It's really happening. Integration is starting to take hold in every vertical market and business operation. It has been a long, tough road. In the early 1980s, when security really began to take off and become popular and more than just a fad, manufacturers made certain that their products were unique. In fact, many of the products couldn't “talk” to each other, so their role was limited. Some manufacturers went so far as to establish exclusive distribution networks or would only sell to authorized dealers.

That's changed. Now, the big deal is open protocol, standardized and multiple communication formats that can speak to each other-sometimes in different “languages” that need to be translated, of course. In addition, the infrastructure of the existing network in most corporations has turned out to be a good place for integration to happen, if planned properly, and that's just what manufacturers have been up to. For example, they've worked at bringing to market methods to deploy digital video surveillance and storage in tandem with existing networks and information technology so that these different disciplines can coexist without risk.

It's a new mindset. Manufacturers are partnering to play off each other's strengths, and that's a win-win situation for all. They're doing their part with easily adaptable products or those that can be upgraded to handle a variety of information transport system (VDV) functions, whether intrusion detection, closed-circuit television surveillance, access control, energy management or another piece of the puzzle in the building that requires command and control.

Integration makes sense for everyone, from the manufacturer, to the installer, to the end-user. An integrated world is one that works smarter, not harder. It also fosters scalability and the ability to extend product capabilities. A system may start small, but expand as needed. Access control is a perfect example. Even configured on the network, the number of doors can usually be expanded as entrance and egress requirements change.

The rewards of integration

Greater workplace efficiency and productivity is another integration benefit. More and more corporations are integrating wireless to their hardwired networks so employees can work smarter, according to Clain Anderson, director of Wireless and Security Solutions, IBM Personal Computing Division, Raleigh, N.C. With integrated systems, the workforce can have the tools needed to be more productive, such as wireless for laptop access to the network from almost anywhere around a facility or instant messaging, Anderson said.

In the educational and institutional markets, Indianapolis Public Schools is working to reduce costs and improve security by integrating new and existing technology as part of a multiyear district-wide project. Honeywell Building Solutions, Minneapolis, is integrating the district's current equipment with new systems using its Enterprise Buildings Integrator (EBI) platform.

Indianapolis has one of Indiana's largest school districts, and an overriding issue was the daily opening and closings of the school systems' 90 buildings, said Rick Joest, district technology foreman.

“When the building was opened, the custodian would call and send an alarm code when they entered. With 90 buildings opening up about the same time every morning, the school police were flooded with calls,” he said.

Another area of concern, Joest said, was protecting valuable computing and video equipment.

“It was no longer enough to just have motion detectors in the hallway,” he added.

As part of the $250 million capital improvement project, Honeywell will integrate the district's existing equipment with new systems using its EBI platform and install new access control, digital video monitoring and archiving, and an asset-tracking system. The EBI system will integrate all of the separate systems and enable staff to monitor and control security for all 90 buildings from a central location, Joest added.

Integration was at the forefront of the decision to launch Indianapolis-based Stanley Security Solutions in late 2003.

“Our goal was to implement and leverage a comprehensive, total service integration capability and to address the need for integration in the market,” according to Justin Boswell, president of Stanley Security Solutions.

“Today's security landscape is missing an essential service and solutions component that, in the fast-evolving market, needs to be included beyond simple, one-dimensional products,” he said. “There's heavy emphasis on not just a broad and diverse range of products, but also enhanced, integrated and customer-focused service,” commented Boswell at the launch.

Manufacturers across the board are bringing to market products that can be integrated or are universal enough to allow users the flexibility to find the best solution for their operations. Integration means greater efficiency, productivity and the ability to evolve with the changing face of business and its challenges. EC

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.