I was searching my email outbox archives the other day and I ran across a column that I’d written a few years ago about the use of video and integrated security systems.  I was adamant that a camera be ruled out for an access control solution versus considering it as an optional feature. I still maintain that assertion. I’m not saying that every door should have a camera – every door should be considered for one – as an integrated component of your access control system.

ROI– Consider the operational cost savings of not sending a security officer to investigate every alarm. The door and protected area can be checked by a control center operator. 

Safety– If an officer response is initiated, a control center operator can monitor the area for intruders – potentially avoiding a dangerous interaction between criminal and officer.

Security– Yes, this is an obvious one… A control center operator can conduct video verification upon user entry. Comparing the stored user badge image against live video from the door area on an access granted signal, for example. This may be useful in preventing tailgaters — those that follow an authorized user through an open door. I’ve devoted more than one column to tailgating.

None of my examples for the inclusion of video in access control are exactly front page newsworthy. I realize that. Since they’re not earthshaking revelations to many, why then is video integration sometimes an afterthought when planning access control projects? The most cost-effective deployment of access control is by existing data networks. It’s also a cost-effective method of integrating video into an access control system. 

I’m not suggesting that you have to use your access control system’s integrated video offering. It may, however, be the best solution. It’s going to be easier to link system signals, such as entry granted, door held/door forced open alarms with video in a seamlessly integrated solution. If you choose to use a segregated video management system you can still link security system alarms to video management systems. The linking will be the physical linking of alarm sensors to camera alarm inputs. It really depends on your overall strategy with regard to video surveillance. You can leverage the use of cameras in concert with access controls with either method, integrated or segregated, even to the point of guiding pan-tilt-zoom cameras to preset targets based on alarm signals.

Allow me to take video integration in an access control system a step farther. At my institution we’ve had an automated detection system in place for about two years now. The system leverages sensor technology with advanced algorithms to automatically detect human targets and then track them to deter criminal behavior. It is fully capable of sensing and deterring criminal behavior without integrating video or access controls. Our system has always been video equipped; however, recently I’ve added access control integration as well. Both the automated detection system and our access control system are designed to handle this type of integration, so why not use it? 

The system uses wireless sensor technology to detect and track potential intruders. It’s also a simple matter to add traditional sensors such as door contacts and glass breakage sensors to the system’s arsenal of detection weapons.  It was also a simple matter to configure relay outputs on our access control system to act as sensors to the system. Door propped open? The normal door prop alarm is generated by the access control system and a simple relay closure signals the system to shine its LED lights and a camera at the open door. Then the system’s built-in crime deterrent algorithms kick in. A single door propped open event triggers an alarm and sends live video to our central station, a local alarm sounds, and the First Responder solution mimics the actions of a security officer. All of this has happened without any human intervention. Talk about great ROI!

My apologies if this column is starting to read like a commercial. I’m just that impressed with the solution deployed at my institution. It’s impressive without video and it’s impressive without any additional integration. Combine the three and it’s the trifecta of security solutions.