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ERP Journal: Article

Integrating Access Control with Other Systems

The new necessity

Let's review the typical access control system in use today. Not only are the various components disconnected but they are from different manufacturers and do not and will not integrate with each other. Some use incompatible hardware, or proprietary, unsynchronized databases, or completely inconsistent user interfaces that compete for space and attention. This system is inefficient and requires just too many people to manage it. It is not the kind of system that will make people in management very happy.

They know that such systems increase employee and training costs, foster unnecessary equipment expense, cause security and safety breaches, and produce mission-critical downtime. Since their budgets and management are beginning to dictate what will be used, access control systems must conform.

Today, although companies need to integrate all of their security and facility systems under one control system, they also have special integration requirements due to the size and deployment of their personnel. Basically, access control systems need to be linked to personnel (Human Relations - HR) systems to control which employees are currently employed by the company. The linkage of these systems ensures that as employees are terminated or re-assigned, the access control is completely synchronized with the personnel moves, without manual intervention.

For instance, Noridian Administrative Services LLC is a regional claims contractor for the U.S. Medicare program, processing Medicare claims for the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii from its Fargo, North Dakota, headquarters.

Noridian has put together a world-class integration system using the GE Security Secure Perfect 4.O Enterprise as its security platform, which integrates into the organization's PeopleSoft system used for human resources. In this integrated system, Secure Perfect pulls down certain fields, such as first name/last name/employee ID number/employee status, from PeopleSoft, not the access control system, so there are no variances

Leveraging such technology breakthroughs and foreseeing a need for increased security, companies will also begin to rapidly adapt smart cards, biometrics, and intelligent video into both their physical and logical access control systems. As a result, both security and IT managers will be faced with greater system complexity and forced along the pathway of integrated business solutions. These have become inarguable facts.

Creating a Command and Integration Platform

An integration platform is needed to bring all of these systems together because most companies have a wide variety of manufacturers' equipment installed. Different sites standardized on different manufacturers. What's needed is a complete command and control integration platform that integrates all aspects of security and facility management within a single screen. Such a platform must provide a completely open architecture with published APIs, plug-and-play compatibility, cross-platform support, adherence to industry standards, and the ability to seamlessly create a modular facility environment. With it, you would have a single, intuitive, integrated console that lets you protect and manage your business.

Defining the Platform

First, the platform would need to be tightly integrated with the security management system, offering advanced access control, alarm monitoring, intrusion detection, fire alarm, intercom and personal safety/duress systems, credential production, and employee and visitor management functionalities. Additionally, though, the platform must address and enhance security management system capabilities by integrating digital video from multiple manufacturers as well as integration and support for fire, intrusion, personnel, and complete facility management.

A command and integration platform needs to provide a single window on the enterprise. Today's managers must employ a centralized, consistent user interface for managing security and facility alarms and events across the entire company. That's not to say there can't be delegation. A company most certainly might want multiple, separate security systems for administration purposes but still maintain centralized control. For example, an Asian-based company may want system hosts in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Nonetheless, the security director for each region can be delegated the task of configuring doors, managing employee access, integrating with specific alarms and other tasks within their regions. Multiple synchronized, geographically dispersed servers are also important for alarm monitoring. Each host or region can do its own alarm monitoring while, from the main server, the head security management team can monitor all regions from a single screen. Yet, the master control in Asia will still have ultimate control of all three servers.

Seamless integration would mean the physical access control departments, as well as other groups in the enterprise, would have the freedom to select different technology vendors, relying on the command and integration control platform to handle the integration.

A New Respect for Standards

In this new world proprietary is a bad word. Multivendor support is only achievable through the use of IT industry standards such as XML, TCP/IP, SNMP, LDAP, and SMTP. The platform must support commercial off-the-shelf operating systems such as Red Hat Linux and Microsoft Windows in its many flavors; database platforms such as Microsoft SQL Server, MSDE, Informix, IBM DB2 Universal Server, and Oracle Server; user directories such as LDAP and MS Active Directory; networks such as Ethernet; report generators such as Crystal Reports; and common administrative utilities for system backups and fault tolerance. Likewise, it must seamlessly integrate with external applications, such as time and attendance systems, and peripheral devices such as printers.

Only then will enterprises be able to achieve real time, bidirectional data exchange and actions between security systems and other infrastructure and applications, including HR and ERP systems. Management of people's access rights will be streamlined with policy-based management across physical and logical security. With one step, an enterprise can set up or delete a complete set of access rights for any employee.

We recently introduced such a platform. The GE Security Facility Commander integrates security and facility management into one system. All applications, presently disjointed, can be viewed within a single, common, easy-to-use interface. All hardware, even video, alarm and printing equipment, works seamlessly within its framework. The ability to enter security and facilities data just once, and have the framework synchronize with existing legacy systems automatically, is now a reality.

How It Works

A standards-based command and control integration platform, Facility Commander lets organizations integrate multiple aspects of their security and facility management within a single screen. This single, intuitive interface provides one console for all access control, video surveillance, and alarm management functions. Built-in drivers support GE's Picture Perfect and Secure Perfect access control systems as well as digital CCTV, analog CCTV switchers, intrusion, and intercom systems.

Users and integrators can use its included drivers for multiple access control, digital video surveillance, alarm, and other security and facility management systems. Or, they can use the Facility Commander System Developers Kit (SDK) and open APIs to develop plug-and-play drivers for their existing digital video equipment and software.

  • Access Control: Facility Commander is closely integrated with GE Security's Picture Perfect and Secure Perfect security management systems. It integrates events and actions between access control and other systems. For instance, users can lock or unlock a door from a graphical map of door locations. If an access alarm is triggered, Facility Commander can map the location and direct the surveillance system to begin recording.
  • Digital Video: Facility Commander works with video surveillance systems from multiple manufacturers. From the console, users can view live images from surveillance cameras, control pan/tilt/zoom cameras, or search for video clips stored on digital video recorders (DVR) by time, date, event, event type, camera, or DVR. When an event or alarm is triggered, Facility Commander 2.0 can tell the DVR to begin recording, display live video from a linked camera at the location, map the alarm location, and send an e-mail to the security director.
  • Analog CCTV Switcher: Even if a user's present video system employs analog equipment, Facility Commander will work with it by automating camera call-up on specific monitors when events and alarms occur.
  • Intrusion System: From the Facility Commander console, users can arm or disarm an intrusion area. When an event or alarm is triggered, Facility Commander's pop-up alarm function displays a map of the alarm location and links it to the digital video system to begin recording at that location. Users can retrieve video clips by associating them with alarms to investigate and resolve incidents more quickly.
  • Intercom System: When a call comes in from an intercom, Facility Commander can automatically trigger the Event Action Mapping function to display the intercom call station on the console. The intercom can be connected to the video system to show live video from that call station. Users can also link the intercom to the access control system to unlock or lock a door at that location.
Third-party security vendors will find Facility Commander easy to use. It features an open architecture based on industry standards. It runs on commercial off-the-shelf operating systems including Windows, Linux, and AIX. It supports popular databases such as SQL, Informix, DB2, and Oracle. With its SDK and open APIs, vendors can create their own drivers. Indeed, they could even interface it with Mr. Meyers' Alliance Platform and give him extra eyes for his jewelry store.

Integration Is No Longer a Luxury; It's a New Necessity

With the convergence of physical access control and other security and IT systems, new open system architectures are providing smaller users as well as global enterprises with the solutions they need. We're entering a whole new world of integrated, intelligent access control systems.

More Stories By Andrew (Andy) Bulkley

Andrew (Andy) Bulkley is senior director of product strategy for GE Security, Enterprise Solutions. He is a veteran of the security industry.

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