Unlocking Business Intelligence
Unification helps protect campuses
- By Jason Friedberg
- April 01, 2021
Advances in IP technology have greatly improved
physical security solutions and have allowed the
industry to move toward getting systems to work
together. fiis has been especially important for large
corporate, health and educational campuses.
To improve security and operational efficiency, the main focus has
been on systems integration. fiis process involves bringing different
components together, including video management, access control,
automatic license plate recognition, communications and intrusion
detection. Unfortunately, integrating multiple systems does not necessarily
mean they will be able to operate together as a unified system.
Unification is a more effective strategy. In a unified system, all the
components are written in the same code and share the same backend
interface. fie 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 staff need within a single user interface (UI)
to help them effectively and efficiently protect people and assets.
In addition to improving security and operational efficiency, unification also allows organizations to gain control over all systems from
an intelligence and data perspective. By gathering together huge
amounts of data into one, single-stream, a unified system makes it
possible to transform raw information into invaluable business intelligence
across a multitude of departments.
Unification Improves Efficiency
fie standard setup for campus security departments using an integrated
system usually involves assigning a single responsibility to each operator.
While one operator is responsible for watching video, another is in
charge of monitoring access control and another looks after parking.
Following this structure, each workstation has a central monitor that the
operator uses to interface with their assigned system. But, because the
systems are integrated together, procedures can become complicated
when operators have to move between them to complete tasks.
For example, when an organization integrates access control with
video, the two systems come back to the command center but appear
either on a split-screen or on two separate screens. While they might
appear side-by-side, the two programs do not actually communicate
with one another. This means that operators grant door access through
the ACS, but, when they need to perform identity verification, they
must move to the video management side to view the footage.
To move between systems, an operator must either use a toggle
switch or actually get up and go to another workstation. In either
scenario, the operator still has to maneuver between two different
systems to perform what should be a single task like verifying identities
to grant access. One serious consequence of this setup is that
operators can miss alarms or incidents in one system as they are completing
tasks in another.
Unification eliminates these problems. Workstations can be set up
to allow operators either to monitor all systems at once or to focus on
one system while still being able to move seamlessly into another.
With a unified system, granting access through a door is a simple as
looking at the video and then clicking one button to let someone in.
Reducing Physical and Data Noise
With so many sensors, devices and systems providing so much information,
one of the big challenges facing security operators is noise.
There are two types of noise: physical and data.
Physical noise comes from alarms that are produced by a physical
security system. Traditionally, dispatchers or other security staff had
to acknowledge these alarms, including fire and panic, by going over
to a panel in the command center and hitting the alarm.
With an integrated system, alarms no longer require operators
move to the alarm panel. However, depending on the setup, they
might have to switch workstations or toggle from one system to
another to acknowledge and deal with them.
Working with a unified solution means that security staff don’t
have to leave their workstation station or the system they’re monitoring
to acknowledge incoming alarms. In some systems, they can go
straight into a mapping interface to acknowledge them. The unified
system also allows operators to more efficiently verify whether or not
they are dealing with a false alarm.
Data noise is also a problem. All the information coming into a
workstation can be overwhelming for operators. When they have to
acknowledge an ever-increasing number of unfiltered events, important
information can get lost. For example, with all the video and
access control data associated with daily access requests continually
streaming into security workstations, it can be difficult for operators
to see an alert for a forced door. When nothing is filtered, every piece
of data appears equally urgent. With so much undifferentiated data
coming in, how can security staff possibly do their jobs effectively?
Unification can solve this problem because, when all the data is
coming into one location, the system can correlate and prioritize
alarms. A unified system can control nuisance alarms and requests by
allowing organizations to establish their own rules that enable the system
to determine which events require operator attention and which
do not. In the case of a forced door, for example, an organization can
set a rule to bring up forced door alarms that occur only after hours.
This is not possible with an integrated approach because the systems
and their data remain separate. Taking a unified approach
increases operator efficiency as they only respond to actual alarms.
Other Advantages of Unification
In addition to improving security, unified systems also offer advantages
in many other areas, including after-event investigation, training,
and total cost of ownership (TCO).
When it comes to after-event investigations, an integrated system
requires security staff to go back and forth between two or more
separate systems to find the incident. Then, they have to align the
data in the systems by correlating time stamps. If the systems are out
of sync, the task becomes more difficult.
With a unified system, searching for an event or incident is done in
one system. This greatly simplifies and speeds up the process because
video, access control, communication and other sensor data can all be
found in one place. All the data in the system is also bookmarked in
time, which makes it easy for personnel to find and view the evidence relevant to the investigation.
A unified solution also dramatically reduces training time and
ensures that all security staff can work with every aspect of the system.
Since all components are written using the same code, operators
have to only learn one operating system and one UI. This allows staff
to become more proficient with the solution as they become more
experienced with how it works.
Finally, deploying a unified solution reduces TCO because organizations
do not have to pay for multiple, disparate systems separately.
Organizations maintain only one system and carry only one, less
expensive service agreement.
Unlocking Business Intelligence
One of the biggest advantages of deploying a unified solution is that it
helps organizations differentiate themselves by giving them the ability
to unlock business intelligence and improve organizational efficiency.
Generating business intelligence from sensor and system data
requires bringing it together in meaningful and actionable ways. To
accomplish this, the data first has to come into the security system as
a single stream, which is impossible with integrated systems.
Because unification means that all of the data comes into one location
as a single stream, an organization can use its physical security
system to gain an entirely new level of business understanding. To
access this information, organizations must deploy analytics to correlate
the operational data being gathered in the system. By making connections
and presenting the results in a readable format, analytics transforms
the data into actionable intelligence that can be shared with stakeholders
outside the security department and across an organization.
This helps to break down siloes as stakeholders realize the utility of
the data being collected by their security system. For example, by using
correlated data from an APLR system, a registrar’s office at a college
campus was able to gain a better understanding of recurring parking
problems. Faculty and students attending classes on one part of campus
complained that there was never enough parking available in the area.
By looking at the correlated data, the registrar was able to determine
that the congestion and lack of available parking were caused by poor
scheduling and not a shortage of spaces across campus. According to
the analytics, there was a lot of parking available at other lots. What this
showed was that too many classes scheduled for the same time had
been allocated to this portion of the campus. Using their unified system,
the college was able to reduce the overcrowding without having to
spend money building new lots by moving classes to other buildings.
Bringing systems together is a smart move for corporate, health
and educational campuses. By focusing on unification rather than
integration, they can protect their facilities as they improve operations
and unlock business intelligence. Fortunately, this work is
already happening within the industry.
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.