Integrating video with access control

The role of access control is pivotal to the security of many applications. The proliferation of access installations speaks volumes about the flexibility of the technology. Additionally, in many applications the system will include video surveillance increase the level of protection on offer. The benefits of video are well understood by installers and integrators, and by end users too. Given the potential for a positive symbiotic relationship between these two essential technologies, it makes sense to integrate the solutions, but is it done often enough?

In the vast majority of modern businesses and organisations, access control plays a pivotal role in the overall security strategy. The technology delivers a wide range of security- and business-related efficiencies, and enables users to enhance the level of protection and safety at their sites. Professional access control systems offer a high degree of flexibility and scalability, with some of the market-leading options taking a modular approach, thus enabling installers and integrators to offer bespoke solutions.

Access control does much more than merely control access. Whilst the management of authorised users and visitors is a key consideration (and often the reason for which the technologies originally specified), professional systems can also offer a number of other benefits. However, it is imperative that any specified access control system handles the security elements effectively and with resilience.

Access control systems are ideal for operation on a network-based infrastructure. Access transactions generally involve small amounts of alphanumeric data. This means they use a minimal amount of bandwidth, and storage requirements are not significant. One benefit of this is the access control systems can use distributed intelligence. This makes it possible for relevant data to be stored at the door controller or the reader. If network connectivity is lost, the system can remain fully operational, and transactional data can be transferred back to the main server as and when connectivity is resumed.

As well as controlling who can enter and exit a site or department, access control systems can deliver additional benefits such as muster reporting (an essential resource should an evacuation of the site be required), time and attendance reporting, asset management, photo ID creation, concierge services, etc.. As such a well-designed access control system can deliver real benefits for the customer.

Increasingly many businesses and organisations will also include video surveillance as a part of their security approach. The benefits of video are well documented and clearly understood by the vast majority of end-users. Video can be used both as a proactive and reactive tool, and can also deliver vital evidence in the case of post-event analysis. It can also act as a great enabler if operators or members of staff need to assess a situation. Visual verification and confirmation of circumstances is a key part of effective decision-making.

A perfect combination?

Access control has pros and cons, as does video surveillance. For example, an access system performs the tasks of managing transactions and logging all reporting these very effectively. It can implement actions based upon real-time data using a variety of criteria. This can include occupancy information, the authority of staff currently on site, activities based on schedules, behaviour-based movement, etc..

The downside of access control is that in the majority of systems, the presence of an authorised credential (be that a code, card or token) is all that is required to gain entry. Lost, stolen or ‘borrowed’ credentials will be accepted until they are revoked. An access control system cannot make user-based decisions nor apply reasoning when dealing with transactions. If a current and authorised card issued to John Smith is used by any other individual, the system will still grant access and record the transaction.

Even where a violation is clear, such as if the card is used by a female, the system still will not recognise that the transaction is fraudulent.

Video technology does a very good job of gathering real-time information which allows the visual identification of individuals, the analysis of events and where smart technologies are deployed, violations in expected behaviour. What video does not provide is a log of transactional data which clearly identifies the presence of individuals on a site or their movements. It also cannot implement a security procedure to ensure that only authorised persons can enter and leave the site.

Interestingly, the combination of access control and video surveillance technology not only eliminates the weaker attributes of each system, but combines to elevate a security system above and beyond what would normally be expected from the various elements of the solution. It therefore makes great sense for the two to be integrated. However, all too often this is not the case!

Research carried out by Paxton highlighted that many installations based on the market-leading Net2 access control platform had not been integrated with on-site video surveillance. The access control manufacturer asked a number of its customers whether the sites on which Net2 was installed included networked video surveillance. Where it did, they then asked whether it had been integrated with the access control. In the vast majority of cases, it had not.

What was more interesting were the reasons given for the integration not being implemented. One common answer was that the customer had not requested it. It has to be remembered that very few end-users have an in-depth understanding of security technologies. Often their skills base revolves around their core business activity. For example, a retailer will understand sales and marketing, customer service, merchandising, stock management and staff deployment. With regards the technology, their skills are more likely to be focused on stock management systems, point of sale devices, rota management software and on-line retail options. They rely on the installer or integrator to offer the optimum solution within the constraints of the available budget.

On the subject of budget, another often given response was that the integration of access control and video surveillance was costly. This is somewhat strange, as Net2 includes integration with video as standard. The only costs associated with the implementation of any integration relate to installation time. However, the integration is very simple and fast to implement.

Indeed, the ease with which network-based video surveillance can be added to Net2 makes it a no-brainer in terms of implementation.

Making the link

As already mentioned, video integration is a standard feature of Net2. It can also be accessed in Net2 Lite, meaning even installations making use of the basic software can enjoy the benefits of video integration. It is also worth noting that Net2 is integrated with Milestone’s access module for the XProtect series of VMS products, so integration with systems based on that platform are also straightforward.

Adding a networked camera is a very basic task. If the Cameras option is not displayed in the Net2 software’s menu tree, simply select the View menu and select it. This will ensure it appears in the menu tree. Highlighting the Cameras option brings up a display screen which initially will only contain an Add New Camera button. Clicking this will bring up a dialogue box which only requires three entries. The first is the camera name. This is specific to Net2 and does not have to be the name given to the camera on the video surveillance system.

The second entry is the cameras URL. This is just the standard address for the device which is being added. There is no need to specify any other information. The final entry is for Comments. This is optional but can be useful if an operator might be unfamiliar with the site. For example, if control of the system is done from a central office, the Comments space can be used to give site-specific information which they may need to access if communicating with a key-holder on site.

With the various information entered, clicking the OK button adds the camera to the Net2 system. The device will then appear in the Cameras section of the menu tree, and will also be accessible via the Cameras display screen. Selecting any connected camera via either the tree or display screen will bring it up and display the images via the Net2 interface.

The process is quick, simple and takes less than a minute. It allows video to be associated with the access control, and the implementation is well within reach of any installer or integrator who is competent enough to install Net2.

Increasing the depth of the integration by linking with a VMS is just a simple. The other Options menu you can access the Camera Integration configuration screen. This allows a camera server, and its attached devices, to be connected. Alongside the Milestone XProtect VMS platform there are also a number of other options.

Once the appropriate server has been selected and named, the remaining configurations are simply the server URL or hostname plus its authentication details. The Net2 software then automatically detects attached cameras. These can be given a name specific to the access control system if required.

Specific doors can be linked to video feeds via the Doors menu in the Net2 software. This allows transactional events and incidents to be supported with archived video which is easy to access via the Net2 software.

In summary

The integration of video surveillance and access control enhances the potential of both technologies, and delivers a solution that adds value for the end-user. Integrating network-based video with Paxton’s Net2 access control system is simple and quick, and the ability to manage video standard within the software.

Installers and integrators looking to deliver value-added bespoke solutions should ensure that they take advantage of this option. It costs nothing, takes minutes but enhances the installed system substantially.

 

Benchmark Smart Solutions
Benchmark Smart Solutions is dedicated to supporting those seeking innovative and bespoke value-added solutions for business and the home environment. Through real-world field trials it assesses the potential available from current technologies and integrated systems. Benchmark Smart Solutions is produced by the team at Benchmark magazine.