Integrated security platforms for businesses

February 2008 Access Control & Identity Management

An access control solution can be as simple as the use of electronic cards instead of keys to unlock a front door.

This limited functionality still retains a considerable level of value in the foundation of an electronic security platform.

In most cases, businesses can limit which cards are able to access the door during specific times, thus allowing all employees to have 'keys to the shop' without risking unwanted access to the premise.

At the other end of the spectrum is a fully integrated system, controlling multiple buildings, and which incorporates the functionality of the CCTV, fire alarm, electronic visitor management, lighting, asset management, intrusion detection, elevator control and other systems as may be appropriate.

The benefits of a well planned, properly specified and cost-efficient access control solution for any building or site are numerous and include:

* Protection of a facility.

* Limited access to restricted areas eg, server rooms.

* Monitor and control of remote locations.

* Security for staff and visitors.

* Controlling and reporting on any access movement.

* Tracking and tracing people for evacuation purposes.

Besides preventing unwanted visitors and minimising risk to stock and equipment, effective access control also safeguards against costly and potentially disastrous business interruption.

Evolution through technology

In this world of technology, security systems are evolving quickly, offering more features and greater levels of integration. Indeed, security systems work best when functioning as an holistic solution to meet site-specific risks, where their full potential can be realised. This means integrating equipment such as CCTV cameras and recorders, access control, electronically monitored perimeter fencing and intruder alarms.

In the past, true system integration used to be the exclusive preserve of a small number of end-user companies willing to pay large amounts of money for high-level functionality.

Problems encountered in matching different system control protocols led to difficulties in enabling these systems to 'talk' to each other. Various solutions attempted to resolve this 'language barrier' as system suppliers sought the key to unlocking the benefits of interoperability in that sector.

However, over the last few years, the market has changed, driven by increased consolidation of the industry. This has resulted in enhancement in manufacturers offerings to enable them to add on common systems platforms. What was once a technical nightmare of different protocols and technological incompatibility is increasingly becoming a 'plug-and-play' solution, where the in-built technology manages all aspects of integration.

Leading security organisations are now placing the emphasis on access control systems as the absolute integration platform. Easy integration starts at video systems linked into the graphical user interface of the access control software. This way, daily operations can be managed without having to switch between separate software systems.

Additionally, security officers can be better deployed, monitored and supported as they perform both routine site checks and specific incident response duties during out-of-hours periods such as overnight, weekends and public holidays. Similar detector activations can lead to alarms being raised at monitoring stations located anywhere around the world. Konrad Weinert, Honeywell's Africa sales leader for video and access advises, "A typical example of this is a major retailer that has an integrated access control, intrusion and video system installed on their sites. In the instance of an emergency that occurs at night when freezer units malfunction, the auxiliary input triggers the access control platform and notifies the central monitoring station. The intervention specialists notifies the stand-by electrician who arrives at the site later that evening, when the contractor uses their access card to gain access to the site. This automatically triggers video pop-ups on the system in the control room, allowing the intervention specialist to visually verify and remotely manage the visitor to the emergency area, on and off the site. Similarly an intrusion and other risks can be managed by the integrated security platform. This type of integrated remote management capability clearly enhances security whilst improving the efficiency of increasingly expensive security staff."

Leveraging off an access control solution provides the ability to easily and rapidly implement new technology solutions such as smartcards, biometrics, and intelligent video into existing architectures as needs change.

True integration can offer far more functionality than just the security of an organisations' people and premises; it can extend to envelop all aspects of a business including cashless vending, storing personal information, control of access to restricted areas, maintaining a database of users and vendors, number plate recognition and alerting, people and vehicle counting and traffic flow analysis. "Biometric recognition systems integrated with our video and access control solutions have generated major benefits for contractors at sites such as construction and manufacturing, including staff at retail stores, warehouses and corporate multitenant buildings and tenants of apartment blocks and gated communities," says Konrad Weinert. "Security improvements are increasingly adding value to businesses whether financially or in meeting compliance requirements rather than being a grudge purchase of the past."

While the level of sophistication will vary in accordance with budget and requirements, an integrated solution is within any company's reach and is undoubtedly the new standard for any company serious about their security.

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