The Making of a Network

Jan. 27, 2009
Laptop and ‘ping' new tools of the trade

Just like that, many in the traditional burglar alarm business wake up and know something is different. They realize they are not just selling sensors, detectors, controls and devices. After they pinch themselves reality sets in. They aren't in the burglar alarm business anymore, but have migrated into the information technology (IT) space.

It may not be exactly how it happened for American Security Systems Inc. in Long Island City , N.Y. , but it's pretty close to what the real deal is in the industry today. Those companies that continue to focus on hardware only will find themselves left behind, missing a sizeable portion of the growing network and IP-based business.

American Security Systems, a 25+ year old alarm installation and monitoring firm, didn't want that to happen and as such it has been positioning itself for the future. It spent many years as a fire alarm company and access control provider and runs and maintains a UL Certified® and New York City Fire Department approved central station, monitoring for fire, burglary, hold-up, medical emergency and environmental conditions 24/7.

One of the most notable projects propelling them into the networking space is a highly recognizable one—the remodeling and retrofit of the historic landmark New York Times Building in Times Square, Manhattan . The building had been the headquarters of the nationally-known newspaper since 1913, but the company recently moved to a different location in the city.

Africa Israel Investments Ltd., known as AFIUSA, an international holding and investment company that specializes in real-estate development, bought the property located at 229 West 43rd Street and is refurbishing it to a luxury high rise office space as part of a $175 million renovation. American Security won the Request for Proposal and the contract for the comprehensive building security system. Their ability to build a dedicated security network—from scratch—was in large part a determining factor in being awarded the bid.

Dedicated network makes sense

Slated for completion this year, the leading edge project is designed as an enterprise class solution with the latest technology, including integration of access control, Internet protocol (IP) cameras with video analytics, Web-based visitor management and IP intercoms over a dedicated local area security network.

“This is a true deployment of seamless integration over a dedicated security network,” said Larry Dolin, president and chief executive officer of American Security Systems. “As our company continues to cultivate its networking capabilities we can effectively bridge the gap between our clients' security department and IT staff.” Dolin said American Security was chosen over five competing firms, based on their ability to value-engineer the project. The contract is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and one of the largest American Security has performed of late.

“This job is everything that the industry is abuzz about these days,” said Dave Baldo, project director. “We are building the entire security network infrastructure from scratch. We are responsible for the design and management of the network, including bandwidth calculations, transmission rates, network devices and IP address management. We designed the server farm for video management and storage, Web-based visitor enrollment and access control client workstations. It's quite comprehensive and includes intricate IP addressing procedures, beta testing of integrated systems and countless hours of pre-installation and bench testing prior to putting anything in the field,” Baldo added.

American Security continues to successfully migrate from the traditional burg and fire business to the world of IP cameras and now, networking. “We're in an IP world and this is the way things are headed,” commented Dolin. “We've also done a lot of access control and it was natural for us to run it on the network. Of course, when you put anything on the network, you will eat up bandwidth, and that's why we decided we would build a dedicated private network for security and IP from the ground up for the New York Times Building,” Dolin said.

“If you put an extensive camera system in place, say 30 cameras, you'll choke up the system if you're sharing it withIT,” added Baldo. “That's why we decided the security and the data networks would be separate and that was an important selling point to the end-user. When a security company is dealing with IP, the IT network should be separate and distinct, because it won't be welcome on the traditional network,” he said.

The network system has three servers: one each for video storage, access control and the Web-browser-based visitor management system. The network's connectivity is Category 5 or 6 UTP cabling, which readies the building for future expansion. A major part of the system is the visitor management system, which includes turnstiles with access control and proximity readers built in. The system allows for unencumbered authorized access by tenants and restricts access of visitors with cards programmed to automatically expire when the entry parameters are over or no longer allowed.

Tenants can access the Web browser-based system when they know they are going to have a visitor and pre-register that person online for authorized entry. When the visitor arrives the system can scan their driver's license or other allowed identification and permit access if the registration has been successfully completed. The smart card access control system supports multiple credentials, including biometrics, and depending on the level of security required, some doors are equipped with fingerprint readers.

The access control system performs many other integrated tasks. For example, it can provide information on when a tenant or other visitor was in the building for verification purposes. It takes the incident of when the card was used and matches it to a video clip to give visual verification if that was the correct person accessing the system, where and when.

Other system highlights include:

• Cameras that record on motion, pre-alarm and post–

alarm and are specially programmed for timed record-

ing when necessary or during specific hours of the day

or night,

• Mirrored hard drive storage and quad core processing,

• Server farm and dedicated server room,

• Intermediate distribution frame (IDF) closets in a vertical

solution with network switches every three floors,

• 24-port managed Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches,

• Separate power lines for pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras,

heaters and blowers,

• Installation of a riser run of Category 6 cabling

20 floors,

• Every camera home run to a dedicated port, and

• All managed switches equipped with the capability to

change from Cat 6 to fiber as the owner dictates.

“We value-engineered the project and the original specifications called for fiber optics and also had a lot of door contacts,” said Baldo. “But wire runs are extremely expensive so we were able to show the end-user all we could do with one IP camera as opposed to six contacts and those equaled big savings. With the IP solution on the network we eliminated 40 percent of the wiring, which actually offset the cost of the project. The building owner got a lot more for a lot less money the way the system was engineered. And they got a better solution as well,” he said.

Baldo said American Security technicians tested the system on their workbenches prior to releasing it in the field. “When you are deploying an IP solution, they have logical addresses, and with the large number of cameras it was best to “address” them in the office and send them out to the site labeled. The software was pre-configured to find the installed cameras.”

Today, the voltmeter has been replaced by the laptop and the ‘ping' command as the new tool of the integrator. “When you're a true and progressive integrator, you take various platforms and get them to work as a unified system. That's just where American Security Systems is at and how we plan to succeed in the future,” said Dolin.