Object based architecture the cornerstone of successful system integration

May 2000 Access Control & Identity Management

Object orientation is not just an abstract concept that applies to software development; it is a design approach that can be applied at all levels of a system to facilitate seamless integration with other systems. A leading Johannesburg-based security systems developer ascribes the success of its products in part to object-oriented design.

ControlSoft Managing Director Russell Wagstaff says his company's long-term investment in object-based architecture has paid handsome dividends. "Thanks to the architecture of our system, we have been able to develop new products rapidly and use existing hardware in new applications. It has also been relatively easy for us to integrate KeyMaster Pro [the company's flagship access control and building monitoring system] with other security subsystems."

ControlSoft has been developing object-oriented, event-driven applications since the days of Windows 2.0 (an operating system which not too many people will remember). According to Wagstaff, ControlSoft learnt early on that programming in an object/event oriented environment such as Windows is very different from traditional functional programming. "We still see people trying to apply functional programming techniques in the Windows environment, and they are very surprised when their applications don't work properly."

Message-based, event-driven operating system

At ControlSoft, object-orientation is a culture that extends beyond software development and pervades every aspect of the company's security systems. "We have applied the object/event model across our systems, from the server and client software, through the PC/system controller interface to the card reader controller."

ControlSoft's research and development teams used their experience in industrial networking and data acquisition to develop a message-based, event-driven operating system for use with the company's range of system controllers and card reader controllers.

ControlSoft engineers also designed CS-NET, a high-speed peer-to-peer networking system that is a standard feature on all ControlSoft system controllers. The Discovery software module was developed specifically to provide ControlSoft's Windows based security applications with an object-based view of devices connected to CS-NET interface adapters.

The power of object orientation

As an example of the power of object orientation, Wagstaff cites the installation at Vodacom Corporate Park, where KeyMaster Pro's built-in event/action programming functionality was used to communicate intelligently with the CCTV matrix. When the access control system detects an event such as an attempted forced entry or unauthorised access to a restricted area, KeyMaster Pro sends a signal that activates the appropriate cameras.

"With some systems, this kind of integration would require the hardwiring of scores of digital inputs and outputs. However, with KeyMaster Pro it was relatively easy, because the application is designed to treat hardware devices as objects. So it doesn't really matter what you have connected to the digital inputs and outputs on our system controllers," explains Wagstaff.

ControlSoft's European distributor came up with another innovative application for the object-oriented event/action functionality in KeyMaster Pro. At a flour mill in the UK, they connected the output from a sensor on the grain hopper to one of the digital inputs on a ControlSoft system controller.

When the level of grain in the hopper drops below a certain threshold, the sensor triggers the input on the system controller. KeyMaster Pro detects the change in the state of the object representing that specific digital input, and automatically sends a pager message to the plant manager. "This may seem like a trivial example of integration, but it does illustrate how sound system architecture can enable you to meet the most specific customer requirements," says Wagstaff.

For details contact Russell Wagstaff, Managing Director of ControlSoft on tel: (011) 477 4760, fax: (011) 477 5789 or e-mail: russell@controlsoft.com

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