Physical security and information technology team up

Moore’s Law basically states that computer technology doubles in ability every 18 months or so, but why should that be a surprise? Today, almost everything we do is somehow tied to a computer, whether it’s making a simple banking transaction or buying groceries online.

But for those who are less than aficionados of computer technology, there may be a darker side to all this—it is more a part of security and detection systems than ever before. The convergence of physical security and information technology (IT) continues at a rapid pace. Older buildings are being revamped with more networks and services. New construction mandates the highest possible facilities information and detection technologies. Electrical contractors have to be well versed in software and programming, and again, the total systems package sells, especially when you have knowledge of IT and physical security.

Varieties of systems now “talk” to each other or may be capable of sending communications to trigger other functions. For example, access control can trigger closed circuit television or locking devices, and a single card, key fob or other access control device serves multiple functions. And most of it is possible because of computers.

Electrical contractors have a clear choice: hire someone proficient in information technology or make it a practice to learn enough to make educated decisions regarding IT and physical security that benefit the customer and the secured environment.

Up is where this market is headed, according to industry research firm J.P. Freeman Co., Newtown, Conn. Statistics by the company indicate that the market for integrated security systems is expected to grow at more than 20 percent annually, with smaller systems within the market representing the area of greatest growth.

Until now, this market has been unable to capitalize on the advantages of integrated security due to cost and infrastructure barriers, said Michael Welles, CEO of S2 Security Corp, Wellesley, Mass. All that has changed, with lower equipment costs and more robust technology. S2’s product is aimed at the middle market, where Welles, too, said his firm sees much growth potential.

“There are many reasons for the current interest in the convergence of IT and physical security, and one is the proliferation of existing networks in businesses,” Welles said, such as the Ethernet. “These networks are more solid and secure than ever, and the cost of devices has come down, so you can push the smarts of systems and their computing power on an existing infrastructure,” he added. S2 Security Corp. is developing a security network appliance to allow companies to install and manage a range of physical security systems including access control, video, intercom and alarm monitoring, all through a Web interface.

This type of browser-based system, Welles said, means the end-user can integrate a number of key applications, including access, alarms, video, temperature, monitoring and intercom, all in one function. In addition, because the network is browser-based, you have “geographic independence,” Welles said.

The convergence of physical security with IT and other enterprise systems is no longer talk, but reality, according to Andy Bulkley, GE Security Senior Director, Product Strategy, Boca Raton, Fla. The major trend that will permeate physical access control now and for the foreseeable future is the growing connection between physical access control and IT security, he predicted.

“There is increasing demand by organizations for migration of all computer-based systems to a common software platform,” Bulkley continued. “Leveraging technology breakthroughs and a need for increased security, companies will also begin to rapidly adapt smart cards, biometrics and intelligent video into the access and overall systems. As a result of all the above, we will be faced with greater system complexity and forced along the pathway of integrated business solutions.”

Access control is the logical product that can converge with building systems. In addition, there are many more possibilities emerging. Manufacturers, like GE Security as well as others, continue to work on platforms that integrate all aspects of security and facility management, within a single screen. “Such a platform must provide a completely open architecture—a single, intuitive, integrated console that lets you protect and manage your business. This process can be carried one step further. The credential you use—card or biometric or both—can open the door and also permit access to the IT system. While this can be done now, it is done with two different systems, one a physical access control system and the other an IT access control system,” Bulkley added.

The convergence of IT and physical security is the future, and it is more of a reality now than ever before. Sharpen your computer technology skills and learn to provide an integrated system that does justice to the environment, under a platform that works for all. 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