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To integrate or not to integrate: no longer the question?

Hi-Tec solutions has talked with experts on integration who conclude that open integration should be a key fundamental in making a decision to buy an access control system.

One of the popular issues you will find in almost every security publication is that of integration. Not only will you find it high on the list of buzzwords in the media, but even at security events and exhibitions around the world, integration is where it’s at.

The drive to integration has even reached the access control and identity management market where companies are promoting the integration of traditional access control with other applications with the aim of simplifying management and improving automation. Of course, the idea of simplifying is a sticky one, integration itself is not simple, but if done correctly, the results could simplify business and security processes – take time and attendance (T&A) as an example.

The reality however, is that not everyone wants their access integrated with everything else. Some of the articles in this handbook show that there are those that are quite happy leaving access as it is and opting for best-of-breed solutions for each function they want to secure. Others see integration as the future and can’t imagine why anyone would not want their systems integrated.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to two industry experts who are in the know about integration from their work in the security market. Gordon Moore is product manager at ADI Global, and Kelly McLintock is the Group MD of UTM, a systems integrator.

We started by asking them what is the state of integration in the access and identity market? Are they finding that clients want more than simple access and are asking for integration into other security or business processes and technology?

Moore says there “is most definitely an increase in requests for integrated solutions in the industry right now. The mere fact that the latest ONVIF standards (2.1 'S' profile) now includes access control shows the increase in requirements.”

Moore sees three main drivers for the integration of access control:

1) The convergence of the physical and logical access control. With the introduction of the HID crescendo smart cards with multi-technology, it has opened up the door for the convergence of physical and logical access control allowing one card to securely be used for both. Examples include being able to give network rights now based on where the user is – if they are connecting remotely they may have less rights on the network than when they are actually in the building.

2) Building management solutions. There are huge cost savings in being able to control lighting and air-conditioning of a building based on the occupancy within areas. Security is also increased by being able to arm and disarm zones within a building based on people’s access rights. Health and safety processes also benefit by, for example, knowing who is in the building during an emergency. Finally, asset management and tracking is also boosted when integrated with access control.

3) With the introduction of NFC, there is going to be an increased requirement of access control integration into other systems.

McLintock agrees, noting that “protecting employees and assets remains of utmost importance for organisations of all sizes in South Africa as the threat landscape continues to evolve and attack patterns grow in sophistication. Access control is the first level of threat mitigation and UTM believes users are realising that there are three components to a complete security solution – access control, video and audio. This shows that the access market is in a state of maturity where integration is becoming the norm.”

To illustrate his point, McLintock give the following examples of how integration delivers speed of process, improved security and automation:

* Full fire system integration. Unlocking specific doors by controllers in case of a fire alarm being activated.

* Visitor management. Automated visitor announcement and access depending on the application.

* IP surveillance. The ability to integrate surveillance with access control is no longer considered a luxury in the market, but a necessary step to providing a comprehensive picture of security operations. As an individual is read in the video stream, he is bound to the transaction for later interrogation, which allows for visual verification.

* Additionally, the ability to integrate number plate recognition for opening gates and/or recognising the vehicle via the access control system is another advantage.

* RFID. Integration of RFID into the access control system to activate specific functions like opening a boom.

* Power automation. Using access control to activate specific processes like turning on or off lights and or HVAC.

Standards and openness

While integration may be beneficial and even desirable, the technicalities of integration can cause more problems than they are worth. If systems are not designed to interoperate with other systems, the process of integration can be arduous and problems are almost certain to arise later on when one system is upgraded or has its software updated and is then suddenly no longer ‘talking’ to the other systems.

Moore says this is one of the biggest challenges. Who is the front end? “If we look at products like Milestone and Prowatch, they both offer integrated solutions, but come from two very different backgrounds.

“Milestone is traditionally a VMS solution and Prowatch an access control solution: which would work out best as the front end? We are starting to see access control manufactures providing SDKs for other products to be able to do enrolments and a few other management processes from their GUI. However, in many cases the level of integration is still limited to the database level where enrolments and management are done on the access control system and the integration is purely for event management. The introduction of the access standards from ONVIF will definitely open this up for future integration.”

“Open integration should be a key fundamental in making a decision to buy an access control system,” adds McLintock. “However, UTM believes this is based on the manufacturer’s platform and to what level of integration the customer wants to go.

 

Read the full article about integration