Middleware’s Value in Converged Networks
To say that the advances in security and surveillance technology over the past number of years have been truly revolutionary does not fully do justice to the innovative and ground breaking improvements that have emerged. Some recent examples include video tape recorders replaced by network video recorders and servers; cables and wires replaced by wireless transmission and Ethernet; large black and white tube cameras replaced by compact digital color CCD cameras; and standalone systems replaced by complex integrated solutions.
These technology improvements have resulted in a growing trend of a more active and intelligent surveillance methodology that is affecting the way the concept of security systems design and implementation is approached. For instance, POS (point of sale) data is combined with video surveillance images to provide a visual record of activity to accompany sales transactions. Visitor management data is combined with HR databases or linked to federal government databases to help ensure a more comprehensive, secure and smoother visitor log in procedure that can be implemented in seconds. Access control systems are combined with biometrics, video surveillance, RFID and time and attendance systems to produce a robust security management system. Visual intelligence that is wirelessly managed and delivered to any mobile or location-based device via any proprietary, cellular, Mesh, or WiFi network to give security personnel, regardless of their location, the ability to monitor live or recorded images on-demand. And the list goes on.
A Common PlatformWhat all of these advanced integrated applications have in common, and what has become the basis for the trend of active and intelligent surveillance methodology, is the use of some form of a common collection platform, often referred to as a front-end or middleware. The name is adopted from the computer world where middleware sits in the middle, between the OS (operating system) and the application. An early example of middleware usage is in ATMs where the software manages auditing transactions, balances accounts and verifies identities with access control. In physical security and surveillance, middleware allows various applications – such as analog and digital visual surveillance, access control, time and attendance, POS, LPR (license plate recognition), fire and alarm, time and attendance, and with guard/virtual guard functionality – to be seamlessly connected in order to control the entire system and further to be able to share and manipulate the data from one software platform or control and command center, which can be also referred to as a dashboard.
The move to digital opened the door, if not actually precipitated the need for middleware. If we had the capability to transmit video, audio and data across a network as well as to combine the various systems, then we also had the need to manage and control from a single common software interface. As a result, proprietary systems are quickly becoming artifacts of the analog world and middleware has gained strategic value in converged network environments by helping organizations attain new levels of control and efficiency gains in security procedures thus allowing for truly agnostic system integration.
The Role of MiddlewareAs an example, middleware can link video in the database to related alarms or events generated from other systems such as access control, fire alarm, intrusion detection, etc. The software recognizes that the different events are related and organizes the data to be viewed as a single occurrence. In addition to the monitoring, the software also allows centralized management, administration and reporting along with customized dashboards or intelligent video walls.
In moving forward with the security convergence model supported by middleware, it is expected that applications hosted on wireless devices and accessing real-time search engines and databases will garner the most development. This makes sense when you consider that laptop computers are outselling desktops and even the most inexpensive cell phones include cameras, while smart-phones feature e-mail, word processing, television, movies and music functionality. In short, the market is pushing the technology, security included, to a wireless future.
Middleware products are available from a variety of vendors and the solutions offered include those for wired and wireless applications. These software driven solutions allow security professionals, law enforcement personnel, first responders and central stations or quality controllers to remotely access, monitor and control security systems from virtually any manufacturer using any computer or hand-held device such as a cellular phone, PDA or tablet. Additionally, they offer full telemetry, enabling control over internal functions such as PTZ control, DVR/NVR set-up and programming, and access control with advanced notification features – including the ability to send bookmarks with specific information related to alarm events.
It is said that software will revolutionize the security industry and middleware will be the true convergence tool.