Integrating Disparate Security Technology with Standards and Partnership
The key to a good crossplatform integration? Realistic expectations
In late 2015, Advance America – the largest payday lender in the U.S. with 2,050 locations across 29 states – wanted to see what other security integrators could do for their branches’ alarm services and security video.
“We knew our technologies were separate,” says Advance America’s Director of Loss Prevention Mark Odell. “We wanted to find an integrator that had knowledge across our platforms and could help us upgrade, as a partner, not just an integrator.”
Eventually Odell partnered with NAVCO, which placed a project manager – Tony Perkins – on-site in the Advance America headquarters to shepherd retrofits and new installations forward, while serving as a direct liaison with the integration company. By having this straight line of communication, Odell has been able to upgrade analog cameras to IP and use upscale DVR options to tie the branches’ disparate security systems together, which gives managers and corporate security oversight to determine if opening and closing procedures are being followed, what happened during specific incidents and metrics into the operations of each location.
“We all fight the same battle,” says Odell. “We all want to deter theft. I think that making a slower, conscious decision on technology and products is paramount. Making a rushed decision puts you in the backseat.”
According to Angie Barnes, EVP of Sales for NAVCO, having realistic expectations and clear goals is essential when considering how to unify disparate security systems, along with having a strong integrator partnership.
“Consider your ultimate goal, what you want your system to be and do long-term,” she says. If your goal is better video surveillance, for example, security leaders could implement a phased approach to achieve that goal, starting by creating a head-end platform and phasing in IP cameras in high-profile areas and adding encoders to functional analog cameras. From there, follow a detailed conversion plan to convert older cameras to IP ones over the course of a year or two. The main caveat is: don’t expect your analog cameras – even if they’re streaming to the network with encoders – to deliver the same high-quality images as IP cameras.
“It’s getting easier than it’s ever been to utilize your existing investment, but be prepared to sacrifice cost for picture quality when it comes to keeping analog devices. Work with your integrator or partners to create the right plan to use existing pictures and prioritize upgrades in areas that need improvement faster,” Barnes says.
Luckily for security leaders, security systems are becoming more interoperable, thanks to more open standards like ONVIF and the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things.
“Standards are creating an industry where platforms that once used to be ‘proprietary’ are now able to communicate with other platforms, making additions and changes to systems easier on the end user in both terms of usability and expense,” says Jim DeStefano, Security Segment Head for Siemens Industry, Inc.’s Building Technologies Division. “Integrators have the challenge of knowing how to utilize standards to allow for the integration of various systems. True integrators are providing solutions, not commodities.”
However, much of this newfound ease of integration is limited to newer systems. With older technology and retrofitting, success often comes down to the relationship between vendors, says Brent Mahoney, Enterprise Solutions Architect for G4S Secure Integration.
“Get to know the culture of the companies you’re working with,” Mahoney says. “Get a long-term view of how they want to do business. Work with your integrators and advisors, do your research, go to tradeshows.”
Mahoney recommends navigating tradeshows like ISC West with your integrator, to see which vendors are showcasing interoperability, and where product trends are going.
Some end users’ ideas may not be feasible yet, says Mahoney, but they’re likely in a future roadmap. Building a better relationship with manufacturers, often with integrators or consultants as the bridge between the two parties, can lead to advanced insights into future product ranges and functionality.
If enterprise security leaders do advance research into some of the technologies on the market, they can also propose functions to other areas of the enterprise. For example, a K-12 school could blend life safety and energy conservation to integrate access controls and video with building automation, so if a gunshot is detected, classroom blinds will lower automatically and lighting could either dim to signal staff to shelter in place or light up the path to the nearest exits for an evacuation, says Jim Nannini, Vice President of Building Wide System Integration for Johnson Controls.
However, while there are many possibilities on the horizon, there are still pitfalls. Nannini adds that most integrators have some bright-minded engineers who can likely integrate any programs… if they ignore major standards. So when it comes to servicing an intricate, bespoke integration, end users’ options are essentially limited to that original engineer. Knowing off the bat how the enterprise wants or needs to support a system (in-house staff, external integrator, new integrator) will help drive the scope and complexity of the project, Nannini says. “Integrators need to ask end users these questions, but system owners need to demand more collaboration.”