Why Convergence?

The security industry is abuzz with talk of convergence: the melding of physical security with IT security. Security threats now come in many forms; the intruder at the door and the intruder sailing in over the Internet must both be kept out. Many...

Larger, multi-site corporations find digital video especially appealing because it allows for remote, centralized monitoring. With an Internet browser or application software installed on a computer or laptop, security officers can log into the access system via a secure IP address to view reports or live or recorded digital video from anywhere in the world.

This opens up many possibilities for cost and time saving. For example, software upgrades become fast and easy when the software sits on a server, rather than on individual computers. It also allows for more cost-effective staffing, with security monitoring centralized in one location, and it eliminates travel time to investigate security breaches, which can now be viewed via the Internet. A potential downside of digital video is possible delays in viewing due to inadequate transmission speeds or narrow bandwidths.

Another factor that makes IT and physical security convergence attractive is the ability to share information in ways not previously possible. For instance, consider the organization that links the Human Resources function to security via the corporate network. When an employee is terminated, security automatically receives a data transmission from HR that immediately deactivates the employee's building access card. Using a networked security system, this access removal can also be applied to multiple office locations. This eliminates numerous clerical functions, saves time and enhances security because the card deactivation occurs instantly throughout the organization.

The same holds true for adding new employees. A multi-national organization using a networked security system can immediately provide a new employee access to some or all of its locales.

Other examples of ways converged security can provide benefits include:

Authenticating identification at large company events. Since the access cards are networked and usable throughout an organization, the cards can provide higher levels of security by enabling ID authentication of employees at large company events, such as annual meetings or seminars. This could be particularly important for companies with locations in several countries, whose employees rarely see each other face to face.

Protecting the printing of proprietary company documents. Some organizations with networked security use a second layer of security for the printing of sensitive company documents. After the employee issues a print command to the computer, the document will not print unless the employee's access card is inserted into the printer and shows the appropriate security clearance. More efficiently managing access to secure areas. An employee is promoted to a job in a tightly secured computer area and now needs access to a new area that was previously off limits. With a networked system, the change can be accomplished in a few computer key strokes, which tell the door reader to accept the employee's access card. Previously, security staff would have needed to reprogram the door reader or issue the employee a new access card.

Where to Begin
A skilled security systems integrator can be invaluable in supplying both the technical knowledge and security expertise to make a convergence project successful. In selecting an integrator, look for one with plenty of high-tech talent on their team and also a history of handling IT and physical security convergence projects. Ask about their staff's experience as well. An integrator who knows how to speak the IT language will likely have staff with certified experience in networking, databases and operating systems.

Brad Wilson, CPP, is a 25-year veteran of the security industry. He is an officer and former president of SecurityNet, a 16-member organization of independent systems integrators offering clients across North America a single, responsible source for meeting all of their electronic security needs. He is also president of RFI Communications & Security Systems, based in San Jose, CA.