Security opps abound with building management
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Integrating components allows for streamlined operations and greater efficiencies of security with other systems

The possibilities seem to be infinite and the benefits tangible.

By integrating the security components of a building, such as CCTV, access control and the like with the basic building management controls, companies can streamline their operations and mine data to make the building safer and more efficient to run.

The concept of integration of security with building automation isn’t new, explained Steve Thompson, director of marketing for fire and security at Johnson Controls, who said the process began as early as the 1970s. But it has gained visibility and acceptance, he noted, especially among those on the building automation side.

“Building automation will say the application with security is very important,” he said, while adding that those from the security side are less inclined to want to integrate the systems. “That could be a turf issue,” he said, but also a concern about breaching the security through its integration with other systems.

Still, Thompson said, there are several reasons why interest in an integrated building management system is taking off, beginning with the ability to put multiple operations on a single control panel, or even onto devices such as PDAs, pagers and the Internet.

What the security system can provide that building managers need to know, he said, ranges from occupancy information that can be used to control comfort, cost and emergency response to the ability to manage the building properly in the event of disaster. The system can lock or unlock doors, control ventilation in the case of a fire or turn on cameras for security, safety or general monitoring purposes.

“You can build a lot of intelligence into the transaction,” said James Reno, director of technical services at Amag. While some systems are designed just to allow building management systems to view alarms from fire or security, others allow for buildings to “react” to those alarms. “The possibilities are pretty infinite,” he said.

For example, Reno said, while tying in the access control system can allow for lights, heat or air conditioning to be activated when someone enters a building, the use of motion sensors can determine when those systems need to be turned off, based on a pre-determined period of inactivity in a certain area.

What’s happening, said Paul Smith, chief operating officer of DVTel, is the ability to use the intelligence of one system to tell what is going on in another system, such as video monitoring.

The same video that can monitor security functions, Smith said, can be integrated with energy management so if the temperature in the data center suddenly climbs, the video can be engaged to see if something is wrong or to produce a historical record of what might have happened.

Other options related to video, Smith said, can range from viewing the elevator shaft to aid with equipment malfunctions to using the in-elevator and on-floor cameras to track an intruder through the building. “If you have video tied to the elevator system, it can tell you what floor he (the intruder) stopped on and if he got off or not. You can track in real time via integration,” Smith said.

Integrating security, life safety/fire and lighting “gives a huge benefit,” said Heath Klein, product manager-integrated systems for Siemens Building Technologies Inc. “There’s a lot of efficiency there.” And even though it is the more heavily regulated piece, Klein said fire alarms are being integrated with building systems for purposes of controlling ventilation systems, unlocking doors and the like.

“We’re starting to see it (integration) more frequently than before,” Klein said. More changes are likely within the next three to five years, he added, as security companies explore the protocols necessary to make integration work. (See sidebar on page 51.) Fire will be integrated more slowly, he said, in part because of regulatory and UL issues.

Having access to information has been a driver for integration, and Patrick Barry, vice president-sales at Touchcom, which developed the One Facility software module, said the security database is the premier starting point.

“The best database in a building is the security database,” he said, because of the need to keep it current for access control applications. “And if it’s good, why not use it for other functions,”said Barry, citing such areas as visitor management, emergency contacts, facility management and the like.

In addition, he said, database information can be mined to run buildings more efficiently and cost effectively, whether it is using the average number of visitors to determine how to staff the visitor desk to tracking which companies are adding or subtracting employees and how that may impact their space requirements.

“You need to look at every type of data across the board in a database so you can do this data mining for all areas,” Barry said.

While newer “smart” buildings will be able to provide this type of information as part of their system, Barry said software laid over existing infrastructure can do the job now.

“People are still gun-shy on smart buildings,” he said, “and are still focusing on mining data from traditional systems.”

Although most of those who spoke with Security Systems News said integration of security and building management systems isn’t limited by the size of the structure, the majority of the work is being done on facilities with multiple tenants, multiple buildings or property management-occupied facilities such as major office buildings, casinos, university campuses, stadiums and healthcare providers.

And as to who is in charge, most said a few of the same issues that plague the integration of security with IT are popping up in the security versus facilities management arena.

“There has always been a tension between the security side and the building management side,” explained Terry McMahon of analyst firm BCS Partners. In general, he said, security and fire are installed by electrical contractors, while building management systems fall under the auspices of mechanical contractors.

“A number of our customers have the security group manage everything,” said Johnson Controls’ Thompson. Others, he pointed out, put it under the facilities group, but separate from IT.

“It’s all dependent on the type of facility,” said Siemens’ Klein. “Any manager (security, building automation or IT) can be the lead.”

Reno of Amag said building automation is an industry unto itself and is less involved in the political struggles that have arisen between IT and security.

“The conflict exists in a very narrow area - the operations center,” said DVTel’s Smith. For those companies that have a security operations center, it isn’t difficult to integrate security and building management at the main desk, he said. “Now you’re just letting two systems pop up on one screen,” he said.

The “turf war” issue is limited, he said, because even if information is integrated, maintenance of the systems is handled separately.