The evolution of physical and video security systems from standalone analog devices to network friendly systems running on open platforms is causing traditional boundaries within the industry to crumble. This in turn is giving rise to a new breed of hybrid players from within as well as outside the industry that will have the capability to change the landscape as dramatically as any technology advances we have seen to date.

Case-in-point: Building automation systems and the overall trend for IP to be the backbone for all building systems, security and video surveillance included. Instead of having separate systems for HVAC, electrical, elevators and lighting, among others, only a few systems will be needed and most of it will be managed on an IP network. Already, many larger companies are promoting building system convergence capabilities and designs with IP backbones that allow environmental controls, physical security systems and automated building management systems to share the same backbone – but not necessarily the same servers.

This convergence of building control systems with security and surveillance systems is the next logical step in technology and systems integration. It was brought about in part by a change in security consciousness, which helped to drive the development of new and less expensive security technology, and also by the widespread acceptance of IP networks for core business activities. Security and life safety are also primary building control functions considered to be mission critical applications, with IP being the common denominator to transform the traditional approaches of deployment and integration of the two within a building.


IP has fostered the integration of various security sub-systems, such as video surveillance with access control, visitor management and alarm systems. The benefits of such integrated systems are easily measured and provide security management with the advantage of a complete picture of their establishment, in real-time, as well as with a recorded history of all events. Additionally, operating as a single entity, management of the electronic data can be more powerful and less compromised.

Integration of a building’s equipment systems (HVAC, lighting, fire control, etc.) and across multiple building systems into one central location, where data can be collected, analyzed and acted upon, is occurring in parallel to the security and surveillance systems integration. Similar to our industry, this approach simplifies building management by standardizing access to important systems information and allows building managers to easily monitor their systems and compare energy use and other data to previously recorded data. The benefits are quickly realized in significantly improved workplace efficiency and real estate utilization as well as dramatically reduced operating costs.

Utilizing IP, connecting these disparate building sub-systems will allow the fast and easy sharing of data and intelligence among systems to create a more intelligent overall system. For instance, in rooms with operable windows, energy waste can be better controlled by connecting the HVAC network to the security system and thereby avoid cooling or heating an open room.

Similarly, data accumulated from access control systems can be analyzed to determine optimum temperatures in a particular room or the need for certain lighting. Simply stated, the network sub-system (in this example, the HVAC system) is connected to the IP backbone using gateways that translate between the protocols. This is the strategy articulated by Cisco, which envisions and supports considering the network as having acquired its own utility status alongside water, gas and electricity.

Another significant benefit to building systems convergence is situational awareness, or the ability to assess an emergency situation, real or perceived, in order to improve response and ultimately affect the outcome. When inter-connected, building systems can provide more impact by providing a single, actionable view of the facility operations. Examples of this might include turning on lights when an intruder is detected or using video to survey a complex to provide firefighters with more information.


These examples illustrate how, by consolidating systems under one platform, situational awareness is enhanced and the appropriate personnel can better meet and solve problems safely and efficiently. Additionally, integration helps facility managers ensure systems come back online quickly, and can reduce the impact these events have on business productivity, safety and security.

The trend toward integration of environmental controls, physical security systems and automated building management systems will only grow in importance as time passes, led by the customer need for centralized operational control and driven by on-going industry mergers and acquisitions.

As security professionals, it is our job to stay on top of technology in order to provide our clients with the best possible solutions. And, while we’ll continue to see a lot of testing as we try to understand what constitutes best practice, at least we’ve had our feet wet when we took on the integration of various security and surveillance systems. This next wave of integration should be that much easier.