The New Convergence

Security integration has expanded to include Building Automation Systems

The security industry generally uses the term “convergence” to refer to the integration of security and IT systems. However, a “new convergence” of security and building control systems can provide building solutions that deliver safety, convenience, cost-effectiveness and energy-efficiency.

A typical hospital, university campus, high-rise building or government facility likely has dozens of disparate security and building control systems, each handling a critical function ranging from intrusion alarms to lighting controls.

It is likely that the monitoring, response and maintenance of these systems are split between a security director and facility manager, which usually requires two control points and separate staff to operate the respective systems. While that may have worked well in the past, it is no longer ideal for improving performance, increasing efficiencies and lowering costs. That’s leading to a growing move in many larger organizations to converge the security and building control systems with the goal of providing one point of control.

There are many reasons why it makes sense. Having a centralized point of command and control is certainly more convenient. It is also more efficient, as it enables an organization to manage facilities with fewer people.


Building on the Security Platform

Most large organizations will attempt to converge its security function with video surveillance, access control, emergency notification, visitor management systems, intrusion and fire alarms and other related systems. The facilities side brings heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, lighting controls, water conservation and a host of other efficiency systems to the mix.

A major problem that has delayed the convergence of these many systems is proprietary hardware, which is especially prevalent in the security industry. A push to open standards — based on the ONVIF or PSIA models — is still gaining steam.

A good example of how open architecture works can be found in a physical security information management system (PSIM) software-based solution, which is being used more frequently to integrate security subsystems onto one operating platform. PSIM solutions can integrate non-security building systems as well.

The result is a solution that collects, analyzes and correlates data from many individual systems. The PSIM software then interacts with the data to generate automated system activity — removing a great deal of the ordinary responsibilities from the hands of security guards or system operators. PSIM software also takes advantage of an existing wired building network, eliminating the costs of new equipment, cabling or computer networks. This helps to protect an organization’s investment in legacy systems, while newer IP-based technology can be added as old systems fail or as planned upgrades fit the budget.

Most building automation systems have moved to open architecture platforms that offer backward and forward compatibility. BACnet and LONWorks — two leading building automation protocols — enable real-time, remote interface with building systems and controls, including those from the security side, over an enterprise data network. This provides authorized operators and managers with remote monitoring and control capabilities via intranet, Internet, smartphone or tablet.

As is the case with security systems, building controls have largely made the transition to wireless and wired computer networks.


New Convergence in Action

How can these converged systems work synergistically to improve building safety, comfort and efficiency? Here are a few examples.

Automated Response: If a university’s fire alarm system detects a fire, for example, the building automation system signals the HVAC to stop delivering fresh air to the area of the blaze and pressurizes the path of egress, thus clearing it of smoke. The access control system unlocks doors along the route and surveillance cameras monitor the fire to give first responders a live video feed.

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