The security system in a typical small to medium business (SMB) will likely include surveillance cameras, a recorder, access control software with cards and card readers, and intrusion sensors with an alarm panel. Then depending upon needs, a business might add video and/or audio intercoms, a visitor management system, mass notification, vehicle tracking, biometric devices, fire alarms, and sound and communication.

That’s a lot of components. Unfortunately, that’s often how systems are viewed – as disparate pieces of equipment, each serving its own specific purpose. In reality, they should be viewed, and function, as one integrated system. And with increasing frequency, security is even being integrated with building automation systems such as HVAC, lighting and water.

Here’s an example of how this integration can all come together. If the fire alarm system detects a fire, the building automation system signals the HVAC system to stop delivering fresh air to the area and pressurizes the path of egress, clearing it of smoke. The access control system unlocks doors along the route, activates lights to show the exit path and train surveillance cameras on the fire to provide first responders a live feed. The emergency notification system provides constant updates, via text messages or voice over speakers, to keep employees, customers and/or visitors informed.

Integrated Solutions

By seeing individual tools, not integrated solutions, many facility managers or business owners are missing out on the opportunity to provide even more control, convenience, cost savings and efficiency to the organization. And in the case above, integration may even save lives.

Common for many years in the IT industry, open standards are the driving force behind this integration. The security industry had been slow to adopt open architecture, but most leading equipment manufacturers now support one or both of two standards-setting organizations – ONVIF and PSIA. Open architecture lets SMBs choose among vendors, selecting security equipment based on performance, features and price. And now they can choose partial systems upgrades without fear of making investments in existing – or legacy –  systems obsolete.

Security now relies heavily on computer networks and software. The benefits are huge. Wireless cameras can be placed virtually anywhere on the network without the added expense of cabling. The same is true of access card readers. Video can be stored in a cloud environment, making it available from any Web browser. Apps for smartphones and tablets allow remote control of systems.

Increasingly powerful computer networks can better handle the demands of transmitting large video streams. Improved compression technology has also helped to manage bandwidth concerns. Also, encoders can now take analog data and digitize it as part of an IP (Internet Protocol) solution allowing SMBs to migrate to (Internet Protocol) IP-based technology at their own pace.

Operating over single business networks also makes it easier to to add peripheral systems such as parking and gate control and visitor management systems.

Single-Point Control

Another advance from the computerization of security is a solution known as physical security information management software. PSIM collects and combines information from the various components into one integrated, intelligent system. SMBs can identify security policies and procedures and prescribe different responses to events around a perimeter, in the main lobby, a warehouse or cash transaction areas.

PSIM software offers full security management capabilities, unlike video management or access control systems that offer only limited levels of integration while typically requiring the inclusion of the manufacturer’s products that may not integrate with competitive systems due to proprietary protocols. 

SMBs face tremendous pressure to protect the people and assets they oversee. And most often they are supposed to do so with tight security budgets. That’s all the more reason to wring as much out of each component through a complete and integrated solution.

The days of separate, standalone security systems are numbered. Integration has delivered system solutions that offer more efficient protection.

Find the Right Partner

There are many benefits, but before rushing into an integration project be sure to retain the services of a proven, experienced systems integrator capable of comfortably working with both the security and the related IT requirements.  Also look to the integrator to provide any necessary training and system maintenance to keep the system at peak operation for years to come.