A Unified Approach to Campus Security
If a fence sensor is triggered with a traditional system, the operator will only receive the pre-defined corresponding information, such as a short video feed of the area around the fence. But a unified system goes beyond just co-locating more data: it allows that data to interact in new ways. Video analytics and other sensors confirm the fence sensor isn’t a false alarm; doors are locked in response to the threat; speakers sound a warning that personnel are on their way to intercept the intruder.
- By Charles Pitman
- March 22, 2022
Many physical security solutions aimed at securing corporate, healthcare, and educational campuses have been introduced over the years. From video management and access control to automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) and more, they all help keep people and assets safe. But integrating these solutions together doesn’t mean that they’ll operate seamlessly. Sometimes, the results can be limiting. This is where a unified physical security platform can be more effective.
Integration: The Challenges with Siloed Systems
For campus security departments that are using an integrated system, it can become complicated when operators have to communicate and move between these systems to complete a task.
If an organization decides to integrate access control with video, the two systems will appear on the same screen, but they are not necessarily communicating both ways. This means that, while an operator can monitor video as people access the facility through doors and gates, many of their other day-to-day tasks—like distributing cards to employees, unlocking doors for visitors, or running reports to see who accessed an area after the fact—still require the operator to switch between systems. These remaining silos distract operators from the task at hand and introduce more overhead and inefficiencies, such as still having to learn two interfaces, longer time to resolve investigations, and general fatigue from working across systems.
Unification: A Different Way of Bringing Multiple Systems Together
Imagine if all of your physical security activities, functions, and data came through one solution – then you could harness the flow of data across all of your security activities. It would also make it easier and more efficient to secure your campus while also supporting your organization’s operational activities. This is unification.
A unified platform is built from the ground up to consolidate all of the data that you collect, so you can easily and efficiently manage security policies, monitor events, and run investigations all from one single platform. It provides a seamless and unified view of your entire security operation, giving security operators the ability to monitor, track, and proactively address security concerns using actionable and relevant information. Instead of toggling between multiple tabs, screens, or workstations, operators can manage alarms, maps, schedules, and privileges from a single central interface so that security efforts are coordinated and centralized for consistent and swift responses.
For example, if a fence sensor is triggered with a traditional system, the operator will only receive the pre-defined corresponding information, such as a short video feed of the area around the fence. But a unified system goes beyond just co-locating more data: it allows that data to interact in new ways. Video analytics and other sensors confirm the fence sensor isn’t a false alarm; doors are locked in response to the threat; speakers sound a warning that personnel are on their way to intercept the intruder. Unification expands the operator’s reach so they can better address the situation.
One View: A Comprehensive Security Approach
The security coordination of your campus is crucial to managing day-to-day operations, large events, and emergencies.
A unified physical security platform optimizes resources by sharing common servers and databases for authentication and permissions, licensing, configuration settings, alarms and events, audit and activity logs, video recording, access logs, and schedules. Deploying a unified platform means that users only need to learn, configure, upgrade, and back up a single software suite. This makes installing and managing a unified platform easier than doing the same with an integrated one. Access is also easier, as administrators can manage the system through a single application, regardless of the number of servers or systems.
With a comprehensive view of security where both routine activities and unanticipated incidents are managed within a single unified platform, security teams can decrease response times and improve decision-making.
Imagine a campus with hundreds of buildings and thousands of staff and visitors each day. With a unified platform, the security team can have an overview of thousands of doors, intrusion sensors, automatic license plate recognition, and even intercoms and public address speakers, for example—and each of these devices would be visible on a single map in the security operations center, allowing operators to quickly dispatch the closest officer when a security event occurs. And before even reaching the scene, officers could review the video and any other details from their mobile devices.
Ensuring campus security has what they need at their fingertips allows them to deliver a faster and safer response to any type of issue that comes up.
Open Architecture: Scale and Adopt New Technology Without Limitations
Open architecture is the foundation of a physical security platform that gives you the ability to choose any software. It’s non-proprietary and flexible, which means that whatever software you select will be compatible. An open platform guarantees that as your organization grows, you can swap out or add technology to match your needs at that moment without having to start from scratch.
Does your organization have plans to expand or change? With the increasing amount of new security technology and sensors available, you need to consider open architecture.
Sure, an integrated physical security solution gives you the ability to add new systems. But in reality, trying to add more data to a user interface that’s designed for a single set of activities can quickly show its limitations. As soon as one system needs to be updated, compatibility issues will probably arise and slow down or even prevent updates. A unified physical security platform with open architecture offers more flexibility and evolves with you since it can grow to any size as new systems are added. It’s able to monitor thousands of devices, from door readers, IP cameras, to intrusion sensors, intelligent lighting, and more.
Maintaining several integrated systems can also be costly: Paying for multiple vendor agreements, training operators, and maintaining multiple, disparate systems can quickly add up. However, operator training is simplified with an open, unified platform since alarm management, event to action, reporting, investigation, and incident-related workflows all take place in one familiar environment. This significantly reduces the learning curve for new operators, and existing staff can easily stay up to date with system improvements.
Get on the Path to Unification
An effective and unified campus security system doesn’t require an all-or-nothing approach. Security leaders can start by focusing on the basics, such as unifying video and access control systems. Getting on the path to unified physical security can allow campuses to expand, scale, and add solutions as their needs evolve.
Unification enables organizations and campuses to unlock business intelligence and improve organizational efficiency. Instead of numerous data silos, unification puts operators and administrators in front of data into valuable and actionable business intelligence. The right security system does more than just protect people and assets. It also provides business and situational data to enhance overall operations, helping campus security teams work smarter and more efficiently.
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2022 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.