Centralized Monitoring of Remote Locations

Integrated systems make remote monitoring an easier, more cost effective option.

The access control systems of today allow people access to a facility when they present an access card or key fob, enter a PIN, present their finger (for example) to a biometric reader, or when they perform any combination of these acts. You have preprogrammed the system to allow the individual in question to access the building on certain days during certain time periods. The panel in the building will allow the individual access and then report to the central monitoring computer that the individual has entered the building. If you position readers at the building's exits as well, the system can create a record of when an individual enters and leaves the facility. This can be especially important in an emergency evacuation situation; the system can name who was in the building at the time of the alarm so you can advise responding emergency agencies.

The physical absence of guards tasked with controlling access may create concern. For instance, some may worry that access systems control access to the credential, not the credential holder. But using biometrics or a combination of authentication techniques to control access severely lessens the chances of unauthorized individuals gaining access with stolen cards or information. Tailgating?when an authorized individual intentionally or unintentionally allows an unauthorized person access?is another concern. It used to be that this could only be dealt with by having a security officer at the door or using floor-to-ceiling turnstiles with weight sensors. Now doorway systems are available that can act like optical turnstiles. When an individual displays his or her access media at a door, the system will authorize only one person to access the door without causing an alarm. These systems can be programmed to limit the number of times a person can enter a door during a given period, so they cannot use their access media to allow others to enter.

You can wire door contacts, motion detectors, smoke detectors or any other type of alarm device to most access control systems. If the alarm switch is activated, the access control system will give you an alarm with a message at your central monitoring station on what action should be taken. I have even wired facility monitoring systems into access control systems. For example, if you have a basement sump pump that goes out during a rainstorm, an alarm to your central monitoring station can get a maintenance team member to the location within an hour.

While remote access control systems provide you marvelous information, they do not let you see the facility. The new digital CCTV systems can help you solve that problem. The popular use of these systems is to have a digital multiplexer/recording device in each facility acting as a part of either your LAN or Internet-based system. These units can be wired to four, 16 and even 32 cameras, which watch the locations you feel are important such as access points, hallways or security-related areas like server rooms. The systems can be programmed to record only in predetermined circumstances?when movement occurs in front of them, for instance, or when an alarm sounds in the camera's vicinity. The cameras record to a hard drive at their location, which you can then access from inside the building or across the nation, depending on the configuration you have designed.

You should avoid simultaneously displaying as many CCTV monitors as possible in your central monitoring station. We have seen many central monitoring stations that looked like NASA command centers, with more active screens than you can count. The problem with these scenarios is that you station one poor security officer in this environment and in a short period of time that guard is saturated with so much electronic data that he or she no longer reacts to any of it. Keep the number of active monitors small and let the systems display only as much as the officer can take in at one time. This is where programming an integrated system and the use of video tours can be important.

Here's an example of how integrated systems can assist in remote monitoring. At two in the morning, a man comes to the front door of one of the buildings you are monitoring and displays an access card. The access control system will decide whether the card is valid. At the same time, the access control system can electronically alert the CCTV system that there is someone at the front door. The CCTV system may already be recording the man because he is moving in front of the front door camera. The system may even be programmed to alert the central monitoring station that there is someone opening the door, because of the late hour. The system can automatically display the picture of the person entering as well as the ID photo of the cardholder. The security officer monitoring the system can then decide if the person entering matches the ID photo and whether unauthorized persons are entering with the authorized individual. Many such systems can be programmed to not open the door until the security officer provides electronic authorization.