There seem to be two different perceptions of and definitions for “convergence” in the industry.

Physical security professionals, for the most part, define convergence in terms of integrating previously disparate security systems such as video surveillance and access control with other facility related systems such as RFID tracking systems or fire safety systems.

IT-based personnel have evolved a different, often more complex definition of convergence that takes integration of security systems to a higher level by incorporating IT applications such as human resources and traditional IT security into the model.

In either case, it’s apparent that software is driving convergence on both fronts.

Business In Charge

This is clearly not a trend driven by technology (for technology’s sake) as we’ve often seen with other developments that sweep an industry like digital recording. Today’s users are looking for increased integration between operations to meet compliance regulations, reduce costs and improve security at their facilities. Unlike just a few years ago, security is a top priority in every private and public sector. Homeland defense, the gaming industry, Fortune 1000 companies and a handful of other market categories are steering security system suppliers onto a new course for systems product development that is shifting away from hardware-driven solutions to convergence through the implementation of more highly integrated software-driven solutions.

The roadmap to convergence is just starting to come to fruition on a practical level with software solutions that truly integrate video surveillance and access control systems (e.g. card access, visitor management and badging systems) along with other key security applications. We are also seeing the implementation of more sophisticated software-based solutions that integrate more traditional IT applications on the enterprise level in an effort to create one identity for employees that can be used globally. Big stuff, but the jury is still out on the “interoperability” of these enterprise level solutions – the new industry buzzword of the month.

Practically speaking, security systems are already being updated to perform complex integrated operations. Today’s digitally-driven and networked systems allow much more sophisticated levels of interoperability whereby they can perform complex operations simultaneously and automatically. However, the level of integration varies depending on the specific software-driven function that crosses platforms enabling a much broader range of applications. As more powerful software solutions are written, system designers can integrate security and IT applications onto a single control platform.

Everything’s Together

By bringing together security applications such as access control, video surveillance, object video, biometrics and fire/alarm/event monitoring, with the business applications such as point-of-sale (POS), human resources, physical asset management and RFID tracking – security and IT management will be able to control all system operations as a single entity. This level of system control makes the management of electronic data extremely efficient. More specifically for video surveillance applications, a central database provides the ability to organize, match and retrieve recorded data and images by correlating live and/or recorded video to the data associated with a specific event.

This is a highly sought attribute of newer software-driven, network-based technologies since systems can be programmed to react to specific scenarios or “policies” established by corporate management. One of the initial applications for this level of integration is the integration of POS devices with video surveillance systems. If an event occurs which matches any pre-defined scenarios, the control platform will archive transaction data along with the multiple video feeds of the event. All pertinent information can then be simultaneously sent to security personnel for review.

But even as this software revolution takes hold, the need for hardware still exists. For example, today’s virtual matrix switching systems promise to provide enhanced levels of functionality, but they have yet to offer the proven performance and capabilities afforded by today’s leading switching systems. How these systems are connected and interfaced with other security systems is another issue, and again, software is at the core of the solution.

The fact is – the security industry has just started to really concentrate on the implementation and upgrades to the new software-centric, server-based enterprise level system solutions. Regardless of which model of convergence you have embraced, don’t throw away your hardware-based video switching systems just yet. Instead I suggest you get up to speed on new server/software developments so you’re ready to make the move to a more fully integrated software-driven control platform when the time is right.