Unlocking Business Intelligence

Unlocking Business Intelligence

Unification helps protect campuses

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 through Unification 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.

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