Access control on the enterprise: The new frontier

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The computer industry has been touting the benefits of the enterprise ever since LAN/WAN technology came onto the scene several years ago. The ability to tie together all the various software applications required to run a company was, and remains, a highly desirable IT objective. In fact, there are many organizations running enterprise-wide applications today - although I have reservations that they are doing so on a true enterprise platform.

It’s not that reports of the enterprise-wide systems are false; it’s that the definition of what constitutes the enterprise continues to change as technologies evolve.

Depending on your perspective - building systems operations, information technology or security - the definition of the enterprise differs dramatically based on the applications it encompasses. In the security market, for example, there is a great deal of discussion on how access control, video surveillance, intrusion and fire alarm systems can work together seamlessly and are being deployed today with a high degree of efficiency. Although a significant step, a higher level of interaction between these systems and unrelated systems needs to be accomplished to achieve enterprise level performance.

What is the enterprise?

It’s important that we define the “enterprise” relative to the security industry. The key component in our definition is the ability to integrate the operations of video surveillance, access control, intrusion, fire and building management so that they truly function together.

There is a significant difference between interfacing and integrating systems. Interfacing is merely the ability to connect one system to another. Let’s look at a relatively simple example: An access control system sends a signal to a video surveillance system to reposition dome cameras and begin recording in real time, while a series of doors lock and lights are turned on in the affected areas.

Enterprise level integration calls for a much higher level of sophistication. With the relatively new ability to engage communications between systems with high level serial or TCP/IP connections, software driven system controllers can share programmed commands on a single platform via multiplexed signals across the network. Once the controllers of previously unrelated systems are integrated, these systems can function as a single entity.

The most significant benefit of integrating security on the enterprise level is the ability to manage all of the systems from a centralized location, or any location on the network. In addition, enterprise security systems allow for systems architecture to be distributed along several network nodes.

Another significant benefit is that they can be configured, operated and updated continuously. Additionally, there are systems already in place that can provide “data integration." Examples include point-of-sale systems, elevator/escalator systems, counting devices, gaming and vending machines.

The new frontier

The question is: how do we as an industry achieve true enterprise level security systems operation? First, it is imperative to select the system technology that will serve as the platform for your enterprise-level security system. The key criteria in making this decision should be the ability to provide the open architecture necessary to integrate all of the technologies.

Now that video systems have joined access control on a digital platform, access control systems are the logical choice for system control and integration given scalability and virtually unlimited expansion capabilities. You’ll also need to have a secure network in place with sufficient bandwidth. Fiber optics may hold the key given the bandwidth they provide. Given the progression of technology over the past 20 years, the migration to enterprise level security systems may be a lot closer than we thought.

Douglas Karp is general manager of the ID Products Group for Checkpoint Systems, Inc. He can be reached via email at