As systems integrators get closer to achieving a fully integrated security system that seamlessly combines intrusion protection, video and access control, it will be important not to overlook what happens at the central monitoring station. Jim Paulson, global marketing leader for GE Security’s intrusion group, talked to SDM about the role that central station automation software can play in achieving fully integrated security nirvana.

SDM: How can central station software help video, intrusion protection and access control function as a single seamless system?

Paulson:When you look at a traditional security panel today, the installation company has a central station database and a variety of competitive panel platforms, and each of those has upload/download software to communicate to multiple panels at a time. We believe that is pretty antiquated and there’s an opportunity for the central station software to communicate directly with the panel, so any time you touch any platform, they automatically communicate with each other, and you’re really integrating hardware and software at the central station level.

As for revenue opportunities, central stations have people there 24/7. Now for someone to add a card or user to an access control system, they need someone trained onsite. But once you have the ability to scale to tens of thousands of systems, you can offer the ability to add a card for a customer, or if they let someone go, they can just call the central station.

If they can make a call to the central station and the central station can update the central station database along with the access control system on the spot, you’ve generated a revenue opportunity because the central station can charge every time someone calls for that.

SDM: Some of the challenges involved with integrating different types of security systems stem from incompatibilities among different manufacturers. Is there a way to avoid or simplify some of those challenges through the central station software?

Paulson:There’s a difference between interfacing and integration. We can interface with virtually anyone’s product. We get a lot of requests from channel partners to bring a certain DVR into our MAStermind central station software. The way we do it, we have to write custom middleman software to allow the API [applications programming interface] that we’re given by the manufacturers to communicate with MAStermind.

The value of central station software is that it has to be able to communicate with a wide variety of platforms. If a DVR is integrated with MAStermind or other central station software, then a central station operator can pull up the DVR software through the central station software, rather than a separate system sitting on a computer.
More and more we see video and access control coming together. But where it becomes challenging for the access control manufacturers is that they have to constantly keep their software up to the latest API and that can be pretty daunting. If they could move to a central station platform, that’s a real win/win. Then they only have to keep one software platform updated.

Jim Paulson, GE Security

SDM: A hot area right now is video analytics. What role can the central station play there?

Paulson:Our ultimate goal is to be able to do whatever can be done with video management through MAStermind. You could do everything from being able to track a person through a site to being able to use facial recognition and video analytics for something as simple as alarm verification. Potentially it could replace biometrics.

You could tie facial recognition to the ability to gain access, but there is continued development that needs to occur on the hardware and software side first. We have some technology that allows us to distinguish a human signal from other things, and we continue to refine it.