Tom Feilen is a member of the Tech-Net advisory group of Security-Net, an organization comprised of 19 independent systems integrators from throughout North America. He is also the Director of National Accounts for Koorsen Security Technology, a systems integration firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana. He can be reached at Tom.Feilen@koorsenst.com.
The introduction of IP-based, enterprise-wide and integrated security solutions has opened the door to more sophisticated access control and surveillance systems than ever thought possible. Needless to say, deploying those security systems has become much more complicated.
Today, for example, an end-user can view surveillance at eight different offices in eight different states from a single, central location; or, a security director can manage an enterprise-wide access control system — including revoking or granting access control privileges — for 10,000 global employees from the comfort of his or her desk at the company’s headquarters in Chicago.
The IP, enterprise and integrated technology trifecta, of sorts, is creating endless possibilities, leaving end-users to figure out how to both deploy and leverage their security systems. That increased level of system sophistication comes with an added level of complexity.
In this environment, systems integrators are now expected to formally and contractually prove that a successfully installed system works as outlined in a project specification document. This formal checks-and-balances process is gaining momentum in the security industry. Known as acceptance testing, the step-by-step process is more commonly being written into bid specifications, especially for projects that require the expertise of an engineer and/or architect. Simply put, it is a way for the end-user to make sure the system they paid for works properly and is delivered by the integrator as outlined in the project’s request for proposal.
This process can vary depending on the size of the project, but for a larger-scale installation, it is not uncommon for acceptance testing to take several weeks from start to finish. This timeline can be especially lengthy when the project involves hundreds of devices, such as access control readers, surveillance cameras, video recorders, intrusion sensors and intercom systems.
Inside the Acceptance Testing Process
While the specific process can vary from integrator to integrator, many follow a similar process with the end-user to ensure the system works accurately, along with the proper certification documentation.
The initial part of the process typically involves generating a report of each device installed as part of the system. This list enables the integrator to systematically test each device, ensuring that individual devices are not specific points of failure for the overall system. For example, in a building equipped with a system that automatically releases the egress doors if a fire alarm is activated, it is important to make sure each door’s electro-magnetic locking system is operating properly.
The integrator would not only test that a door releases when the fire alarm sounds, but also makes sure the access control system is notified if the door is propped open or held open longer than normal usage parameters. For a door that is also monitored by a surveillance camera, part of the testing would involve making sure that an image being transmitted to a video monitor is coming from the correct surveillance camera and that the actual angle of the image is what the end-user has requested and is correctly labeled as such.
If a device does not function as it should, it is then added to a punch list that would require the systems integrator to repair that device within a certain period of time. Once repairs are made, the system integrator would then submit a letter to the end-user stating that every device has been tested and works properly.
It is also important for the integrator to obtain an end-user’s approval on all systems tested and documentation provided once the testing process is complete. This limits liability once the system is turned over.
After the installation project is complete, acceptance testing protects both parties involved against liability issues. One example is if the building has a fire and the functionality of the life safety system comes into question. Acceptance testing can be used to prove that the system was able to function as specified and dispel any concerns about its performance.
Once testing is complete, all close-out sheets are turned in, along with as-built drawings and a manual providing a complete listing of each device and system installed.
Today, these manuals not only come in paper form as part of a large binder, but also as digital files. This full system documentation of the system ensures that the valuable information will not be lost if the end-user’s security executive or manager leaves the organization.
While acceptance testing can be a time-consuming process, it is obviously a valuable tool. It is estimated that at least 95 percent of integrated security systems today have been brought through the acceptance testing process. Testing protects the end-user’s investment from the beginning, ensuring that the systems integrator hired for the project is knowledgeable and provides quality work.
Tom Feilen is a member of the Tech-Net advisory group of Security-Net, an organization comprised of 19 independent North American systems integrators. He is Director of National Accounts for Koorsen Security Technology, an integration firm based in Indianapolis. He can be reached at Tom.Feilen@koorsenst.com.