In the physical security industry, the terms integration and unification are often used interchangeably. It’s common to hear people mention ‘unified security’ when talking about integrating systems. The truth is – there’s a difference between these approaches.
While the security sector has developed various methods to bring separate physical security solutions together via integration, these by and large remain a set of disparate systems. There’s limited communication and interoperability among them.
Integrating separate security functions like access control and video surveillance using software development kits (SDK) or an application programming interface (API) programming is often done superficially. When these subsystems are integrated within a physical security information management (PSIM) system, the result is limiting and quickly becomes a costly endeavor.
The reason for this is the depth at which most systems are integrated. More often than not, the initial requirements are superficial integration. Users want to see information in one place and verify an event in one system against information from another. The easiest example is validating an access event with contextual video of the door where it took place.
However, simple data co-location quickly becomes insufficient. Users also want to act across systems. For example, they want to unlock a door where someone is having issues or trigger a call with an intercom to check on the reason why they are trying to access the facility.
That’s where the limits of most integrations begin to show. The user’s goal isn’t only access – it’s action. They want access to data in one platform, but they also want to interact with events and information within the context of their current tasks.
Ultimately, the goal is to embed the data from integrated systems in a unified platform. Not only presenting it to users seamlessly as part of their day-to-day activities but also parsing that information so only actionable events are brought to the user’s attention. Other events are either kept in the background or dealt with through automated workflow. Information flows smoothly across the solution, optimizing the operator’s attention and effort.
When all elements of a physical security system work together in a unified way, they not only secure a business but yield actionable business intelligence. This can be leveraged and combined with operational data to improve efficiency.
Unification brings together all security system components seamlessly in a single software platform with one user interface in a way that can vastly improve physical security management. Advances in analytics and add-ons can also be quickly and easily incorporated into unified security and used to improve operations and return on investment (ROI).
For example, a unified solution in an airport can feed comprehensive security data into associated analytics software. This can present a better understanding of terminal usage and density, as well as traveler and visitor flow. Management can take action to help eliminate unnecessary wait times.
In retail, customer intelligence gathered by a unified system can engage in visitor counting, conversion rates, queue management, heat maps, directional analysis and face capture. This type of information can provide retailers with intelligence that allows them to better understand consumers. They can make real-time informed decisions and increase consumer engagement and in-store profitability.
A unified physical security platform is a comprehensive software solution that manages the different components of a security environment to provide complete access to all data. It goes beyond tagging or bookmarking video when an access control event occurs or offering the capability to unlock a door from within the video surveillance user interface. It combines information from all available sensors to provide greater awareness to operators.
Whereas a traditional system shows a pre-defined video feed when a fence sensor is triggered, a unified platform combines those sensors with other perimeter detection technologies, such as video analytics and radar. Operators can track threats or incidents across each of them seamlessly.
A unified solution not only ensures all systems work together but also purposefully intertwines functionality. This results in a powerful user experience.
It’s possible to configure and manage video cameras and doors, assign credentials, monitor intrusion panels and have everything at the security agent’s disposal from a single user interface (UI). It ensures a high level of functionality from within a single software platform. Unification provides everything security personnel need within one UI to help them effectively and efficiently protect people and assets.
Troubleshooting, too, is improved with a unified platform. For example, operators can analyze access control issues while they keep an eye on video cameras, all from the same UI. They can monitor multiple systems at once or focus on one system while moving seamlessly into another by easily navigating with the interface.
It’s also important to note that a unified system is highly flexible and scalable. It can be expanded to meet organizations’ changing needs over time. It isn’t an all-or-nothing solution. For example, organizations can start with video management system (VMS) functions and add access control, ALPR, analytics or third-party applications as their business requirements evolve.
Unification is a more effective strategy than integration. In a unified system, all core components are based on the same code and share the same interface. The result is a security solution that not only looks like a single system but functions like one as well. A unified system provides everything security personnel need within a single UI to help them effectively and efficiently protect people and assets.
Integration has long been a systems strategy for security professionals. That’s starting to shift as true unification becomes not only possible but practical. While integration provides a breadth of functionality, unification offers the foundation and depth of connectivity needed to effectively make use of all systems and data.
Charles Pitman is the Product Marketing Manager for Unified Platform at Genetec, where he’s responsible for the unified experience of Security Center across products and interfaces. After joining Genetec in 2015, he spent his first three years as Product Marketing Manager for AutoVu and subsequently took on those responsibilities for Strategic System Integrations.
This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.