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How can security system integrators not just survive but thrive in today’s IT-led market? The key seems to be in training. As increasingly more clients look to integrate access control with IT environments, they want integrators with the specialist skills to achieve this. For integrators that don’t invest in training, the risk is being left behind. Because many security system integrators aren’t providing specialist IT support, manufacturers are now offering services to make implementations and integrations easier. This isn’t a scalable or desirable option for many manufacturers though, they don’t want to become integrators. The result? Manufacturers will be pushed into developing products that can be integrated with IT networks off the shelf. And this isn’t necessarily the best option for end user, manufacturer or integrator. With a growing number of cloud-based security solutions, integrators also face the threat of clients opting for installation-only services. How security system integrators can survive and thrive today It’s not all doom and gloom for security system integrators though. To avoid becoming redundant, or being downgraded to simple access control installers, there’s lots you can do to strengthen your position. Listen carefully Many integrators are reluctant to do this, but it’s a great way to demonstrate the depth of your experience One of the first ways you can distinguish yourself from your competitors is by really listening to what your clients want and need. You can then translate this into a security or access control application tailored carefully to them. Many integrators are reluctant to do this, but it’s a great way to demonstrate the depth of your experience and product knowledge. It’s far superior to carrying out a standard implementation, which can leave clients feeling they’ve not been listened to or given good value. Up your IT knowledge TCP/IP has become the standard for communication between devices and central server applications in access control and security in general. So every technician now needs to know how to connect IP devices to networks and configure them in the central application. This is only the tip of the iceberg though, there’s so much more that integrators now need to be proficient in when it comes to IT. From understanding a client’s WAN, LAN and VPN networks to back-up systems, encryption technologies, key management and transparent communication. It’s also important to know how to integrate applications at server level, whether you’re integrating two or more security systems or a HR database. Most integrators have begun to invest in one or two IT experts, but this usually isn’t enough to meet clients’ needs. To really stay ahead, it’s crucial to invest more heavily in IT training and expertise. Choose your portfolio carefully When considering your portfolio, ensure you check the background of each product’s manufacturer Ideally, your portfolio should be small but rich, which is more difficult than it sounds. Choosing products that will scale easily is complex, and you need to consider the potential for increased functionality or connectivity as well as scalability. When considering your portfolio, make sure you check the background and outlook of each product’s manufacturer. You don’t want to select items that are likely to be discontinued in the near future, which can often happen after a manufacturer is acquired, for example. Get in the cloud In the security market, the mid and low segments are already shifting to cloud-based solutions that need neither integration nor IT skills. This leaves you with opportunities for just installation and maintenance services, where profit opportunities are reduced. An alternative is to begin selling cloud-based security services yourself to help you attract and retain clients for the long-term. Give clients added commercial value As competition increases and budgets shrink, offering added value, to new and existing clients, is a vital way to differentiate your business. This will help you to not just defend against competitors but to grow your business and increase your profitability. Configuring access control reports for clients is just one example. It’s relatively straightforward to do but provides really valuable insight into visitor flow. This can then enable them to, for example, staff reception adequately and provide sufficient catering, which all improves the experience for visitors and employees. Providing this kind of consultative service, instantly pushes you up the value chain. Stay agile and well informed To survive and grow as a security system integrator today, the upshot is that it’s crucial to keep pace with the market’s ever-changing trends, technology and client needs. And, to make sure you’re ready to adapt and give clients the services they want, it’s vital to give your people the in-depth training they need.
Back in the 1960s a lead engineer working in conjunction with the United States Navy for Lockheed’s Skunk Works team coined the acronym KISS, which translated to the design principle ‘keep it simple stupid’. The KISS principle embraces the concept of simplicity, stating that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than geared up to be more complicated. When it comes to physical security systems, this concept can also play a key element in its overall success. Secure work environments For years the tug of war in the security industry has pitted the need for a secure environment against the desire for technology that is convenient for users. However, finding a happy medium between the two has often seemed elusive. I believe you can design and have operational convenience at the same time as achieving high security" Jeff Spivey, a security consultant and the CEO of Security Risk Management, has this to say about it, “If there is an understanding of the security-related risks and their separate and/or collective impact on the organization’s bottom line business goals, a resolution can be reached.” Jeff also does not think that convenience and high security have to be opposing each other. He says, “I believe you can design and have operational convenience at the same time as achieving high security.” Importance of secure access control The premise is that for organizations and spaces to be truly secure, they must be difficult to access. So, by its very nature, access control is designed to be restrictive, allowing only authorized staff and visitors to access a facility or other secured areas inside. This immediately puts convenience at odds with security. Most people will tolerate the restrictive nature of a controlled entrance using badge, card or biometric because they understand the need for security. When that technology gets in the way of staff traversing freely throughout the facility during the course of a business day, or hindering potential visitors or vendors from a positive experience entering the building, they become less tolerant, which often leads to negative feedback to the security staff. Enhancing corporate security Security consultants like Spivey and security directors all stress that understanding the threats and risk levels of an organization will most likely dictate its physical security infrastructure and approach. All the technology in the world is useless if it is not embraced by those who are expected to use it and it doesn’t fit the culture of the organization. Once employees and customers are educated about what security really is, they understand that they're not losing convenience, they're gaining freedom to move safely from point A to point B. Converged data and information shape new access options Migration of physical access control systems to a more network-centric platform is a game-changer for security technologies The migration of physical access control systems to a more network-centric platform has been a game-changer for emerging security technology options. The expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), Near-Field Communication devices powered by Bluetooth technology, and the explosion of converged information systems and identity management tools that are now driving access control are making it easier than ever before for employees and visitors to apply for clearance, permissions and credentials. Wireless and proximity readers Advancements in high-performance wireless and proximity readers have enhanced the user’s access experience when presenting credentials at an entry and expediting movement throughout a facility. A user is now able to access a secured office from street-level without ever touching a key or card. Using a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone or triggering a facial recognition technology, they enter the building through a security revolving door or turnstile. A total building automation approach adds extra convenience, as well as seamless security, when access technology is integrated into other systems like elevator controls. A total building automation approach adds extra convenience and seamless security How to Meet Security Concerns at the Entry While security managers are charged with providing their facilities the maximum level of security possible, there is always the human element to consider. But does the effort to make people comfortable with their security system ecosystem come at a cost? Does all this convenience and the drive to deliver a positive security experience reduce an organization’s overall levels of security? And if so, how can we continue to deliver the same positive experience including speed of entry – while improving risk mitigation and threat prevention? Door entrances, barriers Users can slip through the door or turnstile barriers while they are still open after a credentialed individual has gone through Let’s examine some of the various types of entrances being used at most facilities and the security properties of each. With some entrance types, there is the possibility for security to fall short of its intended goals in a way that can’t be addressed by access control technology alone. In particular, with many types of doors and barriers, tailgating is possible: users can slip through the door or turnstile barriers while they are still open after a credentialed individual has gone through. To address this, many organizations hire security officers to supervise the entry. While this can help to reduce tailgating, it has been demonstrated that officers are not immune to social engineering and can often be “talked into” letting an unauthorized person into a facility. Deploying video cameras, sensors Some organizations have deployed video surveillance cameras or sensors to help identify tailgaters after the fact or a door left open for longer than rules allow. This approach is not uncommon where facilities have attempted to optimize throughput and maintain a positive experience for staff and visitors. Security staff monitoring the video feeds can alert management so that action can be taken – but this is at best a reactive solution. It does not keep the unauthorized persons from entering, and so is not a totally secure solution. Optical turnstiles, speedgates Security staff should carefully evaluate its facility’s needs and consider the technology that is built into the door itself Security staff should carefully evaluate its facility’s needs and consider the technology that is built into the door itself. Not all security entrances work the same way. And, there will always be a balance between security and convenience – the more secure the entry, the less convenient it is for your personnel and visitors to enter your facility. For example, it takes more time to provide 2-factor authentication and enter through a mantrap portal than to provide only one credential and enter through an optical turnstile or speedgate. Perimeter protection So, it is an important first step to determine what is right at every entrance point within and around the perimeter. Remember that convenience does not equate to throughput. Convenience is the ease and speed of entry experienced by each individual crossing that threshold, while throughput relates to the speed at which many individuals can gain access to the facility. A more convenient entry makes a better first impression on visitors and is good for overall employee morale. Throughput is more functional; employees need to get logged in to begin their workday (and often to clock in to get paid), and they quickly become frustrated and dissatisfied when waiting in a long line to enter or exit the premises. Considering form and function when designing a security entrance can ensure that those requiring both high-security and convenience are appeased.
Imagine a home surveillance camera monitoring an elderly parent and anticipating potential concerns while respecting their privacy. Imagine another camera predicting a home burglary based on suspicious behaviors, allowing time to notify the homeowner who can in turn notify the police before the event occurs—or an entire network of cameras working together to keep an eye on neighborhood safety. Artificial Intelligence vision chips A new gen of AI vision chips are pushing advanced capabilities such as behavior analysis and higher-level security There's a new generation of artificial intelligence (AI) vision chips that are pushing advanced capabilities such as behavior analysis and higher-level security to the edge (directly on devices) for a customizable user experience—one that rivals the abilities of the consumer electronics devices we use every day. Once considered nothing more than “the eyes” of a security system, home monitoring cameras of 2020 will leverage AI-vision processors for high-performance computer vision at low power consumption and affordable cost—at the edge—for greater privacy and ease of use as well as to enable behavior analysis for predictive and preemptive monitoring. Advanced home monitoring cameras With this shift, camera makers and home monitoring service providers alike will be able to develop new edge-based use cases for home monitoring and enable consumers to customize devices to meet their individual needs. The result will be increased user engagement with home monitoring devices—mirroring that of cellphones and smart watches and creating an overlap between the home monitoring and consumer electronics markets. A quick step back reminds us that accomplishing these goals would have been cost prohibitive just a couple of years ago. Face recognition, behavior analysis, intelligent analytics, and decision-making at this level were extremely expensive to perform in the cloud. Additionally, the lag time associated with sending data to faraway servers for decoding and then processing made it impossible to achieve real-time results. Cloud-based home security devices The constraints of cloud processing certainly have not held the industry back, however. Home monitoring, a market just seven years young, has become a ubiquitous category of home security and home monitoring devices. Consumers can choose to install a single camera or doorbell that sends alerts to their phone, a family of devices and a monthly manufacturer’s plan, or a high-end professional monitoring solution. While the majority of these devices do indeed rely on the cloud for processing, camera makers have been pushing for edge-based processing since around 2016. For them, the benefit has always been clear: the opportunity to perform intelligent analytics processing in real-time on the device. But until now, the balance between computer vision performance and power consumption was lacking and camera companies weren’t able to make the leap. So instead, they have focused on improving designs and the cloud-centric model has prevailed. Hybrid security systems Even with improvements, false alerts result in unnecessary notifications and video recording Even with improvements, false alerts (like tree branches swaying in the wind or cats walking past a front door) result in unnecessary notifications and video recording— cameras remain active which, in the case of battery powered cameras, means using up valuable battery life. Hybrid models do exist. Typically, they provide rudimentary motion detection on the camera itself and then send video to the cloud for decoding and analysis to suppress false alerts. Hybrids provide higher-level results for things like people and cars, but their approach comes at a cost for both the consumer and the manufacturer. Advanced cloud analytics Advanced cloud analytics are more expensive than newly possible edge-based alternatives, and consumers have to pay for subscriptions. In addition, because of processing delays and other issues, things like rain or lighting changes (or even bugs on the camera) can still trigger unnecessary alerts. And the more alerts a user receives, the more they tend to ignore them—there are simply too many. In fact, it is estimated that users only pay attention to 5% of their notifications. This means that when a package is stolen or a car is burglarized, users often miss the real-time notification—only to find out about the incident after the fact. All of this will soon change with AI-based behavior analysis, predictive security, and real-time meaningful alerts. Predictive monitoring while safeguarding user privacy These days, consumers are putting more emphasis on privacy and have legitimate concerns about being recorded while in their homes. Soon, with AI advancements at the chip level, families will be able to select user apps that provide monitoring without the need to stream video to a company server, or they’ll have access to apps that record activity but obscure faces. Devices will have the ability to only send alerts according to specific criteria. If, for example, an elderly parent being monitored seems particularly unsteady one day or seems especially inactive, an application could alert the responsible family member and suggest that they check in. By analyzing the elderly parent’s behavior, the application could also predict a potential fall and trigger an audio alert for the person and also the family. AI-based behavior analysis Ability to analyze massive amounts of data locally and identify trends is a key advantage of AI at the edge The ability to analyze massive amounts of data locally and identify trends or perform searches is a key advantage of AI at the edge, for both individuals and neighborhoods. For example, an individual might be curious as to what animal is wreaking havoc in their backyard every night. In this case, they could download a “small animal detector” app to their camera which would trigger an alert when a critter enters their yard. The animal could be scared off via an alarm and—armed with video proof—animal control would have useful data for setting a trap. Edge cameras A newly emerging category of “neighborhood watch” applications is already connecting neighbors for significantly improved monitoring and safety. As edge cameras become more commonplace, this category will become increasingly effective. The idea is that if, for example, one neighbor captures a package thief, and then the entire network of neighbors will receive a notification and a synopsis video showing the theft. Or if, say, there is a rash of car break-ins and one neighbor captures video of a red sedan casing their home around the time of a recent incident, an AI vision-based camera could be queried for helpful information: Residential monitoring and security The camera could be asked for a summary of the dates and times that it has recorded that particular red car. A case could be made if incident times match those of the vehicle’s recent appearances in the neighborhood. Even better, if that particular red car was to reappear and seems (by AI behavior analysis) to be suspicious, alerts could be sent proactively to networked residents and police could be notified immediately. Home monitoring in 2020 will bring positive change for users when it comes to monitoring and security, but it will also bring some fun. Consumers will, for example, be able to download apps that do things like monitor pet activity. They might query their device for a summary of their pet’s “unusual activity” and then use those clips to create cute, shareable videos. Who doesn’t love a video of a dog dragging a toilet paper roll around the house? AI at the Edge for home access control Home access control via biometrics is one of many new edge-based use cases that will bring convenience to home monitoring Home access control via biometrics is one of many new edge-based use cases that will bring convenience to home monitoring, and it’s an application that is expected to take off soon. With smart biometrics, cameras will be able to recognize residents and then unlock their smart front door locks automatically if desired, eliminating the need for keys. And if, for example, an unauthorized person tries to trick the system by presenting a photograph of a registered family member’s face, the camera could use “3D liveness detection” to spot the fake and deny access. With these and other advances, professional monitoring service providers will have the opportunity to bring a new generation of access control panels to market. Leveraging computer vision and deep neural networks Ultimately, what camera makers strive for is customer engagement and customer loyalty. These new use cases—thanks to AI at the edge—will make home monitoring devices more useful and more engaging to consumers. Leveraging computer vision and deep neural networks, new cameras will be able to filter out and block false alerts, predict incidents, and send real-time notifications only when there is something that the consumer is truly interested in seeing. AI and computer vision at the edge will enable a new generation of cameras that provide not only a higher level of security but that will fundamentally change the way consumers rely on and interact with their home monitoring devices.
Zebra Card Printer Solutions have provided bar coded access control for Lake County's EMA The mission of the Lake County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) is to provide a comprehensive approach to managing emergencies and disasters within the county by providing clear direction in activities that enable it to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from situations that threaten the lives of Lake County, Indiana residents, their homes, and their communities. Lake County covers about 501 square miles, with a population of roughly 487,000 people. The County has 11 townships, and its largest cities are Gary (population of 102,746) and Hammond (population of 83,048).The county's Emergency Management Agency expanded its duties to include homeland security, and is now charged with responding to not only extreme natural disasters and evacuations, but terrorist-sponsored emergencies as well.In order to make sure that only authorized individuals responded to such events, the agency decided to print photo identification cards for its four employees and approximately 70 volunteers. For heightened security, the agency chose to print the cards itself, on site, so that it could add confidential security features to the cards. Lake County EMA chose the Zebra P330i, a single-sided, full-color printer, to create the bar code encoded identification cards. "In general, the cards are used to prove to a first responder that a volunteer arriving on the scene is legitimate, that he is who he says he is," reports Rick Terpstra, who coordinates communications for the homeland security agency and the Community Emergency Response Team. An encoded barcode that is read by a portable reader used on site at emergencies by the Lake County EMA ensures that only authorized individuals report to the scene of a disaster. Lake County EMA chose the Zebra P330i, a single-sided, full-color printer, to create the bar code encoded identification cards "We print on both sides of the card, with a photo, the name of the agency, the Indiana Department of Homeland security logo, and the person's name and position on the front. The back contains the barcode, the person's photo again, and a place for notes regarding the clearances permitted by thecode on the barcode," Terpstra adds.The agency uses the Zebra printer one to two times per week to print cards for new volunteers, or to replace lost or damaged cards. Terpstra and one other employee print all the cards."I have found the printer easy to use, and very reliable. I haven't had a problem with it whatsoever since we started using it about eight or nine months ago," he noted.The agency has changed its name a few times, causing Terpstra to change the cards. But he is able to quickly and easily redesign the cards with the new name. "We didn't use cards at all before this, and I am happy with our card identification program and the Zebra card printer," Terpstra declared.
A Zebra Card Printer Solutions partner will aid in increasing nuclear power plant security In response to the increased potential of terrorist attacks against key infrastructure facilities, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has raised security standards for nuclear power plants. American Barcode & RFID (AB&R) - a Zebra Card Printer Solutions partner - has created a custom ID verification application to help a major power provider meet the NRC's new security requirements, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.The U.S. nuclear energy industry is serious about safety. They erect nuclear power plants to very high safety standards, with complex safety features and redundant critical functions. For fifty years these steps have kept the possibility of a catastrophic reactor accident from becoming a reality. However, the potential to deliberately create a catastrophe makes nuclear power plants attractive targets for terrorist attack or sabotage. It is with this potential threat in mind that the NRC now requires all nuclear power plant security programs to include access authorisation or ID verification measures. These measures must control access to the plant, monitor movement within the facility, and prevent unauthorized, undesirable and unsafe intruders from penetrating areas where special nuclear material or key equipment are located. When AB&R took on the task of helping a major nuclear power facility comply with the latest NRC regulations, they quickly saw that their client's legacy. ID cards were going to be a problem. The cards lacked bar-coding, which hampered rapid ID verification. And their laminated coating was easy to peel off--an open invitation to tampering. "The specific requirements of the application along with the critical timetable for implementation complicated the solution. NRC audit constraints dictated a wireless infrastructure for real-time verification along with a credential that was essentially tamper-proof," explained Steve Beck, AB&R's Strategic Account Manager for the project. AB&R has created a custom ID verification application to help a major power provider meet the NRC's new security requirements AB&R's solution to the client's ID verification issues was to create a custom application that would provide real-time verification of ID credentials and access authorisation using wireless portable data terminals and Zebra P640i card printers. The enhanced features of the P640i enabled the issuance of highly secure ID badges that serve both as employee identification and access verification. While the current system utilizes bar code technology to verify each distinctive credential, it is designed to accommodate migration to new ID cards armed with UHF RFID technology. UHF RFID credentials enhance ID verification by leveraging time and distance as factors in data recognition and retrieval.AB&R deployed the new system and trained the security staff in its use faster than anticipated, with minimal disruption of daily plant and security operations. Within a few weeks of installation, the security staff issued tamper-proof, personalized Zebra card-printed badges to the plant's entire population--some 2,500 employees, contractors, and vendors. Today, anyone seeking entry to the client's facility must first present their ID badge, printed and encoded by a Zebra Card Printer, to a security guard. Utilising a wireless portable data terminal, the guard then scans the card and receives instant confirmation of identity through the custom application developed by AB&R.Given how the new control system helps plant security quickly identify and react to potential threats, it should come as no surprise that the client passed its subsequent NRC compliance audit. The Director of Security for the facility confirmed: "Not only did AB&R successfully meet all of the audit specifications, they completed installation and training ahead of schedule. The audit went great! We are very pleased with the application they developed and the professional support they continue to provide."
Identification Cards used to track tourists, control immigration to Galapagos Islands Zebra Technologies, a worldwide leader in card printing and bar code labelling solutions, recently announced that the government of Ecuador has purchased four Zebra P420i printers in order to control tourism and immigration to the Galapagos Islands via secure plastic identification cards. The ID card printers are being used to print and encode contactless smart cards for all Galapagos residents, and every tourist to the islands. The resident security cards will include micro text security, invisible UV ink, holographic overlay, a photograph, and a barcode. Tourist cards will not include a photo and will, therefore, be reusable. The tourist and resident information will also be stored in a computer database that is accessible by microwave or satellite communications between the islands. Even if the cards are lost, the information remains in the database. About 150,000 tourists visit the islands each year, and an estimated 25,000 people live there permanently. "The issue of these photo ID cards will be mandatory for all residents," reports Frank Nankervis, manager of Ecuador-based Logikard, the integrator that sold the government the printers. "When tourists travel, the contactless cards will be used to check them the same way that residents are checked. The cards will contain information about which islands travellers are visiting, their passport number, how long they are allowed to stay, and when they are leaving." "We chose contactless smart cards because communications between the islands are not very good, so we don't have a very trustworthy online system of communicating among the Galapagos Islands and the continent," Nankervis explains. "So, the chip card is one of the main cards that can be used in an offline environment, with the information being transmitted in batches." In addition, the contactless smart cards were chosen because they are less likely to become damaged by tourists walking on the beach or getting them wet. What's more, they are not magnetic stripe cards, so they cannot become demagnetized, and they are more durable than contact smart cards. Logikard and its sister company, SmartKard, developed the software to issue the smart cards and to read the cards and control the flow of passengers in the continental airports in Ecuador and in the two airports at the Galapagos Islands. Tourists must surrender their cards upon leaving the country. Conversely, if residents want to access the greatly reduced airline fares offered to authorized Galapagos residents, they must show their identification card when leaving or entering the islands. Previously, people would borrow identification cards from residents and use them to purchase airline tickets to and from the islands. Now, with the smart identification cards, only authorized residents will be able to purchase the reduced fare tickets. "The Ecuadorian government recognized that Zebra is a leader in the plastic card printing market," stated Bob Anderson, Zebra Card Printer Solutions director of marketing. "We are gratified that our card printers are now instrumental in protecting the ecological riches of the Galapagos Islands." The islands' popularity with tourists and would-be residents is spurring increased protection efforts by the Ecuadorian government and the non-profit groups that study the islands. The islands have been designated as a World Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Ecuadorian government is also a strong supporter of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The P420i is a rugged, dual-sided, full-colour printer that readily prints high quality, personalized ID badges in high volume applications with proven reliability for mission-critical applications in corporations, government agencies, educational institutions and retail environments. The Galapagos identification card program has already caught the eye of UNESCO, which is interested in using contactless smart cards to control access to other World Heritage sites, Nankervis reports.
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