The aim of systems integration is to allow disparate systems to communicate with each other and be controlled in a unified manner. Integrating disparate computer systems is a constant challenge for those seeking to effectively manage control rooms — which are generally prevalent in a large campus environment. Traditional approaches often fall short because they are too complex, time-consuming and costly. There is a better solution: integrating with video.
Technological innovation has led to the automation of more and more facets of business processes, increasing the number, type and complexity of systems requiring integrated control.
Consider the example of building automation. In general, a building will have systems that monitor and control various components including HVAC, access points, elevators, water systems, lighting, fire alarms, burglar alarms, phone networks, and video surveillance equipment amongst others. Several different operators typically monitor these systems; however, they are also interrelated — and issues related to one system can also affect other building systems.
To ensure optimal functioning of the entire facility, systems need to be able to communicate with each other, and all systems should be easily accessible in case of emergency. Such unified control can only be accomplished through system integration.
With the traditional approach to systems integration, custom software enables systems to communicate with each other, which can be a time-consuming, difficult and expensive undertaking. Every time an integrated application is upgraded — which happens with increasing frequency nowadays — the communication links between every system must be updated as well, requiring additional cost and time. Traditional integration with custom software creates dependencies that may severely limit your ability to upgrade or update individual systems.
In addition, today’s complex systems must provide flexible access to data. Who requires access to what information and when can change dramatically even over the course of just one day. In addition, system information must be securely protected from unauthorized access or tampering.
It is becoming increasingly imperative for control room systems to offer a high level of operational flexibility, while still effectively regulating control and access to resources. These are valid concerns for any organization attempting to centrally command or control people, places, processes or technology.
Integrating with Video
Every system has a way to present visual data to operators — usually some kind of Graphical User Interface (GUI), which provides operators with direct access to system information. For every system, these visual signals or videos enable the interaction between operators and systems. For this reason, integrating using video signals rather than custom software is a more logical choice when your objective is to consolidate control of all system resources.
Building on this concept, there is a comprehensive set of tools that can integrate systems using video. Innovative technology allows video from different systems to be captured, switched, processed, composited, displayed and controlled, all without the need for traditional software integration.
Using video as an integration enabler reduces the time required implementing complex integration projects and it eliminates issues related to system interdependencies. It allows systems that otherwise could not be integrated to be displayed and controlled like any other resource; and, it provides operators with a unified desktop control interface that is intuitive and easy to use.
Cases in Point: UC Berkely & VCU
In partnership with the US Department of Energy, the UC Berkeley Regents recently upgraded its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) located in a high-profile experimental facility in Berkeley, Calif. Pacific Coast AV, an integration firm based in Northern California, used video to design a system that could link communications between the research facility’s security personnel, UC Berkeley’s Police Department and municipal fire and police departments. Previously, the display system used individual monitors with minimal switching and collaborative capabilities. The main monitoring room of the EOC now features a 2x3 video wall of 55-inch monitors and four operator control stations.
Pacific Coast AV selected RGB Spectrum’s Enterprise MCMS system to enable multi-site collaboration and consolidate the EOC’s disparate resources. The new control room system integrates new and legacy computer systems, client/server systems, and direct video feeds on a central video wall. The video wall display is controlled by the supplier's OmniWall Display Processor, which also enables collaboration among the operators. When a wide-scale response is required, EOC supervisors can communicate directly with other campus and community agencies to coordinate the deployment of emergency personnel and equipment.
In a non-security application, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) added a virtual stock exchange trading center to its School of Business. The Whitlock Group, a systems integrator based in Richmond, Va., equipped the new trading center with the latest audio visual technology. The center is equipped with Christie monitors and nine RGB Spectrum QuadView 2+2 processors, which receive inputs from multiple live data feeds from all the major stock exchanges, as well as Excel spreadsheets, internet pages and PowerPoint presentations.
Instructors use a touchscreen control panel to switch sources, choose pre-set display arrangements, and manipulate the individual display windows. Display windows can be any size, anywhere on screen and images can also be panned and zoomed to focus students on an area of particular interest.
Applying it to Security Control Rooms
A control room integration platform provides a number of key benefits. The system is designed with an “air-gap” that separates operators from the systems they control. Operator workstations are not directly networked to the source systems, reducing the possibility of infection by malware or other viruses. In addition, source systems can be updated independently of each other, without any software dependencies.
For multiple-user environments, sophisticated control arbitration features enable operators to share control over system resources and allow administrators to delineate or restrict access levels. Video from several source systems can be composited into a single video signal that can then be encoded and distributed to remote users, reducing bandwidth requirements. Finally, real-time video processing allows all operators to see the same video at exactly the same moment, with no encoding delay variation.
Bob Ehlers is Vice President of Vertical Markets and Strategy for RGB Spectrum. To request more info about the company, vsit www.securityinfowatch.com/10214803.