Leaders In Access Control

Oct. 27, 2008
An Exlusive Security Dealer Roundtable

Susan Brady: With all the features offered in access control systems, one growing trend among dealer integrators is customizing a system for each client's needs. How would you suggest that dealer integrators approach a system design to make sure they are addressing all the client's access control needs?

Steven Van Till, President and COO, Brivo Systems: All system design begins with user requirements. There are many methods for collecting such requirements—from classic, top-down systems engineering approaches to the more modern, iterative techniques practiced by adherents of the ‘agile' development movement. All of them work to varying degrees. For the integrator, the two most important things to focus on are the understanding that end user requirements are constantly evolving. Select a design method that fits your own and the client's corporate culture.

In terms of specific technologies, the integrator should select vendors who provide the types of platforms that readily lend themselves to customization and adaptation. Web-based technologies come immediately to mind, because these vendors can update code on their servers and provide new features to their integrators' customers without the need to release a new product or install new software at customers' sites. Such a level of flexibility meets the real world demand to adapt to continually changing end user requirements.

Vineet Nargolwala , Director, Strategic Marketing, Honeywell Access Systems: I t begins with the dealer integrator understanding the problem that the customer is trying to solve. Different customers have different needs, particularly across different vertical markets. So for example, a customer in the pharma industry may want his system to comply with 21CFR part 11 while a financial customer may want his system to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.

Another customer might be motivated by preserving an installed base of legacy systems. Once you understand the problem, the system requirements can be bounded according to the customer needs and you can start to design the solution. Solutions in turn may require integration to new hardware or existing video solutions (DVR, NVR, etc.) or a brand new development effort—such as an auditing or tracking tool. Or you may be required to go beyond the traditional security solution and integrate to an HR system. The bottom line is that all of the pieces fall into place better when you start with understanding your customer's needs.

Leon Chlimper, Vice President Systems, Bosch Security Systems, Inc.: The process for designing an access control system does not differ from the process for any other type of system and it begins with the sales process. From a conceptual standpoint it is in the sales process that you begin to capture the information that is required for a good system design. Though there are a variety of reasons an end user requests a quote or system design there is one single underlying reason and that is “they are looking for a solution to something.”

You can not effectively design a system if you do not understand what this reason is. There are many cases where the customer does not know how to provide the information, It is up to you to ask the right questions to capture the true needs of the organization requesting the quote.

Access control systems have grown; they are no longer used to keep people out. In today's integrated world they do much more. These added capabilities carry a cost associated with them—explain the true power of the system. When designing a system, look at: business continuity, integration to subsystems and more important integration to business systems (like HR programs) as today's systems are extremely efficient in gathering information. When you understand the needs and evaluate the options, you begin a complete design of a system.

Mark Peterson, Director of iTechnology Design Resource Group, HID Global: Technology-based systems and components are tools to be utilized as part of a comprehensive security program. Trends towards open standards and IP convergence are expanding system capabilities beyond the traditional security department as security system components and data are being used for many non-security business applications.

Today's effective system design requires integrators to possess a more thorough understanding of their customer's organizational environment, applicable policies and procedures, and what security and/or business problems they face. Only after integrators have a sufficient understanding of the customer's business can they effectively consider and deploy the proper system features and functionality that maximizes the effectiveness of the technology solution beyond the security department. The extent to which integrators can distribute the benefits of their technology solutions across their customer's organization will play a key role in the future success of today's integrator.

A good example of this trend is the emergence of smart cards for use in physical access control. If physical access control is the sole consideration, the integrator may deploy a smart card solution that limits the potential benefits to other parts of the customer's business. However, if the integrator has interfaced with other departments within their customer's business, he may find that smart cards solve problems or increase efficiencies in other aspects of the customer's business (cashless vending, copy/print control, logical access, electronic purse, production control, biometrics, etc.). By identifying potential solutions beyond access control, the integrator can choose the proper smart card solution and extend the value of his services beyond the security department. By extending the value of products and services beyond security, the integrator increases customer loyalty and can differentiate himself from competitors.

Brady: Integration is another important aspect of system design. In general terms, discuss the emergence of the technology trend that is integrating video management systems with access control systems. What functionality is now being made possible?

Van Till : The core technology for video and access control integration is, of course, the IP protocol stack. But there's more to it than that. Not all IP video products are created equal; many don't even use the better part of what IP has to give—the Web! We've observed that many of the so-called “network ready” or “IP capable” video products being sold today don't even allow access to their video repositories with a Web browser. Instead, they still require users to download a client onto their PC, and view the video through that proprietary client. This architecture essentially makes true integration with other Web-based services impossible, at best giving users what those in the software field have for years mockingly called “Alt-Tab” integration. Such “integration” means two applications reside side-by-side on the same PC, but aren't connected and don't share data in any meaningful way.

We've pursued a very different development and integration strategy. All the video vendors we've been working with for the past year provide true Web-accessible APIs, applets, and controls that allow us to create rich user experiences where data collected in the access control domain can be used to access, view, and share data in the video domain. That's true integration of access control and video and it provides superior functionality and customer benefits.

Nargolwala: The days of talking about access control, video surveillance, and intrusion detection in silos are gone. More and more, customer requirements cannot be met with one type of solution alone; rather, they need a holistic approach that brings together the different pieces that help to address the customer's needs. In the case of video solutions, the trend towards network video recording solutions has helped make the integration easier from a management standpoint. Network video solutions tend to use off-the-shelf components such as IP cameras or DVRs and leverage the existing IT infrastructure that the customer may have, which potentially could result in significant savings for the customer.

In these integrated systems, the video r endering is typically embedded in the access control software platform, which in turn allows for seamless video and access capabilities from a single front end. It also enables the tagging of access events with associated video clips, which provide the operator with a comprehensive view of any event or incident.

Chlimper: The biggest increase in functionality deals with having the ability to “see” what happens; whether this is viewing an event that happened (recorded) or verifying an even as it is happening. The bigger question is who owns this integration. Is it the access control system or the CCTV system; the answer varies depending on who you talk to.

Peterson: Although integration of access control and video is not new to the security marketplace, the increased use of open standards and IP convergence has increased the capabilities and effectiveness of such integrations. Standards-based field devices at the “edge” of the IT network allow for the selection of the most appropriate IP camera or network access control reader versus the limited options provided by outdated proprietary systems. Being deployed on the network backbone has decreased the costs associated with installation since separate, proprietary cabling infrastructure is eliminated. Being deployed on a common network platform has created an environment where video and access control data can be shared much more effectively because it is no longer limited by the silo-type configuration of more proprietary systems.

One of the most important aspects of today's integration of video and access control is the improved deployment of a single, common graphical user interface (GUI) for the configuration, administration, management and monitoring operations of the security management technology solution. These applications leverage today's trend towards open standards capabilities of devices and subsystems by bringing them into a common operational environment that improves the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the security solution.

Now security operations can more easily get a comprehensive real-time snapshot of all security devices and their status. The linking of video display and monitoring based upon specific access events allows monitoring personnel to be more attentive to relevant security concerns rather than attempting to identify a single security event on a wall of video monitors. The linking of video data with access data has also improved post-event investigations since personnel can obtain video, access control and intrusion data from a single archived file. Video and access control integration now provides users with a great deal more choice and flexibility in order to customize the technology solution with the unique attributes of their security operation.