The Road to Open Integrations

Benefits include ease of use and heightened situational awareness

Ease of operation, faster response and greater situational awareness are typical drivers for integration of various security systems. For years, manufacturers have touted their ability to integrate with third parties, in many cases using claims of how open their products are as a proof point.

Unfortunately, there is no universal way to measure openness or how comprehensive is the integration. Most customers, specifying consultants, dealers and systems integrators have likely experienced through trial and error that not all integrations, or a given product's "openness," are the same. The good news is technology continues to improve and standards are beginning to take hold. So just what should we expect from security vendors in 2011 when it comes to integration?

Video, access control and intrusion detection integration

At a minimum, any integration (using access control or intrusion detection) with video surveillance must be able to access live video from the camera and have PTZ support capability, preferably with auto PTZ preset functionality when triggered by various events. Guard tour functions should be fairly easy to support as well, as this has more to do with the camera than the DVR or NVR, particularly when IP cameras with their ubiquitous Web servers are used. Tagging video based upon event triggers has been pretty standard for quite some time and should be able to support screen pop-ups, e-mail and multimedia messaging services (MMS), as well as tie the event to recorded video for future viewing. Most integrations also support the ability to retrieve recorded video through the access control system's user interface. If a user has to switch from access control to the video surveillance system's interface for any of these common functions, the integration is not very effective in terms of ease of operation, increasing user productivity and decreasing response time.

Recognizing video verification is valuable to both consumers and central station monitoring operations. More advanced integrations should likely support image enhancement, such as zoom functions as well as video export, through the access control or intrusion detection interface. From there, configuration modifications come in handy, particularly allowing the operator to establish new policies based upon various other security system events and parameters.

Integration of video analytics with Video Management Systems (VMS) and/or directly to access control or intrusion detection can be very valuable. After all, much of what video analytics can do is transform video into another type of smart sensor data, providing additional qualitative and quantitative information. As accuracy improves, it is interesting to note that operators may not need to see the video, taking the analytic event message as "gospel."

VMS vendors may observe that integration with access control and intrusion detection can go the other way, whereby the video surveillance system user interface becomes the primary interface. In this case, the VMS should be able to ingest events and alarms that come from access control, as well as intrusion detection systems. While it might seem "cool" to be able to trigger request to enter or exit, or stand-down an alarm from the video interface, unless there is a capability to fully leverage user enrollment/credentialing, authentication, role and other policy enforcement functions, it would seem that integrations of this nature are of limited value.

Ideally, all of the advanced functionality of the cameras and the recording systems (whether they be DVR- or NVR-based) should be accessible through the integration. These integrations would essentially allow the operator and administrator to configure, operate and maintain the video system through a single interface. However, perhaps we can only hope for that high level of integration in the most sophisticated system offerings when multiple vendors' systems are used. Otherwise, this level of integration tends to work only when a single vendor offers access control, video surveillance and in some cases, intrusion detection systems. The implication is that full access to the source code or a very robust API would likely be required to allow for full customization.

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