiple and in most cases complicated contractual arrangements as you now have to ensure all installers are well managed (under separate contracts) and opposed to a single contract. As the multiple contracts are difficult to manage, so does the end-user/main contractor dilute the risk transfer/share and recourse by going with multiple installers. A single master system integrator just makes sense.

Are customers able to oversee and manage the implementation of Integrated Security Solutions? Or do they close their eyes and hope their service providers do a good job?

Creighton: In most instances, the customer is overburdened with the daily whirlwind of activity and usually unable to shape the end-state of the installation to a great extent, thus ultimately not achieving the desired outcome.

Are security managers ready for Integrated Security Solutions?

Creighton: Yes. Integrated security architecture brings with it much benefit. A clear area of improvement for security managers is the ability to feel comfortable and confident with the ever-changing IT aspect of the integrated architecture.

What are the benefits of Integrated Security Solutions to the company, assuming the project is a success and delivers as expected?

Creighton: Lower capital cost, reduced operational cost, increased situational awareness, and reduced risk due to more accurate and real-time feedback – getting the right information to the right person.


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