IP Security Breaks into More Than Just Video

While IP surveillance enjoys rapid growth, other IP-based security systems aren't far behind

Previously, customers requiring remote monitoring paid astronomical monthly fees for leased lines, often upwards of $1,000 per month. But use of IP-based security information accessed over the Internet eliminates the cost of leased lines, and lets remote monitoring be accomplished from virtually anywhere. "It's becoming a requirement for administrators to access security systems from their laptops," notes Steve Switzer, market manager for integrated security at Honeywell. "A lot of this is being driven by the convergence of security systems into the IT world where they're used to remote monitoring and management."

Another benefit afforded by IP-based security systems is the ability to provide Power over Ethernet (POE) to devices. Currently, this capability is best suited to camera applications. "Cameras require a lot less power, and because they are spread throughout a facility, running power to each camera is cost-prohibitive," remarks Switzer. "On the other hand, access control devices are not as widespread, and while there is future potential for PoE access control systems, it takesa lot of power to operate a door switch."

IP-based technology also enables easy integration of security systems for surveillance, access control, and intrusion detection. "Now the system can videotape someone badging in and decide whether or not to let him in, or detect an intrusion and watch the culprit over video," suggests Honeywell's Lott. "The security industry is starting to embrace open architecture.

It's not just about how well products integrate with each other, but how well they integrate with other vendors' systems--and IP technology will further help that integration."

It should be noted that, while the integration of such key security systems offers certain benefits, the convergence of physical security systems with IT functions is an issue shrouded in debate, presenting a variety of advantages and disadvantages. (For more on this topic, see "Finding a Single Solution for Security Access Control" in the June 2006 issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.)

Technology available Today's leading security systems vendors all offer IP-based video surveillance systems that incorporate IP camerasfor various applications. "When we started converting analog into digital via DVRs [digital video recorders], people started to realize that they could view video over the IP network," Lott explains. "Now, we're putting that technology into the camera, and customers don't have to worry about where the DVR is located."

Lott continues, "There are a couple of ways to do IP-based surveillance. We can offer an all-in-one system, including everything from cameras, encoders, and network video recorders, to the software and PCthat it runs on. The other option is to just provide the cameras andthe software, which is preferred by IT-focused customers who alreadyhave strong relationships with cabling and equipment vendors."

Despite the slow uptake of IP-based technology for security applications other than surveillance, many vendors are offering or are developing IP-based systems. "We see some vendors fitting their serial devices with TelNet adapters, which simply sit on the network transmitting unsecured serial data," says Moss of $2 Security. "Technically speaking, they've managed to get their devices on the network."

Moss also notes that some vendors are now offering "third generation architecture" where network appliances employ TCP/IP protocols forauthenticating data, "which, in concept, is identical to the authentication being done by wireless access points." By way of example, Moss cites his company's NetBox Access Control platform, described as a fully distributed system employing a network controller and standard Web browser, thus eliminating the need for client software and serversystems.

Fully IP-based access control systems can function in a variety ofways. In some cases, the card readers are IP-based and connect directly to telecommunications cabling. More commonly, a cluster of card readers is connected to telecommunications cabling via a network-basedcontroller. "Traditional serial connected devices, even those connected through an Ethernet bridge, still rely on a peer-to-peer communication through a host, which is not always ideal," notes Honeywell's Coulthard. "In the very near future, we will have access control appliances that plug directly into the network and communicate with end devices. This system lets controllers communicate with each other on the network, and it enables one controller to act as back up for another, which is ideal for customers who want redundancy for primary entrypoints."