Picture this: Video makes access control better

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Monday, January 1, 2007

Whether it's a mom-and-pop shop looking to prevent theft by adding video to a card reader at the back door, or a campus system with multiple video-analytic-loaded cameras for each reader, those in the know say customers like the idea of adding video to an access control system.
Enhancing access control with video is a vibrant segment of the security market, and customers' increasing comfort and ease with video, and the manufacturers' willingness to invest in this kind of technology, is driving this trend.
"I'm not sure everyone understands [the nuances] of what you can do with a smart card, but pictures--people inherently understand that," said Marke Roberts, vice president and general manager of integrated systems for integrator Ingersoll Rand.
The idea of adding a camera to an access control card reader is hardly new, but the video-access combination has taken off, as comfort with IP-based cameras has increased. In addition, it's a security system where components from different manufacturers can often be combined, added and upgraded over time to suit a business's budget, Roberts said.
The lower-tech reader-and-camera at the back door is the bread-and-butter of many smaller integrators, noted Kim Carito, spokesperson for Software House, a division of Tyco, manufacturing access control software.
"What we hear from ADT is that [with most small retailers] most of the loss occurs through the back door," because of employee theft or the wrong people badging into the store. A card reader and camera greatly reduces that loss and "the cost of the systems have come down so much that it's affordable" for those retailers.
The use of video to enhance access control in more complex applications is widespread. John Moss, chief executive officer at S2 Security Corp, a manufacturer of a network appliance that allows for access control and video management, estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the access control systems he sells have a video component: "The larger the system, the more likely they are to integrate access control. My two-reader systems very often don't have video; by the time you've got 30 or 40 readers, they almost all have video."
Why add video? "There's video for surveillance and there's video for documentation," Moss said. "Typically what happens is people install the video for a mixture of those things."
Video is used to ensure that only authorized people enter or leave, to prevent human or vehicular tailgating (when more than one vehicle or person enters an area at the same time, using the same credential), and to see what people carry in or out of a door. It can also be used for people-counting or to determine the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Marc-Antoine Lamontagne, product manager for Verint's Nextiva video management device, said a common application of video analytics and access control for Verint would be in a parking lot. "We can automatically identify when more than one car enters a parking facility on the same [access card] swipe," he said. "This enables a proactive approach to secure the facility entry and addresses a significant need that could not easily be addressed before."
Often the video is triggered to begin recording when there is an event. It can also be triggered to begin recording at a higher frame rate for the duration of the access event, which makes a more efficient use of video and storage.
The two technologies are complementary, said Mohammed Benabdallah, director of research and development for Software House.
"Video and access control use each other's strengths to enhance the security of the overall system. So access control is popular with capabilities such as sending alarms, sounding horns, sending emails, doing a whole bunch of activities if something happens. And, it's easy to program," he said.
"Where video is good is at noticing that something's happening and then doing the intelligence on it to say, 'What's going on here? How big is the object? Which way is it moving? Is there something I should be concerned about?' Then it can send an alarm to the access control to continue the alarm from there," Benabdallah said.
S2's Moss said while the uses vary, the goal of combining access and video is to "reduce manpower while increasing the accuracy ... I'd rather have a guard out walking around than sitting around waiting for that event to happen." In the future, he said, "you're going to have more and more of the analytic result being pushed out into the field."
The main innovation will be that the event (for example, if the wrong person gains access, or if two people instead of one enter) is discerned by the video analytics and delivered to a patrolling guard or central command station more quickly, he explained.
Lenel's Bob Pethik, director of product management for the access control manufacturer now owned by UTC, concurred: "Today, if you have an event, you can right click that event and pull up cameras surrounding the entire area. You can visually check from a single seat, from a single application, versus having to take the manpower and time to send someone down to that alarm point."
Video is "becoming a requirement in large RFP projects in the public sector," observed Dave Abrams, chief technology officer at TrueSentry, a video and access control management software manufacturer.
While not a requirement, a combined video and access platform may help businesses involved with high-risk activity get favorable insurance treatment, as well.
Historically, customers start out with access and add the video component.
"Video is as important as the access control platform to a lot of end users. We just completed a good-sized job and there were four cameras for each reader," said Ingersoll Rand's Marke Roberts. "So we're really seeing that trend and we expect it to continue or accelerate.
He noted that manufacturers are investing heavily in video and analytics that can be used with access control. "It's where the money is flowing and when money flows," Roberts said, "technological leaps are made and costs are driven down. So it really is a place I think in the security industry where there's opportunity, and to a certain degree, to coin a phrase, it's sexy."
Mohammed Benabdallah at Software House agreed, saying video combined with access is one of the most popular features he sees, especially in the past two years.
"Video through the networks used to make IT people cringe," he said, but eventually "they saw that the network was capable of handling it and the DVR companies did the streaming in a smart way so as not to overwhelm the network."
Benabdallah said integrators are very good with access control and CCTV video, but with "digital video coming into place, they have to deal with IP cameras and there is a shift in knowledge." Integrators seem to be coming up to speed pretty fast, because of customer demand. "Customers are pushing integrators to support the digital video marketplace," he said.
Where's the largest demand? Benabdallah said homeland security-related projects in ports and airports where "outdoor security is becoming very important." Historically, most of the access control and video has been concentrated in indoor facilities. The challenge, he said is to merge all of the components, "indoor, outdoor, access control, video and intrusion" and to make sure that the components can withstand the elements.
Verint's Lamontagne identified "key markets for initial adoption of both the integrated approach and video analytics" as "critical infrastructure, government, airports and enterprise campus environments." He advised integrators to "specify solutions that are open, have pre-built integrations to other systems, have integrated analytics, and continue to add additional applications over time as the market evolves."
Asked for an example of a sophisticated application, Mark Call, product manager for digital video solutions at Lenel, described a port project where tractor trailer cars drive in and out all day long. It has four cameras at the entrance that link "a fingerprint to the driver's face, to the tractor trailer's license plate number to the trailer identification number." All must match before the driver can exit or enter.
"And we're able to go back [if necessary] to do tracking based on all of that information," Call explained.
Call noted that there's still an "80-20 split on the IP video versus the old analog." Many customers are upgrading and integrators are "using IP cameras on parameters that work on a fiber network that includes access control, fire, burg, the whole thing. Those integrators are doing a great job ... Those who are holding off and doing strictly analog systems are finding it more difficult. I think in the long term, you'll see a shake-out of certain individuals who didn't make the transition."
The "leaps and bounds are going to be made in the IT and preventative side," predicted Marke Roberts from IR. "That's leading edge and much more challenging and it takes a skillset in an organization, whether it's Microsoft certified engineers on your staff or something else, but it's folks who understand the network and how to make these things work."