IP Creates a New Synergy in Door Security

Dec. 14, 2015
The integration trifecta: video, intercom and remote entry control

Historically, the intercom and the video surveillance industries have lived in separate but parallel universes. Electricians handled intercoms, security professionals handled surveillance cameras and rarely did the two universes intersect. The technologies relied on different sales channels, separate purchasing processes and separate installation teams. This duplication not only made door security more expensive, but also more difficult to manage and maintain.

While the network camera industry has been manufacturing products to open standards and interfaces since the mid-1990s, many traditional intercom systems are still proprietary. This forces users to rely on the expertise of a single provider to install and configure a closed and often complex hardware/software solution. If a user wants to switch from one intercom provider to another it can be prohibitively expensive, since it would necessitate a refitting of the entire system.

The good news, however, is that unifying IP technology is emerging to compete with those disconnected solutions.

Integrated Approach to Door Security

With more security devices adopting common, standardized communications protocol, intercoms and video surveillance are beginning to converge into a single universe — the network video door station. From a technical perspective, it is just as easy to transmit audio data over a network as it is to transmit video data; thus, integrating intercom functionality into an IP-based video surveillance system is a natural extension of the technology and a valuable add-on to video management systems already employed by thousands of end-users.

Network video door stations combine an IP camera with an intercom into a single unit so security personnel can both see and talk to visitors at a gate or door anywhere around the perimeter or interior of a facility. Once the visitor has been screened, they can be admitted to the premises by remote entry control directly through the door station or through a separate access control system. With video as an integral part of the door station, security has the added benefit of being able to archive a visual/audio record of any incident taking place at the entrance.

Because notifications and media data transfer through the LAN or Internet in consistent and standardized ways, security staff can monitor the door station remotely from their preferred location and operator device. Adhering to standards also means users can choose hardware and software for different parts of the security system independently with assurance that they will work together. This is not only advantageous for advanced enterprise solutions but also allows small basic systems to grow as security and business needs change — all without having to replace legacy products or systems.

Features that Amplify Door Security

There are a number of features to look for when choosing a network video door station:

Open interface: The ideal video door station is based on open APIs (Application Programming Interface) for easy integration, and adheres to international IP standards such as ONVIF and SIP. This gives you complete choice over components and system connectivity without having to worry about compatibility and interoperability. For example, ONVIF support enables integration with most IP-based video management software so that the door station can operate as a full-featured surveillance camera and communication device at the same time. A video door station that supports SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) can integrate with a company’s existing IP telephony and VoIP (Voice over IP) communication systems. While the ability to forward audio as well as pictures to security operators makes daily surveillance operations more efficient, the open interface also enables the flexibility to enhance the door station with advanced third-party software such as video analytics.

High video quality: Door stations are often installed in settings with difficult lighting conditions; thus, it is important the unit includes an HDTV-quality camera with wide dynamic range and excellent performance in low-light and backlight conditions.

High audio quality: A professional-quality video door station should be acoustically designed to deliver high-performance audio from its microphone and loudspeaker — both in terms of clarity and sound pressure level. Because door stations are often installed in noisy settings, also look for features such as echo cancellation and noise suppression to ensure clear and echo-free two-way communication with visitors.

Flexible entry control: The door station should give users the flexibility to control entry any way they choose; thus, integrators should recommend door stations with multiple inputs and outputs for controlling door locks and other peripherals. Open standards and interfaces enable connectivity to other systems such as VMS, access control, mobile applications and IP phones. Having a door station guarding the door also increases flexibility and efficiency of labor as a single operator or patrolling guard can monitor and manage several doors regardless of his physical location.

Cost-efficient and easy installation: Door stations should be simple to install. Look for ones that support Power over Ethernet (PoE), since they use a single cable to power the unit and the door lock as well as transmit the data, which will save on both cabling and labor costs.

Target Installations

Because network video door stations are scalable, they work well in a variety of environments — from a single unit to a limitless number of devices at enterprise-level installations.

Single door: Usually found in smaller retail boutiques or medical offices, the video door station could be located at a receiving dock or the front entrance. Employees would communicate and control entry from a mobile device, desk phone or laptop. For example, employees could converse with the delivery truck driver before remotely unlocking the loading dock door to receive goods or screen visitors before remotely opening the front door — all without leaving customers or the register area unattended.

A growing business: Additional video door stations can be added to the network in any increment as easily as adding new IP cameras. Since the devices are managed through the VMS, operators can actively monitor events in real time and retrieve stored video for further study as needed. In an office, hotel or healthcare clinic, for example, the receptionist’s duties could include monitoring the door station along with more typical tasks such as welcoming customers/patients and answering phones. When the visitor approaches one of the video door stations and pushes the call button, video from the door station pops up on the receptionist’s screen allowing them to see and talk with the visitor before unlocking the door. Since the video door station integrates with the company’s IP telephony system, calls can also be answered from a desk phone or mobile device, even after business hours, on weekends and during holidays when the reception desk is unmanned.

A large, multi-door, high-security environment: In enterprise systems with high security demands, such as airports, logistics centers, large retail stores, hospitals and university campuses, video door stations are just one element in a comprehensive physical security information network that probably includes surveillance cameras, access control, intrusion alarms, VoIP and various third-party security applications. In this situation, open standards enable connectivity between systems so that security staff can efficiently track, monitor and react to events in real time from multiple receiving stations or a single, centralized point of operation. The video door station operates just like an IP-based phone or intercom and a surveillance camera at the same time, sending notifications to operators or the access control system to monitor doors, communicate and handle entry rights.

Karl Hill is a Business Development Manager at Axis Communications, currently focused on the company's network video door station initiative. To request more info about Axis, please visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10212966.