Perfect Partners

Fifteen million users couldn’t be wrong. That’s how many surveillance cameras were sold in 2005, according to a leading security industry report. As security concerns rise, closed-circuit television surveillance (CCTV) continues to come to the rescue. It’s getting noticed by electrical contractors, partly because of the end-user’s intense interest in video.

Municipalities have been on the bandwagon for quite some time, adding cameras in areas where the general public may be at risk from crime, in police squad cars, courtrooms and even intersections that seem to be a magnet for traffic accidents.

In public places across the country, it’s unusual not to see some sort of surveillance and, now, CCTV paired with access control systems. Take, for example, the new state-of-the-art C.W. Avery YMCA in Plainfield, Ill. Part of the low-voltage installation by Commercial Electronic Systems Inc., of Joliet, Ill., included CCTV and access control. Surveillance is part of critical protection at entrances and exits and often paired with access control to provide the new million-dollar community gathering spot with top-notch security (see ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, July 2006, page 124, for a profile of the facility).

The 52,000-square-foot sports and recreation facility opened on time and on budget and will serve as a model for other security-minded YMCA facilities, he said.

CCTV coupled with access control extends the protection at the premises. How it works is that the cameras are placed at entrances and exits, for example, and trigger with either motion sensing, automatically when the access control system is activated, when the access control is activated and goes into an alarm mode, or what they call an “exception” in burglar alarm reporting.

Sometimes, especially if there is an exception, cameras that integrate with recording devices will begin recording to capture the event or intruder in action.

CCTV and access control are perfect partners and offer electrical contracting opportunities. At Ford Field in Detroit, where the last Super Bowl was played, the deployment of CCTV is closely tied to the physical security of the facility.

When you walk to a door, the camera captures an employee badge and an identification photo and somewhere else in the facility a screen pops up with a graphic map that shows where the person has access, said Ron McPherson, director of GSI Inc.’s Security Systems Division, based in Troy, Mich. GSI’s security division installed close to 100 cameras inside and outside of the field.

As stricter access control enrollment procedures are implemented, CCTV will continue to be called into action to help physically identify a person trying to enter a facility, allowing or denying access.

According to Steve Thompson, director of marketing, Fire and Security Solutions for Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, there’s a big explosion in smart CCTV or more appropriately, video analytics.

“When you already have video cameras, especially Internet protocol installed throughout a facility, you might add algorithms to more effectively detect events. Given these types of analytics, we expect that increasingly the end-user will use these tools to take on more of the detection burden in security,” he said.

From the end-user’s perspective, the increasing intelligence of video, analytics, integration over open architecture and scalable virtual systems are the wave of the future. Single solutions have evolved to multiple technologies. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, security has become an issue, one resolved with CCTV and access control, said Heath Garton, area maintenance supervision, Special Projects.

“Three years ago, we didn’t have any cameras. Now, we’re up to some 300-plus cameras in five new buildings and starting to look at going to Internet protocol cameras. That’s a big thing we’re looking at for the network,” he said.

Vanderbilt University, he said, opted to upgrade its system to include surveillance when it experienced a rash of laptop thefts, 42 in a calendar year.

“That’s when we installed the 145 cameras. The following year, we had only two laptops stolen. The word got out that the university was no longer easy pickings,” Garton said.

Garton said it’s imperative that electrical contractors are well versed on technology, especially CCTV and access control.

“Access control and CCTV really go hand in hand and together they make a great security tool,” he said.

Implementing CCTV and access control doesn’t mean throwing everything out and starting from scratch. In fact, manufacturers have an inherent interest in making sure legacy access control or other systems can be integrated with video.

Open protocols and architecture and scalable systems, or partnerships with other technology makers is the way to go. Electrical contractors can start with CCTV or access control, but they should expect to pair the two up in the near future.    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



About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer
Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at

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