In this increasingly integrated, converged security world, the next step is inevitably greater unification of systems and capabilities—seamless operation back and forth between, for example, access control and IP video. When these systems are unified into one application, the benefits can be unique and far-reaching.
Integration vs. Unification
Integration means that two products work together. Unification means that a single, multi-functional application provides unified security, administration, and response. Unification goes beyond integration to foster a solutions mindset, and unified systems will have a major impact in terms of cost, efficiency, overall capabilities, and level of security.
Integrated systems require a designer or integrator to log into the separate systems to program coordinated responses to system events. Failure to program either system properly can cause inconsistent or failed responses, and because integrated systems remain separate, neither can detect the programming inconsistency and warn the user. Technical support teams may not be able to resolve the problems efficiently because they are not aware of the inconsistencies, thus increasing the total cost of ownership and system downtime.
Unity brings about a higher level of availability to physical security due to access/video server consolidation and more efficient use of standard hardware, IT tools, and a shared knowledge base. In the past, cameras were hard-wired to DVRs or matrix systems, and card readers were hard-wired to access control panels and servers with serial communications. When the host failed, these hard-wired connections prevented automated failovers to standby services. In modern IP systems, failovers are automated because the underlying IP infrastructure permits hot standby services to immediately assume responsibilities for the failed components. But if communications were lost between the host and a remote site with cameras and card readers, the unified system's advantage is that the access control panel can control the cameras based on alarm events, and it can buffer video until communication has been restored.
A Smarter System
A unified system provides highly intelligent security. Because unified access control and video share a single database, they can correlate information between them. Access control anomalies can trigger video, and video anomalies—including alarms raised by intelligent video—can be used to control access. For example, if a threat is detected by video intelligence, the system can automatically secure facility entrances. A shared database also provides a single point of service and auditing for both access control and video alarms.
On a broader scale, unified systems can automatically coordinate the reaction to changing threat levels. For example, during a period of heightened facility security, the system can automatically suspend card entry and display live video of personnel requesting access. Or when an employee presents his access card, that person's personnel photo can be pulled from the database and displayed so that the guard can manually allow or deny access.
The intelligence gleaned from a unified security solution also provides a wealth of statistics that can be used to illuminate and solve security challenges. For instance, you find that a particular door tends to remain open for an average of five seconds after a valid card read. However, a check of that door's summary activity on a given day shows three events longer than five seconds. You can click on each event to see video of what happened, or program the system to display video whenever the behavior for a door is outside the specified norm.
An IP-based, unified system also allows users to identify the whereabouts of personnel and access their identity verification data when they log into an enterprise application.