Technology convergence means practical solutions

A fiber optic system guards Naval operations on the Atlantic coastline. A corporate executive shoots video and transmits the live images instantly, across the country. A camera scans an image, records the time, and permits the user access to another layer of security. That is just a sample of emerging low-voltage applications.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance, access control, intercoms and paging systems are working together to provide a custom-tailored solution to the end-user. Systems can be accessed to check status and programmed remotely by telephone or computer—further extending the realm of installation possibilities. In camera products, networking, wireless and integrated solutions, there’s an end-user to put the technology to use.

New ways to deploy

Surveillance means more than physical security—it can run the gamut from point of sale and recordkeeping to providing immediate access to information and records. Video excels as a management tool, and it too can be controlled by personal computer, laptop or palm device.

In a labor-intensive work environment, CCTV can watch for unsafe circumstances, injuries and even prevent fraud with the power of undisputable evidence. In the transportation industry, it keeps watch over everything from passengers and drivers to platforms and stations.

Store managers use recordings as a training tool to refine employee practices and customer-service strategies; marketing staff can watch live or recorded images to detect how new ideas in displays are stirring customer attention; facilities maintenance is another application where CCTV turns into a management tool.

In security, CCTV and alarms can be set to sophisticated system parameters with iintuitive and intelligent software as the backbone.

“Because we have smart-alarm capabilities, when there’s pertinent activity, the viewer/security official is notified. Video can be viewed via the Internet, WAN, LAN, VPN and wireless networks; today how you view video is up to you,” said Allison Gapter, senior marketing communications manager, Loronix Video Solutions, Denver.

In security, she added, when there is an incident, more and more systems kick those images to the LAN/WAN/Internet for remote viewing: “For example, a night guard on the far side of the mall might be alerted via his PDA or cell phone that motion has been detected on a certain camera, which he can then view.”

With most emerging applications, it’s not a single technology, but multiple concepts piggybacked on each other that bring about a solution. The same holds true in this case, as video and access control continue to evolve toward full integration. Historically, integration between access-control and video systems was not simple, and involved relays and extensive interconnection. However, new matrix switches with an open protocol use Serial RS232 or LAN/WAN (TCP/IP) interfacing, making it easier for these products to “talk” to each other.

A large integrated system installed recently by Sharlen Electric Co. at a downtown Chicago public school features color CCD cameras integrated with access control. Donald Voss, a Sharlen project manager, said educational facilities are a prime market for camera installations.

Wireless bandwagon

The sophistication of radio-frequency signaling methods has resulted in many hardware devices that use the wireless network. In addition to traditional security, wireless opens a host of possibilities, such as remote perimeter protection or even the possibility of setting up temporary or portable badging areas for the distribution of identification cards.

Hands-free or wireless has become increasingly useful for wheelchair accessibility, conveyor and switching controls, such as gates and much more. Wireless is the perfect way to bring a remote building on line versus installing miles of cable or fiber optics. In historical buildings or older structures that must not be disturbed, wireless is a snap compared to drilling in concrete or digging trenches.

As technology becomes refined, manufacturers realize it benefits them to make products that can interface and work together to create a total-systems solution. Technology is only as good as the application—and with regards to security and voice-data, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of those either.

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or domara@earthlink.net.