5 Keys to Getting the Most out of Outdoor Security
With challenging landscapes, ever-changing environments, and new and unexpected threats, offering a robust and layered outdoor security system is necessary for any integrator.
Outdoor security is rife with challenges and obstacles not faced indoors, and thus resists the kind of repeatable, uniform solutions that can often fit various indoor locations with sometimes only minor adjustments. In addition, due to the wide range of customer types, such as data centers, critical infrastructure, retail, commercial buildings, public buildings, cities, highways, airports and others, there can be a variety of applications.
That’s not to say that designing a truly effective and affordable outdoor system is impossible — far from it. With new technology, twists on old technology and lowering costs, security integrators have more tools than ever to help them deliver powerful and effective outdoor solutions. “There is a solution for every scenario,” says Ryan Zatolokin, senior technologist, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass. “Plan it out; make sure it is the right fit.”
The need for perimeter or outdoor security has always existed, explains Keith Jentoft, integration team, Videofied, a Honeywell Security and Fire company, Melville, N.Y. “What’s changing is that the costs are coming down, so what was too expensive to be viable before, now there’s actually a market. Once you have a solution that’s affordable, the market itself actually expands. So I think the perimeter is actually becoming more important as other technologies become more available.”
The first step, says Sean Murphy, regional marketing manager, Bosch Security Systems Inc., Fairport, N.Y., is to know what the end user wants to understand, accomplish and/or prevent. Then security integrators can design a solution.
This is a common-sense issue but one that gets overlooked, says Trygve Behny, sales and marketing manager – security and building automation, SICK Inc., Minneapolis. “What are your true goals — what do you want to prevent or detect? Does it matter if someone is walking by your fence, or do you want to know if someone has come over the fence and is walking toward your facility? What are the environmental concerns — is there an issue with rain, fog, snow or other things that will create false alarms for much of the current technology available today?”
To answer these concerns, integrators should follow these five practices to design the best outdoor system.
1. Keep up With the Latest Trends
Where people were restricted even recently, new solutions have come on the scene to address those needs. “Things are changing,” says Tom Cook, vice president of sales, Hanwha Techwin America, Ridgefield Park, N.J. “Eight to 10 years ago PTZs were probably the only thing capable of long distance: going across the hospital parking lot, garages, things like that … [but] if the PTZ was not zoomed in, you could lose line of sight on some areas of the parking lot.
“And then ultimately these multi-sensor cameras started to come into the marketplace, and the limitation was the megapixel capability of the multi-sensor type camera,” he continues. “What we’ve seen is customers utilizing both technologies, old and new. An example is they’re taking this whole field of view with what we call a multi-sensor or multi-directional camera, whether it’s 180 or 270 [degrees], and then they’re having a PTZ handover feature. You can say, ‘If I see motion in one of these eight zones, I want my PTZ to zoom in 30 times into whatever zone the other camera tells it to,” Cook explains.
Another solution becoming more popular in the industry is wireless technology. Jentoft explains how his company has designed wireless cameras to meet the needs of various applications without the cost of creating infrastructure: “We have been able to do a very good job in both permanent installations where you have fenced yards and so forth, and a lot of temporary installs where you’d never be able to afford to trench and do hardwire; but you can still put a Videofied system up, because it’s battery-powered and wireless, and get a very good perimeter protection around, say, a construction site.”
Another new technology to hit the outdoor security market is radar. While the technology itself may not be new, the outdoor security application is.
Axis announced its new radar solution at ISC West this year. “When it’s raining really hard, it’s difficult to see, especially in nighttime conditions,” Zatolokin says. “And you get a lot of false positives. The motion of the rain itself will often generate motion events. We’ve seen remote alarm stations actually put cameras into maintenance mode because of the weather conditions.”
Zatolokin says radar delivers accurate detection in even the most adverse weather conditions. “It is unaffected by the rain coming down; it can see through that. It can detect a person approaching and the position of that person.
“The other thing it is not affected by is light,” he says. “It has a very wide and accurate field-of-detection with no light source present.”
Michael Petty, vice president of sales, Thermal Imaging Radar, Orem, Utah, describes the emergence of his company’s product, which was recently awarded the best surveillance and advanced imagery technology at the ISC West: “We are also having great success in the oil and gas market, airports, prisons, water treatment facilities, solar installations, border security, and ports, just to name a few.”
Obviously there are many other technologies available and many more becoming available, but knowing what technology is on the horizon or is now at a price level to make it practical can make all the difference in an outdoor installation.
2. Don’t Rely on 1 Technology
No one technology is a silver bullet, however, and while security integrators need to focus on delivering the right technology, the best way to create a robust system is to layer these technologies on top of each other.
No single system or technology can effectively cover an entire perimeter with 100 percent confidence, says Cathy McHugh, marketing director, PROTECH USA, Sparks, Nev. “A combination of perimeter intrusion detection and tracking technologies will best serve the integrator and customer — cameras, analytics, fence-mounted, IR, microwave, buried, and now we are seeing the introduction of drone technology for deployment.”
This layering applies not just to types of technology, but also physical areas. “It comes down to asset detection, and it always goes down to basic designs,” Cook says. “If you had a safe in your building, you secure the safe, then you secure the room, secure the building, then you secure the perimeter. So you have four layers of protection actually protecting that safe. And if you’re a restaurant, you might be protecting the cash register and the front and back door, so you have two layers. So again, it comes down to how much protection you want, and multiply that by multiple systems. Never commit to one technology for your total protection.”
A typical example of a more layered environment, says Zatolokin, would include fences or some sort of natural barrier. “You’d want to have the ability to control the entrance and exit to an area. For example if you had a natural barrier, you might want to install radar to ensure people aren’t bypassing those boundaries. And then at those entrances and exits, you might have license plate recognition. Then as people get closer to the building, you would want to have another method of seeing or detecting them. The final step is to have a good picture of that person. You can go much higher than that or much lower, but a good secure site would have those parameters.”
3. Prevent False Alarms
To avoid a situation such as the one Zatolokin describes in which alarm stations put cameras in maintenance mode during certain weather conditions, security integrators need to take steps to ensure against false alarms. One way they can do this, Zatolokin says, is by doing a thorough site survey, especially at night.
“A site survey helps them to find out where that light is, and where things are that are potential sources of false alarms, such as flags, large swaying trees, etc. The good news is the products have the capabilities to compensate for those things, either through filters or through excluding particular zones.”
While analytics still will not guarantee 100 percent false alarm prevention, deep learning is allowing cameras to “learn” about what is a real threat and what isn’t.
Behny cautions that the best way to avoid false alarms is by adding a layer of technology that can be tuned to the environment. “Most technologies use software or rely on temperature variations or wide area radar for analysis and detection. The problem is that most of these technologies cannot be tuned adequately and will either provide an unacceptable level of false alarms or not detect the intrusion at all. Laser scanners are different in that they are constantly bouncing light around the scanned area. If an object is in the area, the light bounces back. It is very binary, the object is either there or it is not.”
Part of this process involves knowing what the customer wants protected. “The single most important tip I can offer,” Behny says, “is to define clearly what you really want to protect. One customer had a large building they wanted to protect from vandalism. It wasn’t necessary to create a long-range perimeter, but instead to reliably protect the area within 20 feet of the building — all the way around the building. This was done with two scanners. By limiting the zones to the exact area that needed to be monitored, we avoided any potential false alarms.”
4. Be Knowledgeable About the Products & Technology You Use
As with most areas, educating yourself about a technology’s variables and factors that influence successful results is crucial. “Each technology has pros and cons,” says Jammy DeSousa senior product manager, American Dynamics, part of Tyco Security Products, Boca Raton, Fla. “Designing around the pros and strengths of the technology is paramount to meeting or exceeding the expectations set from the system manufacturer. Sometimes this can require training. In instances where training may not make sense, integrators sometimes overlook that manufacturers are willing to provide professional design or provisioning services as it’s in everyone’s interest that systems are installed correctly the first time.”
Additionally, a security integrator should be in the business of educating his or her customers on how taking preventative measures in building security can reduce insurance costs for companies, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership for the system, McHugh says. “In terms of reducing the cost of the system itself, advances in solar-powered and wireless perimeter security technologies have had a significant positive impact on the need for infrastructure.”
5. Avoiding the Pitfalls
Part of that education is knowing potential pitfalls and avoiding them. A lot of this goes back to simply knowing your products and technology, Cook says. “The most obvious thing is weather. Many integrators are not trained properly on installing products out in weather, and I would say it is our No. 1 return or warranty question — when we get back product, most of the time it’s because of poor installation. It doesn’t come back because the product didn’t work; it’s because it’s soaking wet or there’s been a short because they didn’t set up the camera right.”
Cook says that many dealers underestimate the types of weather they will face and might not read the specs, and some are untrained in the differences between indoor and outdoor protection.
Also, security integrators need to have an eye on the future. “I have seen that many customers who are deploying perimeter intrusion detection systems and wide area intrusion detection systems do not consider future plans for construction when the property has changed significantly,” Petty says.
In the end, offering robust outdoor security solutions is a great benefit to a dealer or integrator. Perimeter protection is a respected discipline within the security segment, DeSousa says. “Sometimes winning a project requires meeting advanced project needs, like perimeter protection, and can add to the brand credibility of a security dealer/integrator. For dealers who focus on the high-risk, high-security or regulated segments, this can lead to more product pull-though sales and service revenue.”
Murphy agrees: “Initially there is significant value in designing and commissioning a project like this. Where there is value, there is typically increased profit potential. There is also a big opportunity for RMR.”
End users are acutely aware of their shortcoming on the perimeter, warns Jeffrey Blair, CEO, Savvux Technology Solutions/The HawkEye Effect, Tipp City, Ohio. “The integrator/dealer that can provide the right solution is in a key position to earn market share.”
Common Misconceptions Surrounding Outdoor Security
There are some common misconceptions among end users — and even security professionals — that could be the difference between installing the right solution for a particular application or realizing too late that what you thought was enough turned out to fail when it really counted.
The biggest misconception, says Sean Murphy at Bosch Security Systems Inc., is that one solution will fit all. “That will normally end with redesign on the fly and upset customers. Keep up with improving and new technology. These are hard problems that might be better addressed with a new approach.”
Trygve Behny of SICK Inc. adds that a common mistake integrators make is relying on the same old thing or rehashes of existing technology. Another misconception he names is assuming that all parts of the perimeter are equally important. “There is a hierarchy: some parts of the perimeter are more valuable or susceptible to intrusion. Using the same technology all the way around may not be the best way to protect those high-value areas. Layers are also important. If you have a high value issue, you may want to utilize multiple layers or technologies.”
Security professionals are, in effect, hamstrung by their experiences, which tell them that perimeter security cannot be both accurate and precise, says Jeffrey Blair of Savvux Technology Solutions/The HawkEye Effect. “Integrators/dealers got burned in the process of offering systems to their clients that never quite solved the problem.” He says, however, that technologies now available in the marketplace make it possible to be both highly precise and accurate with minimal false alarms. “Because these systems allow the security professional to determine precise locations of the intrusion, it is now possible to provide systematic prioritization — to trigger a different response based on the exact location of the intruder. The challenge is getting these technologies into the hands of integrators/dealers who have been burned before by other technologies that promised to revolutionize perimeter security.”
One of those technologies that can really make a difference, says Michael Petty of Thermal Imaging Radar, is wide area intrusion detection. “For decades, the focus has been to secure the building itself and then to install a fence on the perimeter with a few cameras, hoping that this would provide a reasonable amount of perimeter security,” he says. “Technology in the wide area intrusion detection space has now evolved so that it is now affordable and effective. The mistake that most integrators make is not understanding the wide area detection solutions that exist in the marketplace and effectively using these evolving detection technologies.”
Best Practices in Outdoor Security
Security professionals Cathy McHugh of PROTECH USA, Sean Murphy of Bosch Security Systems Inc. and Michael Petty of Thermal Imaging Radar shared some best practices of outdoor security:
Be sure to understand (from the customer) the form of potential threat that is faced — climber, cutting the fence, fast-moving vehicle, etc. This is the first and most important step.
Allow plenty of time, post-installation, to test and optimize the newly installed system.
Ensure effective communications exist between physical security and IT departments because in the end, the control room sees all and that requires finite integration among systems.
Ask how long the system manufacturer being considered has been in business. Many companies have come and gone over the years and experience counts.
Ask where products are manufactured and repaired. This can impact delivery and maintenance schedules.
Ask about the warranty and RMA procedure in terms of replacement and ensuring redundancy in the event of downtime.
Determine how each component of the system integrates; does everything talk to each other?
Determine how easy the system is to deploy, operate and maintain.
Always start with what the customer wants to understand, accomplish, and/or prevent. If they only care about knowing exactly who and how people enter a perimeter, then that is the focus. They may also need other aspects, but treat that as the core focus and build up from it.
Don’t be afraid to tackle the problem with a combination of systems, such as video with intrusion and communication products. These combos make for a very powerful solution, enabling many ways to take in information, process it, and even interact with people or other systems.
Whereas most intrusion detection solutions are line-of-sight, eliminating areas of concealment should be the most important consideration. Limit the areas where an intruder might hide and conceal himself and let the sensors and technology do the work.