The term integrated electronic security system (ESS) is intended to cover many different types of systems that interact with each other to form a single security solution. It can include a variety of technologies based on a user’s requirements, including access control or facility management systems with integrated video capabilities, or a wide range of other possibilities. To achieve integration, these systems must communicate with each other.


“This capability may already be provided by the manufacturer if all of the products are from the same vendor, or it may be provided as part of a partnership between vendors where the development work is done by the companies’ engineering teams,” said Brad Eck, integration manager­—North America for Bosch Security Systems Inc., Fairport, N.Y. 


If there is no existing relationship between the vendors, an integrator may need to perform the integration work using the vendor’s software development tools.


“The resulting integrated ESS takes the different devices from different manufacturers, such as cameras, alarms, sensors and building controls, and ties them together through software into a single platform and user interface that enables those disparate devices and systems to operate together seamlessly,” said Michael Daly, operations officer for Intelligent Systems and Controls, Canton, Mass.


Because security devices have become more commoditized and widely deployed, a large number of different data points need managing, such as access control, alarm, video and fire systems, and building automation.


“The need for a single view of all this data and the ability for the different disciplines to interact is the main driver for integrated ESS solutions,” said Perry Levine, director, business development, Siemens Building Technologies, Miami. 


ESS integration enables security staff to manage multiple systems and access multiple types of information from a single-software platform.


“End-users are looking for ways to improve security, more effectively manage the data the security devices provide and to respond to events more efficiently with better outcomes,” Daly said.


What’s the situation?


An integrated ESS system provides improved situational awareness as well as reporting and configuration capabilities, Levine said.


“When all of the security devices are seamlessly integrated, interactions become possible,” he said. “Customers are increasingly asking for integrated solutions so that more of their security information can be streamlined and so they can have the benefit of a single operating system to train on, service and maintain.”


In addition to providing a simpler system for the facility to operate that reduces costs, an integrated ESS’s single-user interface enables the security staff to have access to valuable and actionable information immediately.


“And tenants experienced improved response time and safety,” Daly said.


According to Eck, few manufacturers offer a single solution that perfectly fits the needs of any given facility.


“When that is not available, an ESS that integrates legacy systems with new technology can provide enhanced detection, system control and operational efficiency,” he said.


The main challenge of implementing an integrated ESS lies in the software.


“True system integration by software is required to allow all the manufacturers’ devices to communicate with each other,” Daly said. 


However, many manufactures are now collaborating to develop the appropriate application programming interfaces (APIs) between their respective products, as evidenced by the establishment of the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF), which has created a single common interface solution for the high-level functions of video devices.


“Many, if not most, manufacturers now implement this standard to make integration easier,” Bosch Security’s Eck said.


Additional challenges exist when the end-user desires a deeper level of integration beyond the ONVIF specification.


“In some cases, security product vendors have developed partnerships with other providers to ensure support of advanced features,” Eck said. 


Otherwise, it may require an experienced integrated systems contractor to achieve additional levels of integration.


For the contractor


To migrate from purely traditional electrical contracting to high-tech ESS integration, the contractor needs to understand the complexity of the specification.


“The contractor needs to be confident in its ability to understand and execute the project,” Daly said. “If not, the costs and exposure to correct a poorly deployed integrated ESS could be devastating.”


Contractors must also have basic networking skills to successfully implement and troubleshoot an integrated ESS, including knowledge of and experience working with routers, switches, local area networks, wide area networks, Internet protocol (IP) addresses and power over Ethernet.


“Contractors can partner with integrators who have the necessary knowledge across various product platforms and who understand the logical progression of troubleshooting IP devices,” Eck said.


If contractors carefully choose partners with proven track records of successfully delivering integrated solutions, they can leverage their understanding of the construction process challenges and, together, provide the optimal integrated ESS execution.