Integration: The End-Users Perspective
July 1, 2006
Despite myriad difficulties, end users are achieving integration of their security systems, but only by limiting the products they use to one set system that they replicate whenever possible.
This one-trick pony strategy of standardizing security systems at all their locations assuages end usersâ€™ integration headaches by conceding that no true industry-wide product integration is forthcoming.
So they only invest once in getting an integrated security system operating efficiently. But they all would prefer that manufacturers successfully develop open architecture, plug-and-play systems that would give them true flexibility.
For example, managers at KLA-Tencor Corp., San Jose, Calif., selected a proprietary access control system in 1996 that they have standardized throughout their five electronics manufacturing locations and approximately 60 sales and corporate offices.
But Jeff GurulÃ©, CPP, KLA-Tencorâ€™s director of global security, thinks open architecture systems are most attractive.
â€œI will always move to an open architecture system rather than a proprietary one,â€ he declares. â€œFrom a userâ€™s perspective, thereâ€™s a lot of value and comfort in that.â€
John Martinicky, CPP, director of corporate security for International Truck and Engine, Warrenville, Ill., believes in standardizing security systems over his nearly 100 facilities around the globe.
â€œI started standardization 20 years ago,â€ he relates. â€œWhen we started, the idea was to standardize all of our systems and technology around some platforms that were as open as they possibly could be to allow us flexibility downstream.â€
Guy Grace, manager of security and emergency planning for the Littleton, Colo., public schools, concedes that the transition to a new system can be rocky.
â€œThings werenâ€™t working as they used to because we were fine-tuning everything,â€ he remembers. â€œThere was some frustration, and when I came in, on some days I didnâ€™t want to be here. Those were very stressful days, but in the end everything gets solved.â€
He believes in open architecture systems rather than proprietary ones so he can get the longevity from them that he needs.
â€œThat doesnâ€™t work for us,â€ Grace says of proprietary systems. â€œThere might be a cheaper technology that can meet our budget goals. Our whole realm is making our public safer with what funding we have.â€
Plug-and-play interoperability would be the wish of William Drake, security systems specialist at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power facility of Pacific Gas and Electric, San Francisco.
â€œThe best thing would be to provide equipment and software thatâ€™s compatible across the board,â€ Drake declares. â€œThereâ€™s no guarantee between systems that the software will actually work.â€
In 1999, Drake specified replacement of the security system at the power facility located near San Luis Obispo, Calif. (which went commercial in 1986) with an open architecture system, but was unable to obtain it.
â€œThe installer had to make our system pretty much one-of-a-kind,â€ he asserts. â€œItâ€™s unfortunate, because I canâ€™t go out and call a company and say I want a new hand reader, and I want to just be able to plug it in and play. Thereâ€™s almost no such thing as plug-and-play, at least in my portion of the security equipment industry.â€
His integrator installed a similar system in a power plant owned by another company. â€œAlthough they have pretty much the same equipment, once again because of how they integrate their equipment, weâ€™re not exactly the same as them,â€ Drake explains. â€œIn other words, we canâ€™t even share a card reader with them!â€
Significantly, Drake sees no reason why other types of industrial security systems cannot share card readers or just about any other security equipment with nuclear facilities.
â€œI think theyâ€™re one and the same,â€ he says of nuclear and industrial security. â€œThere are some subtleties that are unique to the nuclear security aspect, but I think when itâ€™s all said and done, youâ€™re trying to keep the bad guys out.
â€œI canâ€™t think of one reason why you shouldnâ€™t be able to go down to a 30-story office building and yank the security system out, access control and intrusion detection, and not be able to take it to any nuclear facility, including DOE [Department of Energy] or DOD [Department of Defense],â€ Drake insists. â€œThe peripherals might be a little bit different, but the security system host should not be.â€
ACQUISITIONS CHALLENGE INTEGRATIONOne of the bigger challenges end users face is standardizing security systems at the different locations of companies with which mergers and acquisitions have been completed.
â€œWe are acquiring some legacy systems that take two-and-a-half to three years to convert over,â€ Internationalâ€™s Martinicky reports. â€œYou canâ€™t do it all at once. We phase it in in more manageable pieces and then scale up to the entire access control/camera system.â€
Agrees KLA-Tencorâ€™s GurulÃ©, â€œWhen companies are merging and acquiring each other like they are, that creates an incredible expense and headache for integration companies that are trying to go to a single-card system,â€ he points out.
Because employees visit other company locations frequently, it has been easier for GurulÃ© to sell executives and company management on the advantages of being able to provide employees with 24/7 access to any company location in the world.
Martinicky is evaluating two systems to centralize security data. â€œIâ€™d have to say the challenge weâ€™re having now is trying to pull all these systems together to have some central command and control,â€ he relates.
â€œWe donâ€™t find the integration is that seamless,â€ he concedes. â€œIt seems to take a lot more effort for it to work, so weâ€™re actually looking for a solution to unify all these systems globally.
â€œThe cost of having to go in and redo systems is cost-prohibitive,â€ Martinicky acknowledges. So potential solutions involve pulling local data into a central database on a server and repackaging it in a standardized format for analysis and report generation.
â€œItâ€™s pulling all the data from different access control systems that we have, and on the camera side doing the same thing,â€ he explains. Open and close reports would be pulled and even data from central stations so they would know what alarms had been tripped.
â€œFrom there we can do reports, and once it hits that utility, it puts it back in the language of the system at that location,â€ he notes.
COST OF NOT INTEGRATINGThe lack of true integration is costing end users money. PG&Eâ€™s Drake cites as an example trying to connect two types of cameras with a video switch. â€œAll three are incompatible with one another when it comes to data transmission,â€ he insists.
A device to translate between the cameras and the video switch was required. â€œThat was additional equipment we hadnâ€™t counted on upfront,â€ he relates.
â€œIt took us four years to iron all the bugs out for our system replacement back in 2000, so when youâ€™re talking about that much time, youâ€™re undoubtedly talking about thousands and thousands of dollars in nothing else but personnel time,â€ he notes.
For Grace at the Littleton public schools, where Columbine High School suffered a tragic day of student shootings in 1999, getting value for his security dollars spent is of the utmost importance.
â€œFor us here, the bottom line is dollars,â€ Grace emphasizes. â€œIâ€™d like to see for the industry as a whole to start looking at better ways for us to meet our budgets and providing us with the technology we need.â€
Grace notes the school district had motion detectors purchased around 1985 up until a few years ago. â€œThey did a good job; youâ€™d amaze the vendors when they came in,â€ because they were still operating, he says. â€œThatâ€™s primitive technology, but it did its job. Iâ€™d love to see a product that would last that long.â€
He points out that some security products purchased in the past by the school district only lasted a few years. â€œWhat frustrates me as a school administrator is that I might not have that budget now,â€ he concedes. Heâ€™d like a lifespan of at least eight years out of security products.
Drake agrees that equipment lasting eight to 10 years before needing replacement would be nice. â€œWhen you look for a payback, youâ€™re talking about three to five years for you to be able to recover your money from an installation,â€ he estimates.
The faster replacement cycle for computers has allowed Drake to justify other replacements of security equipment. Servers purchased for the security upgrade in 1999 that were installed in 2000 are no longer supported by their manufacturer.
â€œSo now weâ€™ve already started the justification process to replace those pieces of equipment,â€ he explains. â€œEven though the software is chugging along on the existing equipment, the hardware and operating platform are no longer supported by the vendor.
â€œSo that helps you in the justification process,â€ Drake points out. â€œComputers change. By the time you purchase one and get it set up, youâ€™re just about out-of-date.â€
GurulÃ© recommends working with talented IT contractors or IT employees to ease integration costs. He added two such employees to his staff and thinks security dealers or systems integrators should do the same.
â€œWe try to work with integrators that we have relationships with, and we feel are qualified and will give us good service and pricing,â€ he relates. â€œAs you get a few systems under your belt, that relationship and trust begins to build. We are achieving seamless integration at this point.
â€œSpeaking for myself, low cost isnâ€™t always the determining factor,â€ he insists. â€œFor me, itâ€™s actually fairly low on the list in determining who will get a job.
â€œWhat Iâ€™m looking for in an integrator is someone to be responsive, to take ownership of problems and bring resolution to them when they occur,â€ GurulÃ© emphasizes. â€œI want to get somebody whoâ€™s going to do quality work and has an eye for detail, and then cost comes in as third or fourth on the list for me personally.â€
WISH LISTGurulÃ© only wants three simple things when integrating systems. â€œOne would be trained installers,â€ he lists. â€œTwo would be quality workmanship, and three would be proven software or working products, meaning I donâ€™t want to be bleeding edge, and I donâ€™t want to be delivered a product that is not mature and not developed.
â€œIf Iâ€™m the first guy to adopt this particular technology, I either want deep discounts or I want absolute guaranteed assurance that the product will work, be installed on time and not experience cost overruns,â€ GurulÃ© insists. â€œI would want technicians to have some experience on the product and technology in a lab or bench-test environment before they come out to my environment. I donâ€™t think that ever happens.â€
In other words, he does not want to be a guinea pig, but he understands how it sometimes can happen. Vendors could make it easier for him.
â€œThe vendors who are creating these products are quick to get to market, maybe sometimes too quick, and you end up with not a whole lot of time for the integrator to get up to speed and trained on the product,â€ he theorizes. â€œIf you have a buyer thatâ€™s willing to buy it, heâ€™s going to get it, and maybe before itâ€™s ready or people are trained to provide it to him, and thatâ€™s when you end up running into some problems.â€
Grace of the Littleton public schools appreciates touring manufacturersâ€™ facilities to learn more about the products he is considering purchasing.
â€œWe toured their facility and they showed us around, and we learned a little about the technology,â€ he says of his current supplier. â€œEven though weâ€™re just buying off-the-shelf from our vendor, they let us come and take a look at this.
â€œOpen your doors a little to people like me,â€ he suggests to manufacturers. â€œI think thatâ€™s important to go and see how professional an organization is. That was pretty impressive.â€
To integrators, Grace suggests getting input from each department whose employees will be using the security system. For his schools, that includes not only teachers and administrators but also the custodial staff, food services and the child care programs in elementary schools.
â€œFigure out what their access control needs are,â€ he stresses. â€œThe bottom line is you have to meet the needs of the district, but you donâ€™t want to turn it into a prison. Youâ€™re going to come up with a solution that gets you there and maintains the security of the district.â€
Grace also emphasizes the importance of training the staff on use of access cards and keypads. â€œWe put 17 schools online and that was an humongous task, and then also listening to the first responders from the outside,â€ he recalls.
THE FUTUREFor the future, Internationalâ€™s Martinicky would like cameras that have their own DVRs built-in to ease networking and speed installation. He also is interested in IP-addressable cameras.
â€œWe would be able to take a look at these cameras and control them individually without having to go through one particular box,â€ he notes. â€œIf we get to the point where readers are IP-addressable, where you donâ€™t have to go through a panel to control everything, that would speed installation and drive down cost and allow us to do more with systems than we are.â€
He also provides video surveillance for non-traditional applications, such as studying manufacturing processes in international locations to discover problems without traveling there.
Because security equipment today is all based on computer technology, â€œthere needs to be more standardization as far as software and communication protocols,â€ Martinicky recommends.
Using more browser-based software would enable operators to prepare reports more intuitively without having to search through a 500-page manual for answers to their questions, he asserts.
Better integration would economize on the biggest expense of installing security equipment -- not the equipment itself, but running the wire for it. â€œIf you can get away from having to run new wire, thatâ€™s where your biggest cost is,â€ he points out.
PG&Eâ€™s Drake sees the trend towards adoption of transport control protocol (TCP/IP) for closed system data transmission as promising. â€œI think for the end user to be happy in the future, the suppliers are going to have to get together and come up with some consistent means of communicating between their equipment and others,â€ he concludes.
â€œIf they would provide more off-the-shelf kinds of equipment, it would make it a lot easier on the integrator in the field or the end user, since they donâ€™t have to jump through any hoops to make their systems work,â€ he suggests.
Sidebar: Planning Makes PerfectInstallation oversight is cited by John Martinicky, CPP, director of corporate security for International Truck and Engine, Warrenville, Ill., as making the difference between a successful and unsuccessful system integration.
â€œIâ€™m not saying we looked over the shoulder of the installer, but we made sure we were keeping an eye out to make sure things were going right,â€ he reports. â€œAre the wires very well-organized, are they easy to trace, or are they just plugged in?
â€œWe also require as-builts with detailed wiring schematics, so if there is a problem down the road, itâ€™s easy to trace,â€ he specifies. â€œThose things really seem to make for a smoother installation.â€
When problems occur, Martinicky attributes them to a lack of communication or oversight. â€œWhat it usually comes down to is that there is either a lack of understanding of what the system is intended to do, or what the final objectives are,â€ he concludes.
He suggests detailed planning to ease installations. â€œThe thing they really need to do is lay out a detailed plan with a timeline of what is going to happen at every step of the installation,â€ he recommends.
Martinicky also recommends a full test of a system including the sensors and readers by the dealer/integrator before it is turned over to his company.
Jobs also seem to go better when people with technical expertise rather than just sales experience visit him. â€œWe find if they come out with someone who does have the technical expertise or is involved in the initial quote, it also goes much better as well and there are fewer surprises on both ends,â€ he emphasizes.
Martinicky insists on a two-year warranty on security systems. â€œWe feel if thereâ€™s a two-year warranty, thereâ€™s a little more attention to detail upfront,â€ he believes. â€œThe dealer doesnâ€™t want to have to fix a problem because itâ€™s on their dime, and thatâ€™s helped to improve the performance of our systems, as well.â€
A pet peeve of his is not including taxes in quotes, which on a $2 million system sometimes can total $60,000, a substantial addition to his budget.