One of the first interviews I conducted after getting out of Vietnam was with Ross Perot. Son of a cotton broker, U.S. Naval Academy graduate, one-time top IBM salesman, widely acknowledged as the founder of the IT services industry and unfortunate third-party Presidential candidate, Perot told me two things that stuck even today.

One thing: The future of a business is three-fold. Keep doing things that work; stop doing things that do not work; and start a few new things. The other thing: Products turn into systems and systems turn into services.

Which, in a Perot sort of way, gets me to IP.

With the startling growth of IP in the physical security arena, chief security officers, integrators, IT firms and traditional security equipment makers have jumped on the IP bandwagon. It’s most apparent in the video sector.

But the biggest growth may be on the access control side.

There is less need to upgrade equipment; there is less worry about bandwidth; and there are more business applications beyond security and images.

Michael Edwards of Clemson University’s Livestock Poultry Health Programs knows the charms of Web-based access control by installing Brivo’s ACS WebService. The Livestock Poultry Health facility houses four agricultural departments and sees upwards of 200 staff and visitors a day. ADT Security Systems of Columbia assisted Clemson staff in their search for a new access control system introducing the Brivo system and its many benefits and helping to write the bid specifications. “Our last system was run on one PC and if that person wasn’t there, you were out of luck,” said Edwards, information resource consultant for Clemson University Livestock and Poultry Health Programs.

The design controls five exterior doors and several interior doors to divide access areas within the building. The building is a research and testing facility but does not conduct live animal research. Nevertheless, Edwards is able to ensure full lockdown of the lab and effective control over which personnel groups have access to the lab, where and during what hours. In addition, the Web-based system enables staff to funnel all visitors to the main entrance lobby, facilitating visitor monitoring and proper routing, and ensuring improved control and audit trails for deliveries and samples sent to the laboratory.

“I ran extensive reports of system activity during the first several months of operation (of the Web-hosted access system) but found over time that staff learned what they can and cannot do and his familiarity with the system grew so fast, I only runs reports on demand now,” said Michael Edwards of Clemson University’s Livestock Poultry Health Programs.

Easy Web-based Access Administration

Mike Edwards is the main administrator for the system, but he also has two back-up staff. He hasn’t really needed them. “The only time I don’t manage the system is when I’m on vacation – it’s great I can jump on a PC anywhere and do whatever needs to be done,” he said.

One system feature he does rely on is automatic alerts. Alerts are sent, for example, when personnel act outside of privileges or when the system may be experiencing a problem. But alerts aren’t always an indication that something is wrong: on one occasion a temporary employee was made permanent, but his privileges had not been updated. Upon request for entry, Edwards received an alert while on a business trip. “I had his privileges updated in two minutes from my remote location; it’s really a great system.”

There’s even more services available through Web-based access. It’s now possible, for example, to leverage existing access systems by connecting them to the vast information services available on the Internet. Web-hosted access control services can provide a single point of integration that can be shared across thousands of accounts, sites, and control panels.

This integration enables access control, device management and other systems to “listen” and respond to data such as weather conditions, public service announcements and much more. Accessing data in this manner allows municipalities, schools, and businesses to address or respond to changing conditions. The same techniques can be applied to corporate data sources such as human resources systems and automated kiosks.

Among examples: Integrating Web applications can open the door to new services, such as combining online hotel reservations with access control, so a guest arriving after hours can be assigned a PIN code to enter after the front desk is closed for the night. In another scenario, there are kiosks located in shopping malls that allow prospective buyers to register to visit properties offered by real estate companies. An XML interface links the kiosks to the access control system and in turn to the individual properties. Wireless control panels at each property avoid the need for special wiring. The visitors are able to register at the kiosks and immediately receive a PIN that will grant them access to the property.

Thank you, Ross Perot, for helping define the future of IT and security services.