A few years ago physical security information management became a popular phrase across the physical and logic security sectors. In its broadest sense, the term sought to describe the increasing convergence of IT security and physical security systems, which became inevitable as IP services adoption spread.
In the case of physical security, the phenomenon has revolutionised the approach to related products and services. Manufacturers, specifiers and installers have had to adapt and evolve to meet the expectations of the market, and in many cases the wider public.
The security sector as a whole has moved on and an IP connection is now simply a basic necessity, rather than a differentiating characteristic. Full integration between often complex and crucial systems is now the goal of security operators and providers alike.
However, the technology is undoubtedly becoming more and more complex, so one overall goal is to make it actually simpler to use and install.
The security market now demands more joined-up physical security technology, incorporating such elements as access control, physical locks and doors, CCTV, intruder alarms, firefighting systems, building services control, centralised business systems and information management systems, and HR systems.
The inability of these various facets to work directly together has been largely overcome; the overall management of a facility may be enhanced and made considerably simpler and more efficient by doing so.
Today many security and management systems can be linked to a universal internet connection, and there are many systems and software which are capable of administering and simplifying the task of running multiple functions from a single portal. Interoperability across networked elements has also improved.
Another hurdle has been to understand the popular standards and to create software systems which integrate the whole.
Security systems are traditionally used to combat intruders and protect against attack or theft, and some organisations face a substantial insider threat as well. Modern integrated security systems can be an effective deterrent.
It can be easy for a worker to remove items, especially small ones, without being noticed by colleagues or human security operators. CCTV surveillance may not be enough -- an integrated stock taking system and facility access monitoring can make it easier to investigate unaccounted-for losses and to check video footage.
Equally, this technology can also help defend staff from false or mistaken accusations.
Meanwhile, an integrated security system can detect how different rooms or spaces are being used, and manage the deployment of resources, for example outside working hours, or to reduce waste in vacant areas. Human and vehicles moving around a facility can also be monitored, to manage congestion or to assist in planning decisions.
Integrated systems -- such as fire alarms -- can also play an important role with regards to safety, especially in combination with all the other building control systems.
In the event of a fire, the fire alarm will probably be the first system to activate. In a modern integrated system, this can alert the security team and if required escalate to emergency services. Access can even be automatically restriced to parts of the building deemed dangerous, or it can be used to consult HR records or check ID restricted access logs, perhaps to see who has entered and left the facility.
CCTV systems can then be used to assess if people are trapped or to investigate dangerous areas and the spread of the emergency, without putting lives at risk.
Security systems can be used to monitor and administer time-keeping and attendance processes and systems. When also linked to CCTV and logical access of IT systems, the HR department or security operators can see exactly what is happening. Meanwhile, legacy kit may also be incorporated in a properly integrated system, tailoring the environment and reducing cost.
A good example is the use of CCTV cameras, where the best solution may be a healthy mix of modern megapixel cameras are other legacy or specific environment systems. In the past it would have been harder to use different specifications of camera on the same network but integrated systems are specifically designed to cater for this eventuality.
The connection of physical security to IP-based systems was a vital development in the security industry as a whole, but the synergy between physical systems is bringing the evolution of truly self-aware solutions even closer.
Traditionally organisations and installers dealt with a complete solution which was mutually exclusive to other solutions and offered little in the way of upgrades and evolution options. Making any changes was tricky, and took a lot of time and effort.
Security customers can now have greater control over their investments and confidence that they are wise investments.
John Davies is managing director of TDSi
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