This correctional facility has a security system that uses IP technology so any area can be viewed from any location.


A security manager for a large corporation comes in from a long Memorial Day holiday weekend and reviews the security logs for the time he was away. He sees a line of type in his access control log saying that someone was attempting an unauthorized entrance to a highly secure area of the facility on Memorial Day itself, when no regular employees were present.

He reviews his access control logs to see whose card was being used to try to enter. Unfortunately, he has no way of confirming whether that person actually was attempting entry or someone else was using the person’s card because the corporation’s video system is not integrated with its access control system.

The employee can simply say he or she lost the access card. If a guard service were notified of the attempted entry, the person could have slipped away before the guard would have arrived.

Mel Mahler, CEO and co-owner of ADS Security LP, Nashville, Tenn., emphasizes that video and access are the most typical integration among his customers.

“For example, if you’re checking on whether someone is stealing from you, and they have their own code, and you see the time they hit the door, you can check with the video at the same time and see if the person with the key is the same person that is supposed to have the key, or if they have things in their arms as they exit,� Mahler points out.

He estimates his company’s growth at 10 percent to 12 percent overall, but access and video are each growing at almost double that rate to an estimated 22 percent, Mahler reports. “We almost always sell a system like that together,� he says of access and video systems.

The control room of this correctional facility is an example of a wireless help-call system that tracks and locates people or property throughout the surveillance area. It provides personal protection such as man-down and guard tour features.


Robert Siegel, general manager of video and software solutions for GE Security, Bradenton, Fla., agrees with Mahler. “People are looking for the integration of video and access control,� he notes. “We are getting increasing demand for that across the spectrum of all sizes of jobs.�

Observes Bob McCarthy, vice president of technology for Dedicated Micros, Chantilly, Va., “A more advanced integration might be where the access control system or loss prevention sends a notice to the DVR.

“What a lot of DVRs can do when they’re notified is change from a standard record rate such as one picture per second, up to a higher record rate such as 30 frames per second or so, since there is something definitely going on,� McCarthy points out. “It can try to capture higher quality video of that event.�

Several years ago, that type of integration might have been accomplished through a relay output on the access control system, which would trigger an alarm input on the DVR, McCarthy explains. The DVR also might use motion detection.

Hardwired alarms were the first method for devices to communicate with each other. The second phase was RS 232 communication, which many end users simply skipped and went straight to software to send information over the local area network (LAN) or the Internet, he remembers.

An advanced integration for point-of-sale would be to correlate the data of each transaction from the point-of-sale register with the video of the transaction. “You could put a Y cable in there and listen to the data going by,� McCarthy suggests. “You could have a little interface box that would take everything sent to the printer and strip away the unprintable text and send it into the DVR’s serial port.�

This casino screen shows how security and surveillance operators can take advantage of PC-based software to manage their facility and control it all with a PC keyboard/mouse or traditional keyboard.


Justin Lott, product marketing manager for digital CCTV, Bosch Security Systems, Fairport N.Y., maintains that video information is becoming an important part of the integration picture. “Whatever system they use, they want the ability to be able to pull video from a manufacturer’s DVR up onto that screen – for customers, this type of integration is almost a mandatory requirement. That’s the trend I see happening right now.�

Frank Ramos, product line manager for digital video recording, Honeywell Video Systems, Louisville, Ky., sees demand for video integration from central stations that are receiving video for verification and other purposes such as virtual guard tours.

“The whole push is to have one look, one feel for the operator of any given central station, so they don’t have to learn all these different DVR interfaces,� Ramos notes. “They want the stream to come to the operator in a graphical user interface (GUI) that the operator is familiar with.�

The video usually would arrive at the central station via a phone or broadband connection separate from the communication format used by the alarm panel, Ramos declares. “At the central station they combine the two user interfaces,� he explains.

Vision Southeast, Birmingham, Ala., upgraded the entire security system of Jackson Hospital, Jackson, Ala., starting with installing a CCTV system. Later, they installed access control software with magnetic stripe card readers and integrated them with the video system.


Integration Methods

Integrating many times involves dealing with existing systems, such as CCTV matrix head-ends, in which analog cameras are connected to the head-end and distributed to a large number of VCRs or DVRs for recording, explains Tim Rohrbach, vice president and chief information officer of MDI Inc., San Antonio, Texas.

“I can take your CCTV matrix head-end and attach it to their DVR and fully integrate it into an access control system,� he declares. “Before, that was something you could not do. In some cases, these infrastructures are huge, and they may have other systems working with CCTV and head-end.

“They just don’t want to rip it out or go through the integration effort that may be part of that process, but expand the capability of the system,� he explains. “That’s one of the obstacles the industry has to face every day.�

Whatever integration information is needed can be sent to the software as data via a network or a serial or hardwired interface, he suggests. “We would take that information and post it on a monitor, and through that event you can create other events,� Rohrbach explains. “All it is to us is data.

“If you look at the market, that is where it is going,� he predicts. “End users want more open architecture systems that do not limit them in the scope or the type of hardware that they can put on their site.

Mitch McKinzey, vice president of Silicon Hills Associates, updates integration hardware for a Texas client.


“We can integrate with any type of system as long as they have the ability to communicate via the Ethernet backbone,� he asserts. “Without getting into the details of what the driver does, we just need to be able to communicate with that. They need to send it to us in a certain format, and as long as they can communicate with us, we will build the architecture in our system.�

He adds that intelligence is being moved to the device level. “A lot of people want to push intelligence to the camera level,� Rohrbach believes. “That’s the direction we’re trying to head in, and the direction the market is going.�

When given the choice, using software to integrate systems rather than wiring is best, Bosch’s Lott thinks. “I don’t remember the last time I spoke with integrators or installers that prefer hard wire over software,� he remarks. “If they already have alarm contacts run and the wires readily available, that’s not a problem, and that’s why we continue to support that. We haven’t made any developments on any of the technology that we produce without having some type of hardwire alarm contact there.�

Because standardization of security systems is still an elusive dream, creating application program interfaces (APIs), middleware, and software development kits (SDKs) is the norm.

Rob Morello, product sales manager – digital systems for Pelco, Clovis, Calif., thinks interfaces with other products should not favor one over another.

“So if we create one interface for one vendor, they’re the only person that can use it, but if we create an interface that is vendor-agnostic, then any third-party manufacturer that wants to grab a video stream just needs to identify it and can grab it too,� Morello points out. “So the challenge manufacturers have is, how do you prepare an interface that talks to everyone from access control to elevator controls?�

A four-unit installation of DVRs at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida uses a flat-screen monitor to display the video images that are also integrated with other security systems.


One solution is to prepare a free-of-charge middleware that acts as a bridge between the third-party software and the supplier’s software.

“We are not going to send this out to anyone who doesn’t know how to write code, but it makes it very easy for a third-party manufacturer to develop to our schedule,� Morello notes. “It really reduces the lead time significantly for development on their part.�

GE’s Siegel thinks middleware is the same as a software development kit (SDK). “Middleware can use a short SDK or application program interface (API),� he maintains. “Most video manufacturers don’t have middleware, but I know that is an area we are investing in heavily.�

SDKs document the exact message to send in the required format to request video from a system, explains McCarthy of Dedicated Micros. Who pays for an SDK depends on several factors, he declares.

Being a popular DVR supplier means more companies want to integrate with his products than vice versa, he says. So he estimates that more than 50 percent of the opportunities for an integration his company turns down.

A total of 13 views can be seen at once on the flat-screen monitor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida.


McCarthy estimates that most access control and loss prevention companies do not have SDKs, although a few do, but more than 50 percent of DVR companies do. “It’s best to have an SDK,� McCarthy thinks.

Adds Bosch’s Lott, “There are some integrators out there who can do it themselves, but that’s more along the lines of your more advanced integrators,� he concedes. “Such integrators would have to have somebody on staff with some type of knowledge of actual programming code. For those larger integrators who are more savvy about computer code, they could certainly handle that, and there’s a number of them that do that work by themselves.�

McCarthy estimates fewer than 10 percent of security dealers and systems integrators have software programmers on staff who can write SDKs. There are advantage for vendors writing their own SDKs.

“Once you put something together, it’s basically a toolkit for writing applications to use and control your system,� McCarthy points out. “So if you’ve gone to the trouble of creating an SDK, it’s easier to build your own tools more quickly.�

Side bar:
Why Should Manufacturers Open their Products?

“Very few people have made their systems widely open and available to date,� asserts Robert Siegel, general manager of video and software solutions for GE Security, Bradenton, Fla. “I believe customers are going to force us to do that in the next few years.�

Some manufacturers want to control all aspects of their security systems, he concedes. “But GE is not a believer in that,� Siegel insists. “We’re a believer that one day it’s going to be open and people are going to want it to be open.

“I can tell you that in the future, all the major players who longer term want to be in the security business are going to offer customers a highly flexible, highly open and highly integrated system,� he maintains.

Sergio Collazo, national sales and marketing manager for Toshiba Surveillance and IP Video Products Group, Irvine, Calif., adds, “The days of proprietary video systems really are coming to an end, because now it’s not a closed circuit system anymore; it’s an open system, so the fact that things are moving away from analog to IP accelerates the need for integration on many levels.

“As time rolls forward, having the ability to interface with many different technologies and have manufacturers share information is going to benefit the end user,� Collazo predicts. “This is already happening.

“Part of our mantra here is expanding who we interface with,� he reports. “You can’t operate in a vacuum.�

Frank Ramos, product line manager for digital video recording, Honeywell Video Systems, Louisville, Ky., agrees that open architecture is the direction in which the industry is heading. “We’re following the same PC trend, that people can use the best of technologies with various suppliers,� he declares.

“Obviously, you can provide the best solution if you’re doing a complete solution from video to access to alarm, so we would love to sell the entire system, but that’s not always reality, and a lot of times video is being added to an existing system,� he concedes. “So if you want to be able to play in that market, you need to be open to third-party programs.�

Side bar:
More Power!

More integration means more reliable and stronger power supplies are needed, points out Alan Forman, president of Altronix Corp., Brooklyn, N.Y.

“As video, access control and related security systems continue to become more integrated, the selection of power products becomes more critical and specific based on the combination of components requiring power and related technologies, such as IP connection, PTZ and access control protocols,� Forman emphasizes.

He observes that precise power sources are needed for specific integration requirements.

“If the power goes down or is incorrectly specified, it doesn’t really matter how sophisticated your system is – it simply won’t work,� Forman notes.

Whether a power system is wall- or rack-mounted also is important to specific applications, he notes. “The wide variety of power and physical configurations assures that designers and installers have access to the solution most appropriate for their application,� Forman explains.

He sees a bright future for integration of security systems.

“Given the software-centric nature of today’s integrated and, most often, networked system solutions, system designer/installers have limitless possibilities,� he concludes. “Theoretically, any combination of systems can be integrated with the appropriate software.�

Side bar:
How APIs and SDKs Work Together

An application program interface (API) is the way software engineers access a product’s software development kit (SDK), explains Ken Davis, manager, product management for digital video management systems, Tyco Fire and Security, American Dynamics brand, Boca Raton, Fla.

“The SDK is a toolkit to access the API,� he declares. “The API is the actual interface, the window or door into your software. A comprehensive API means that the majority of the functions you can do in your DVR you could also control or extend from a third-party product.�

An access control company using a good SDK from a DVR manufacturer would receive a software sample in the SDK that would explain how to control a dome camera, play back video or handle alarms.

“Years ago, you just got an API and had to figure out a protocol on your own,� Davis remembers. SDKs encourage third-party developers, he notes.

“It’s a nice litmus test for a customer to see what type of API and SDK are available,� he declares. “I can tell how complete the product is and how comprehensive it is by what type of API and SDK they have. It is a major differentiator between a start-up or fly-by-night DVR company.�