Top-of-the-line detection is everywhere

Convention centers, museums, federal buildings, airports, high rises, casinos and a host of other public venues have spent the last few years either updating and improving their physical security or starting from scratch with newly installed systems.

Increased demand for security in public buildings has led to the implementation of technologies that range from simple electronic card access systems for areas restricted to the public, to fiber optic perimeter systems, fingerprint and other biometrics, closed-circuit television surveillance and pedestrian and vehicle physical security that includes moveable bollards, optical portals and crash barriers.

New trends

Generally, there is an increased awareness of the need for security improvements at public venues, according to Adam Gemmil, technical support representative, Fiber SenSys Inc., Beaverton, Ore. “Much of this increased awareness comes mostly as the result of post-9/11 Homeland Security efforts and includes the implementation of CCTV and digital video recorders (DVRs) to monitor facilities and the installation of card access systems, bulletproof glass, bollards and physical barriers as well as adding to or hiring a security force,” he observed.

According to Joe Turek, chief executive officer of Biometrics 2000, in Springfield, Mass., venues at the highest risk for sabotage or intrusion are requiring more identification of people before they are allowed to enter a facility. “Some venues are even requiring the use of smart cards or are employing biometric fingerprint technology to identify people,” he said.

The installation of electronic card access systems in all types of public buildings, from offices and schools to government buildings continues toincrease. “Because of continually increasing security concerns over the past few years, demand for ways to limit access has been growing exponentially,” explained John Megarry, director of marketing for Keyscan Inc., Pickering, Ontario.

There has also been an increased use around public buildings of both pedestrian and vehicle access control systems. “Most vehicular barriers are shifting from hydraulic to electromechanical controls, which reduces the force should the barrier accidentally deploy,” observed Mark Perkins, national sales manager for Automatic Control Systems, Point Washington, N.Y. In pedestrian barriers, there is increased demand for unobtrusively designed products that provide high levels of traffic flow (throughput) without compromising security levels. “Such portals do not change or detract from the aesthetics and welcoming feel required by most public institutions,” Perkins added.

Give ’em what they want

The methods that public buildings are predominantly using to increase security include the installation of CCTV systems, metal detectors and card access systems, as well as just physically limiting the points of access, according to Matt Doell, vice president and manager of Sachs Systems, the communications division of Sachs Electric Co., St. Louis. “Airports, which have upgraded their security, are using metal detectors and performing random searches in an attempt to screen 100 percent of the people using the facility,” he said. On the other hand, in facilities where the public requires more access, such as museums and convention centers, the focus is on metal detectors and visual monitoring systems that allow the security staff to track activity.

Another trend in physical security in public venues is the increased restriction of access to sensitive areas, according to Larry Hollis, director of business development for Rosendin Electric Inc., San Jose, Calif. “In federal buildings, for example, visitors need to pass security checkpoints and get identification badges to conduct business inside,” he observed. Museums are also restricting access to certain spaces, and people who wish to visit areas that contain extremely valuable items must pass through separate security checks. Even high-rise building owners are requiring visitors to sign in or have the tenant serve as escort.

In general, whatever security measures a facility decides to take, the systems chosen must be easily upgradeable and expandable. “Venue owners are demanding that their current systems be interoperable with the more advanced systems that are now available,” explained Turek. In addition, facility owners and operators want systems that are easy to use, impervious to data tampering and customized to provide the varying levels of security required throughout the building.

Integrated building systems

Because of the flood of new technologies and security equipment options, integration has become essential. “A security integrator hired to protect a site may have to install multiple types of systems from multiple manufacturers, and most institutions would rather hire one entity to do the job,” Gemmil said. Integration also plays an extremely important role in linking security components with the rest of the building’s systems, according to Turek. All the systems, including security, fire alarm, access control, HVAC, electric, data and telecommunications, must work together properly in case of emergency evacuation, a break in the perimeter or to ensure that sensitive areas remain secure, regardless of the situation.

According to Megarry, the industry is seeing the increased integration of CCTV with the access control. “This allows security personnel to examine both video and electronic access data at one computer terminal, which enables them to make faster and better decisions about allowing or limiting access,” he observed.

Integration also plays a large in role in coordinating physical barriers with electronic surveillance and access control designs. “To provide the highest levels of security, both inside and outside a facility, all of the security systems need to work together efficiently and reliably,” said Perkins. In the past, security integrators used more of a “Band-Aid” approach to integrating various components. “In today’s world,” Perkins added, “an overall system and strategy is required to protect both employees and the public.”

According to Doell, system integration will eventually be the driving force in a venue’s choice of a security system. “Many building systems, including those in public venues, are communicating digitally now, which allows efficient transmission of data through any number of communications pathways. An integrated system offers greater control of that data,” he said.

Evolving technology

Before the computer age, security systems couldn’t do much more than act as a keypad lock. With today’s sensors, barriers, CCTV systems, sophisticated card access systems and biometric technology, venue operators can limit access to specific people at specific times in specific places. “Today’s security systems more accurately keep track of people’s movements, monitor their activities, and, when integrated with the building management system, maintain environmental controls,” said Turek.

Security systems have also become smarter and can communicate over existing networks, allowing personnel to have real-time data concerning activity in or around a facility, according to Megarry. “The software associated with today’s security systems have increased in functionality and have become easier to use, allowing security managers to be more flexible, create more elaborate reports and conduct more thorough investigations in less time,” he stated.

The increasing integration of a venue’s security systems with existing networks has also enabled more reliance on Internet communication protocols, which allow remote monitoring and real-time data acquisition to improve decision-making. “The information is being relayed digitally, providing more accurate information at faster speeds,” said Ross Holly, project manager at Rosendin Electric.

What the future holds

According to Perkins, there will be a shift in the future toward more intelligent sensing systems for physical barrier design. “Future barriers will be able to detect unauthorized entry attempts and, more important, reduce false rejection rates, which is key to maintaining high throughput levels and traffic flow,” he said.

As new microprocessors are developed, Holly predicts security devices will not only become more intelligent and able to operate independently from a central processor, but make certain decisions regarding access to the venue. “Also, the continued refinement of open communication protocols will allow sophisticated security systems to be installed at remote locations with data being relayed primarily through satellite or wireless cell technology,” he explained.

Biometrics, which includes fingerprint-, face- and eye-recognition technology, has been around for many years, but has not yet found a high level of market acceptance for a variety of reasons, including cost, decreased throughput and privacy issues. According to Megarry, cost is coming down quickly and reliability is improving, so that some government agencies are adopting the technology in their public facilities. “These changing factors may help increase the biometric systems’ popularity,” he said.

The electrical contractor who is a systems integrator and educates himself on system integration and Internet technology will be in a better position to take advantage of industry and manufacturer training and successfully gain market share in providing security systems for public venues, according to Hollis. “Success depends on becoming familiar with all of the different aspects of security systems, components, devices and technologies,” he concluded. EC