Government activity on the rise

Software applications and security solutions in the government vertical market are in high demand and competing vendors are stepping up their game.

One big push in the industry is the smart card initiative, according to Rick Focke, product manager, Software House, Westford, Mass. The acceptance of TWIC cards and how many have already been rolled out is just one focus. "There have been some hiccups in the government's delivery of those cards but it's picking up," explained Focke. For Software House, that has been the main product enhancement and application-to accept those cards and enroll them properly in the system.

Jumbi Edulbehram, vice president of Business Development for Next Level Security Systems, Carlsbad, Calif., agrees that there is a lot of attention to identification technology, such as biometrics, with the ultimate goal to get to some kind of smart card which has everyone's identity information on it. "And that's also connected with asset management technologies," explained Edulbehram. "Obviously when it comes to people in the government and military space, they have tons of assets. Software applications for asset tracking and management is a big need right now-being able to tag big assets with RFID and using GPS tracking to know where these assets are at any point and time."

One program in the government space that will impact access control software is the Identity and Credential Access Management (ICAM) initiative, according to Robert Beliles, vice president of Enterprise Business Development, Hirsch Electronics, Santa Ana, Calif. "Beyond obviously raising higher levels of security when it comes to the identity part of it, ICAM is really being aimed at significantly doing more in terms of tying physical access control systems in with logical or network access systems," explained Beliles. "So the implication for access control vendors is one of basically making sure that your system has the interoperability capabilities to conform to those guidelines that ICAM spells out."

"As far as applications, we're seeing strong demand for controlling SCIF (sensitive compartmentalized information facilities) areas where they have pretty strict standards of security," added Focke. And with the demand for a higher level of security with applications and technology available for the government space, the pressure for integrators to become more network and IT savvy is something that continues to have precedence. "The security integrators have to really be able to step up and talk face-to-face with IT staff. There are some specific standards for getting listed to put in the UL 2050 projects, for those SCIF areas, so if an integrator wants to go after that market, they better make sure they're up to date on standards and get trained on that type of installation."

The government is pushing standards from video to access control to all other sides of the industry in order to better protect government infrastructure, according to Edulbehram. One part of the government active in setting standards is the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "The software manufacturers have to pay attention in coming up with cost-effective solutions and making sure they can convince people that there are standards-based solutions that are possible to get in this industry," explained Edulbehram.

Another reason why standards are so important is to keep and maintain the cost structure down. "Standards will help drive cost down for the consumer as well as the manufacturer," said Beliles. "In terms of everyone being on an IP network, it's similar to everyone sharing the same highway system. Some people think that as long as they use the same highways as everyone else, they can communicate with everyone else but it just doesn't work that way. You still have to look at what target systems you are integrating with. There still has to be an agreement between two vendors, or a standard in itself, that states 'this is how I am going to share this information.'"

With high security needs in the military and government space especially, the levels of integration continue to see importance. End-users don't want to just depend on one system to make decisions but instead want information from an integrated and unified solution.

"We're building a system that is completely integrated from the ground up," explained Edulbehram. "It has access control, video and video analytics, VoIP all integrated into one standards-based appliance. We're in the process of developing that and that's certainly going to be a trend in the industry."

For others, the growth of technology partnerships is one clear way that the security industry will continue to grow and provide government verticals, among many, with applications and technology solutions. "The key is that one company is likely not going to be able to do it all," said Beliles. "That doesn't say that over time different companies won't try to do it themselves. From a software perspective, you see a lot of integration going on now amongst systems. Partnerships between physical access control, network access control, logical access control and to some degree device access control will enable enterprises as well as the government to achieve these higher level objectives in terms of what they want these systems to be able to do in working together."

Efficiency in Software Applications
By Van Page

Software programs used in access control security applications are undergoing three major trends: utilizing conversions and integration; providing mobility; and creating the opportunity to generate revenue.

The most efficient software applications and access control systems will integrate with other customer applications to, at a minimum, make it easy for the customer to move data from one program to another. There is no task more daunting than the requirement to export data from one program for use in another program.

Access control technology such as RFID, smart badges or even bar codes will only be as secure as the level to which they are integrated into a company's existing security software. Integration prevents a facility or corporation from having to enter information in two different places and also prevents the facility from having to remove information from two places in the case of a deletion. Failure to deactivate an employee or resident's access control device means that it will continue to function long after the employee or resident has moved, traded a vehicle, or left the company or community.

Today's requirement for mobility means much more than the ability to take your work home at night. A successful software application/system must not only meet the need for a user to log in from various locations and access data outside of the area in which the software is hosted, but to do so through a wireless application. Consider a private community where a patrol officer roams the grounds with a portable handheld, adding in data from any given location. This mobility allows the guard or security personnel to record data onsite, such as take pictures of a traffic violation. If the software is integrated, those pictures and the data recorded are synched with the main software in real-time, providing seamless security. Mobility makes data accessible through many different types of devices, such as Tablets or PDAs, which can function in real time, or as part of a local database that syncs with a host periodically.

A PDA may be used to: securely process visitors, employees, contractors, and vehicles; read an RFID tag or bar code to visually admit someone; activate a new visitor credential such as an RFID device or bar coded badge; or take a photograph and store it with a transaction.

A Tablet PC may be used in much the same way as a PDA with the added benefit of a larger screen, onscreen keyboard and attached device reader for scanning driver's licenses or mag stripe cards. Tablets can be used for one part of a transaction, than placed in a docking station to complete the transaction with a full-size keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

Many companies today are looking for an opportunity to generate revenue. Software systems wanting to stay current will need to provide tools that allow the user to save money or generate additional income. One way to generate revenue is to charge contractors daily, weekly, monthly or annual admittance fees for access to the community. After all, it is often these same contractors who are causing the most wear and tear on the roads and are the reason for the need for security in the first place. Communities that are not open to the public, such as most guarded, gated communities, are facing the dilemma of reduced association fee payments due to foreclosures and deteriorating infrastructures due to such issues as aging roads and more.

Van Page is the founder and president of CapSure Inc, creator of Visitor Management Software for residential communities, corporations and distribution channels; visit www.capsure.com.

 

 

 

Sensing Technologies in Smart Environments
By Nigel Elkan


Everywhere we look we are seeing "smart" buildings, "smart" cities or "smart" grids. But what does it really take to be defined as such?

Organizations have acquired a broad spectrum of sensing devices to collect information about what is happening in their physical world. These sensors and sensor subsystems include access control systems, intrusion detection systems, fire alarm systems, camera systems, door sensors, HVAC systems, panic systems, RFID and GPS tracking, and more. Today, each of these systems lives on, each within its own silo, relying upon the skill of the responder to somehow determine which of the alarms is real and which is false and then correlate the subset of available data to which he or she has access to attempt to determine or advise upon the most effective and appropriate response.

These systems need to work together. One approach may be to attempt to aggregate all of these data sources into a consolidated console. But that wouldn't be smart. Our problem is sensory overload. We have the data. We just don't know which is actionable and which is not. And even when we do recognize the actionable data it is exceedingly hard to gather the most critical information-across the combined systems-that would help ensure the most appropriate response.

So our first goal is to combine the information that is being acquired from the individual sensors into a real understanding of the situation. We need to work with the systems that we have today and the systems that will replace or complement these systems in the future. One future certainty is that the variety, ingenuity and sheer number of sensors that are available to connect to the network will continue its extraordinary growth. For example, RFIDs and GPS systems (including mobile phones and GPS tracking devices) have gone from the millions a few years ago to the billions today. Over the next decade, this will grow several orders of magnitude. Everything that currently has a network heartbeat will become a candidate for inclusion with an event-response based solution.

Sensing technologies enable us to monitor and respond to the condition, behavior and location and anomalies of key assets today. This will continue to evolve such that each of our people and physical assets can be recognized and supported whenever the need arises. We will be able to correlate and respond to any emerging situation and gain access to available corroborating data from correlated sensors to ensure the most appropriate and coordinated response.

Smart is event-based

Whether the issue is security and safety or environmental controls or logistics, these systems are sensing events and require an event-based middleware hub able to recognize and respond to these real-time events as they occur. The event-based middleware provides us with the opportunity to recognize and aggregate the event data from any of the underlying systems. However emerging situations are dynamic. Real-time event-based integration is inherently dynamic. Real-time correlation provides the ability to gain an immediate understanding of the whole situation and ensures that the response is appropriate to the action situation and not constrained by the initial assessment of the situation.

Nigel Elkan is the vice president of Business Development for Knowledge Vector International, LLC, headquartered near Research Triangle Park, N.C. Visit www.knowledgevector.com
 

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