Get Smart

Today’s security products offer a new breed of intelligence


Can you be both smart and beautiful? Today’s security system components are certainly fitting that bill with smaller, sleeker packages filled with a host of new capabilities.

The incorporation of intelligence into security systems is being reflected in the types of security products coming to market, says Ray Bernard, founder of Ray Bernard Consulting Services in Lake Forest, CA.

“There is greater degree of change with security systems now versus 5 or even 10 years ago,” notes Bernard. Cameras, digital video recorders, card readers, locks, and sensors are all benefiting from programming that allows these units to be the eyes and ears usually found in security personnel.

Of course, notes Elliot Boxerbaum, who runs Security/Risk Management Consultants in Columbus, OH, the technology “doesn’t provide the security in and of itself.” Rather, it is employed by trained security personnel who operate these systems and components and use the results to make decisions based on solid assessments.

Most security systems today are designed to run on the same network infrastructure that companies use for their IT departments. Those designing the

infrastructure of the building need to keep in mind not only how IT systems will be handled, but also how security systems will be designed. Special consideration should be given to ensuring the integrity of the security system 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Additionally, Boxerbaum points out, security goes beyond the four walls of the building into the lighting systems and perimeter security such as parking lots, walkways, and roads.

In the design phase of a new building, assessing risk both of the facility and of its surroundings helps architectural and engineering firms make the best decisions about what new technology to employ, says Boxerbaum. “We love to work with clients and architects from Day One,” he says, noting that it helps with both selecting the right equipment and with keeping costs in check.

Today’s architects and engineers, says Bernard, “want to plan for significant network and fiber-optic wiring. With all the capabilities for cameras and their uses, it’s just smart to put in fiber when building because the cost is less.”

Integration of security systems, not only with the network but also among different components, is on the minds of clients these days, says Ron Palmer, owner of Palmer Security Consulting, Tulsa, OK. “What people are asking for the most,” he says, “are manufacturers who can integrate it all.”

Cameras are certainly a key component in security systems, especially in a post-Sept. 11 world. Increased surveillance means the addition of cameras and the use of ones that can provide usable information, either at the time of an event or for forensic purposes.

Boxerbaum says among the improvements in security cameras are smaller sizes and the ability to remotely pan, tilt, and zoom. Cameras that can operate in low-light situations using day/night technology can capture color images in daylight and black-and-white images at night.

A new day/night dome camera from IPIX, for example, supplies a 360-degree view in low-light, no-light, or infrared lighting-assisted situations. Built-in intelligence allows the camera to respond to light conditions.

The days of architects having to cope with big domes hanging from the ceiling are gone as cameras get smaller and smarter, notes Bernard. He says digital cameras use multiple camera angles to assemble a 360-degree view.

Programmability is also an important part of modern security cameras, says Boxerbaum. For instance, he says, exterior PTZ cameras can be programmed to include privacy zones so the images captured aren’t intruding on neighboring buildings.

Another move among camera companies is the introduction of IP-based or network cameras. While still a small part of the overall marketplace at about 5 percent of sales, J.P. Freeman Co., a security industry research and consulting firm, estimates that by 2007, 60 percent of cameras installed will be networked ones.

Boxerbaum acknowledges that IP-based technology is improving. Major camera companies ranging from Canon and Panasonic to CoVi and Elmo are all coming to market with cameras that function in an IP environment.

Video systems are also able to not only capture better images, but to analyze the content as well. Boxerbaum says video analytics within these systems recognize inconsistent behaviors and note these exceptions for security personnel. Video clips of these behaviors, such as a briefcase left unattended, may be sent to monitoring stations or to e-mail accounts or PDAs used by guards on patrol or executives within the company.

Companies such as ObjectVideo, known for its video analytic software, are helping traditional security providers broaden their product scope. By teaming with ObjectVideo, Bosch Security Systems is providing video analysis via its DVR system. Events that violate object rules trigger alerts that are both stored in the DVR and streamed live to security personnel.

The ability to monitor remotely may have an impact on security monitoring stations of the future and their place in architectural design. Boxerbaum says companies have more flexibility than ever before. “A console may or may not be appropriate,” he says. Rather, he notes, a client may want a video display wall with a dozen different outputs on it. And the camera view and angles may change as events change, such as a major university having a different setup for football Saturday.

While video is certainly a key part of modern security, so, too, is the access control system and all its attendant features.

Companies today, says Boxerbaum, are looking for enterprisewide security management, including using a single credential for both logical and physical access control; the same card that allows a user to sign onto his or her computer can also open the door to the building or office. These same credentials can be used throughout the company at its national and even international sites.

Within these cards, says Palmer, may be biometric identifiers tied to a fingerprint or palm reader or a retina scanner. Biometrics are already employed by some companies for logical access to computers, but are now segueing into building security.

“From an architect’s perspective,” says Boxerbaum, “the choice of (access control card) readers is improving. Manufacturers are coming out with designer packages.”

In fact, says Boxerbaum, more electronics are being placed in the door, which raises expense but improves functionality and design.

Bernard agrees intelligent card readers are moving to the door level, in some cases without even being tied into the network.

This placement of readers in, rather than next to, the door is significant to architects, he says, because the door and lock are often specified by the architect or designer, rather than by security personnel. Anticipating what type of access control system will be used may determine what type of lockset is purchased and installed, not only in one building but also in the company’s buildings worldwide.

“Most companies with lots of buildings want an enterprise security system. It saves a lot of hassle,” Bernard explains, adding that each site would have its own access control card.

Revolving doors have also benefited from intelligent security systems, says Bernard. He notes that Horton Automatics offers doors that, through the use of pattern recognition, can detect piggybacking, or multiple people trying to enter a doorway on a single access card. The door can be tied in with the building’s CCTV system, so not only does the door detect certain behavior and disallow entry, the video system also gets a picture of what happened.

As with locksets, Bernard notes that revolving doors fall under the purview of the architect. They’re not only a design concern, but also a security concern.

Like many security components, sensors and detectors have improved in quality in size and design. Boxerbaum notes they’ve greatly decreased their susceptibility to false alarms while becoming less and less conspicuous. Sensors and motion detectors are used throughout buildings for both security and fire safety.

Again, it is the use of intelligence, in this case microprocessors, that has helped improve the ability of sensors to respond to the correct stimuli, whether it’s motion or heat. Wireless technology is also making it possible for security installers to place sensors in areas where wires won’t - or can’t - reach, such as in atriums or in hard-to-reach spots in historical buildings.

As security becomes more integrated with building systems and functions, it gains a higher profile within the architectural and engineering community. Gone are the days when security operated within its own sphere. Its continuing convergence with the IT infrastructure, as cameras and access control systems migrate to the network, has put it on the radar of IT and facilities personnel, who in turn work in collaboration with security to ensure optimal operation of the security system. As a result, security consultants are quick to emphasize that security should be included in the early planning stages of any project, whether it’s a new building or the remodeling of an existing one.

The CommandView day/night dome camera from IPIX uses patented software to offer a 360-degree view of Nashville, regardless of light conditions.

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