CCTV and Access Control: The Big Picture

Jan. 1, 2004
Due to advanced technology and an increased knowledge of systems and applications, integration between systems has become easier.
For many, the choice to enter into either card access or the video arena is unplanned. However, in order to provide growth in business and to meet customers' needs, many undertake the task of combining these two technologies. Being basically from the closed circuit side of the fence, it was a challenge for me to completely understand the whys and hows of access control. After attending training classes on access control I quickly learned that in order to provide the best systems integration you must design the CCTV system to follow the designs of the access control or biometrics system. Between anti-passback functions, entrance and egress points, alarm handling procedures and database entries, creating an access control system to follow a video surveillance system is next to impossible.

Advancements in Access Control
The big picture of integration between access and video has gotten larger. The rapid growth of technology and system hardware and the expansion into biometrics have increased the level of security as well as the intensity of system knowledge.

In the past, many systems used a basic form of interfacing video and access control systems, which basically consisted of dry contact closures. The contacts were either a normally open or normally closed form of switching, allowing the card access system to control the alarming input of the surveillance system by a single pair of wires. This communication method, simple as it might be, allowed an access control system with “smart” card readers to call up a particular camera to any monitor and display it to any location. With today's microprocessor-based systems, integration has become easier and can provide for greater system flexibility. However, the greatest challenge for integration between access and video is communications. Each company offers different command codes, so third-party software may be necessary. In many cases, this situation causes multiple problems and may cause the overall system to fail.

The communicating theory of trading information is simple. For every alarm contact closure or card activation, the access control system has to generate a signal, which is sent to the input of a CCTV matrix control unit. This would cause a specified action to occur. The main problem lies in obtaining the software codes or finding someone who can write the code, and then ensuring the code is correct. Improperly written software has brought about many a sleepless night and frustrated system operator. The sharing of control languages between equipment manufacturers allows the access control system to communicate directly with the CCTV remote equipment, thus eliminating the need for special software programs and redundant control equipment.

The integration between access and CCTV as mentioned before was a challenge for all. Manufacturers now offer setup screens, which are part of their system software that allow programmers the luxury of selecting their surveillance controlling equipment from drop-down menus. This type of technology sharing has grown over the years and allows system operators to select equipment types, call up cameras to display screens, start camera sequence tours and feed the information to selected recording devices by a simple click of a mouse. The addition of a graphical user interface (GUI) completes the system integration process and creates an outstanding blend of equipment and manpower.

System Improvements
To improve the card access side of system integration many manufacturers are turning to biometrics. Iris recognition, for one, provides a higher security for sensitive applications. This form of identification combines video surveillance technologies with access smart card technology. An iris recognition system can be a stand-alone system or incorporated with fingerprint identification, creating one of the most secure applications presently available.

A video image of the iris of the eye is needed to produce a digitized 512-byte record. The image can be taken from between three and 21 inches away; therefore, no physical contact is required. Once an individual is entered into the database or inputted to a smart card, recognition can be confirmed in just seconds. This technology examines more than 240 degrees of freedom in the human iris to create a record, a 512-byte data template used to identify individuals to allow access. As for security, the iris is the most individually distinctive feature of the human body. In fact, it is more accurate than DNA. No two irises are alike, not even an individual's left and right iris. Because of this, iris recognition is the highest form of identification that can be incorporated into a system.

Biometrics in turn has lead to the increased use of smart cards, which are gathering strength throughout the United States. Tim Schroeder, product manger of emerging technology for IDenticard, said, ”With smart card technology all personal information can be stored and then compared and verified by smart card readers. This matching of information will eliminate the possibility of identification theft and create a more secure environment.”

With significant increases in the processing speeds, memory, and storage capacity, smart cards can now be used for security applications. As an example, Phillips Electronics has made available powerful 16-bit and 32-bit smart cards adding to a more secure identification method. A smart card is a technology that that has the ability to read and write information. It is basically a memory card, and the MIFARE technology created by Phillips Electronics has increased the speed and storage of these devices.

In closing, surveillance programs and large system integration can provide customers a high degree of security. However, as with everything, this scale of integration comes at an extremely high price. The application and desired security level should be taken into account before integration should be considered.

Robert (BOB) Wimmer, president of Video Security Consultants, has more than three decades of experience in the video security market. He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].