Meeting of the Minds

Convergence ushers in a new era of collaboration


Angie Wong knows first-hand how challenging it can be to put together teams of people from two different worlds. Since 2003, when Wong spun off Ojo Technology from a sister company, she’s been staffing security projects with both physical security experts and IT gurus. The result has been a study in contrast.
“The physical security installers want to get started at 5 or 6 in the morning and quit at 3. They prefer to go on-site with clipboards and paper,” says Wong, CEO of Ojo, which deploys IP-based video surveillance and access control systems. “The IT team is from a younger generation. They want to start at 10 a.m. and work until whenever — into the night if necessary. They use their PDAs and text messaging to communicate, not paper.”
As it turns out, Ojo, Fremont, Calif., may be ahead of the curve, but it’s not the only integration firm to pick up on a fast-moving trend — the convergence of physical security and IT. Just as IT pros are discovering that a video camera can be yet another piece of hardware on an Ethernet backbone, physical-security experts are recognizing that “routers” and “servers” are words worth adding to their lexicon.

Two Worlds Collide
The drivers of IT-physical security convergence are economic, political and social — but chief among them are a heightened awareness of public safety (sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks) and technological innovation.
“(After 9/11), CEOs were calling in their physical security people and their IT security staff and asking ‘Are we prepared?’ But the two groups had never met before,” says Steve Hunt, principal of 4a Intl., a Chicago-based think tank focused on physical, logical and homeland security. “The CEO says, ‘I’ve got these two business units with the same mission — to keep bad things from happening — and they’re not even working together.’”
That’s when the two groups started collaborating, but the going has been slow.

Capitalizing on IP Technology
For organizations, IP-network video security delivers myriad benefits, including flexibility, improved operations, scalability, and reduced costs, and allows organizations to integrate security with other business systems.
“We’re getting away from information silos and moving toward integrated, actionable intelligence,” says Mariann McDonagh, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Verint Systems in Melville, N.Y. “With IP, we can treat video like any other enterprise data. We can move it and share it. And we can approach security proactively instead of reactively.”
Running video and data on the same network also means that organizations can capitalize on their existing TCP/IP infrastructures and reduce the costs of pulling coax. They can deploy distributed, global security systems, and when the need for troubleshooting arises, there’s generally only one throat to choke.
Then there’s scalability, which Wong says is “the coolest thing” about IP video. “There’s no maximum with these systems,” she says. “If you want more bandwidth, you pull down more bandwidth. If you want to install more cameras, you install more.”

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