Watch out world, it's finally here. The state of integration is progressing at a furious pace. There are many reasons, but first and foremost is Moore's Law of computer technology, smaller and smarter microprocessors and electronics, and a host of digital and communications systems that can talk to each other. Coupled with a fierce drive by both the government and consumer sectors to have the highest security or the utmost convenience, it's no wonder the market continues its upward spiral.

Sure, we have been talking about integration so much and for so long that some might cringe at the word. So let's focus on the real story, which is that computer-based integrated installation and design is here, it's now and it's only going to get better.

More aptly, these products should be called information transport systems, because they come in all shapes, sizes and criteria and can perform a variety of tasks, but their main goal is to send information. Super-tiny microprocessors lend a hand. The big deal is that no matter the configuration or hardware, these pieces can finally work together to provide the facility with a total systems solution.

The move to integration hasn't been without roadblocks. Lou Rife, vice president of marketing and sales for a Nashville, Tenn., communications company, TCS Technologies, has been educating the end-user and others involved in specifying communications systems-voice, data and cabling. He tells them these systems need to be integrated early on for the best results, which means they must be planned for from the beginning. When that happens, everyone wins, he said.

“What's frustrating to us is that even in the larger projects, communications systems are not put in the drawings at the design stage as they should be.” Rife said. He is working with architects, designers, electrical engineers and others to inform them of the importance of planning for all integrated systems.

Not only have installers and contractors been helping the cause and spreading the word about integration, but the majority of security manufacturers have been addressing issues of compatibility. Intercoms and paging systems can operate via the Ethernet or wireless; security cameras run over a LAN or WAN; and sensors can integrate seamlessly with energy management and automation.

David Toung, president of Aegis Micro, Chatsworth, Calif., said his company has taken digital video recording to the next level in integration with a product that allows a plug-and-play application to surveillance.

“The VPON Network DVR on a Chip does not require any operating software and can be controlled by the user over their PC. It's an extension of video recording and integration, and can also handle multiple methods of video compression,” Toung said.

Software House, part of Tyco Fire & Security's Access Control and Video Systems, Boca Raton, Fla., recently released an open standard, combined proximity and smart card reader. The multifrequency, multiprotocol access control reader is a fully open system that allows the end-user to move to an advanced smart card system over time, without compatibility issues. Customers can use their current proximity cards as they transition to a smart card system. Software House said its reader is the only combined multifrequency, multiprotocol and multimodulation product on the market.

“With these readers, customers can make a more seamless and cost-effective transition when upgrading an access control card and reader system,” said Paul J. Piccolomini, vice president of research and development for Tyco Fire & Security's Access Control and Video Systems business unit.

Partnering has also increased as manufacturers work off each other's strengths. Perseus Wireless, San Diego, recently announced a relationship with AT&T to carry surveillance video over their nationwide network. The PerseusPhone can access real-time, full-motion video at anytime, from anywhere, and supports cellular, Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity and telecommunications standards to work with existing 2G, 2.5G and 3G wireless networks.

ASSA ABLOY Global Technologies, Providence, R.I., and CoreStreet, a software company based in Cambridge, Mass., are working together to merge physical security and identity management in a single product. Their line of door locks provide a centralized system for all security-physical and logical. The system validation product combines with physical security, said Göran Jansson, president of ASSA ABLOY.

“Converging physical and logical security represents a great expansion in the security market,” Jansson said.

Integrating multifunction, multitasking components into low-voltage systems is happening from end-to-end of the spectrum. Products in low voltage and related disciplines continue to offer new technologies that are leading the rush to integration. Some products are getting makeovers to keep them more compatible in programming language and communication protocols; others have added new capabilities. Manufacturers have moved away from proprietary equipment and software to highly compatible electronics and that's good news 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.