Building Security on the Go

The old cry “there’s never a cop around when you need one” hasn’t completely been rendered moot by technological advances, but the ability to remotely monitor a business facility for suspicious activity is no longer the exclusive turf of security companies.

In this report on security technology, IB interviewed two security executives and got their take on the latest advances. What they describe is not only a higher level of capability in terms of alarms and cameras and systems, but also a much higher degree of interactive engagement by the men and women who pay the bills.

Obviously, a company’s security investment depends on the level of equipment and service it purchases and on the degree to which the various components – intrusion alarms, access control, and video surveillance – are integrated. In the interest of a broader view, we asked them to describe what’s available on the market when money is no object.

With cyber security dominating the news, we also present some thought leadership on the topic of transactional fraud prevention.

Welcome intrusion

On the intrusion side, Mark Weidemann, general manager of electronic security for Per Mar Security Services, said the security components are not only better integrated today, but interactive as well. Thanks to Web-based services, customers remotely interact with their security systems from their smart phones, tablets, and computers. 

“Nowadays, you will see a lot of TV commercials related to home security that suggest you can turn your lights on and off with your cell phone through your intrusion system,” he noted. “You can do the same thing to lock and unlock your front door through the application on your cell phone, but it’s using a security system that allows you to do that with interactive services with your home.”

Staying in touch with your home has translated into business. A small business owner can have the same setup and be notified on a smart phone every time the store is opened or closed, or whenever there is an alarm event. 

“We have a couple of customers for whom we respond to burglar alarms, and when we see the alarm going off, live security officers can look on from a computer,” said James Mankowski, president of JBM Patrol and Protection. “From the user’s smart phone, they see a virtual tour of all the cameras positioned at the client site and they see the activity.”

Universal access

Access control also is more of a Web-based service. Gone are the days when high-tech meant having software installed in a dedicated server. There are some applications related to access control, but the Web-based systems are offered through security providers or IT vendors, or on the cloud. Many new access control systems are served by cameras, so it’s no longer necessary to run cabling to each door.

“I’m actually connecting the doors to a panel put onto the network, and then the network connection takes it to a Web-based server,” Weidemann said. “Typically for a medium-sized access control system, we monitor maybe 12 or 16 doors at the most.”

In addition, the price of biometric readers has come down, sparking greater interest in identifying people via fingerprint, handprint, retinal scan, or facial imaging. “Clients still have keypads,” Mankowski said, “but with the systems that we deal with, typically my access card will get me in the building, or set the alarm and lock up when I leave. I put the access card near the panel and it closes the building or unlocks the doors.”

Candid cameras

We all remember the grainy video images of the past, but camera technology and image quality continue to improve, whether they are set up to scan an entire parking lot or provide a close-up view of access points. Through a smart phone or computer app, off-site monitoring of cameras on the premises is available to a business owner with a link to the security vendor or provider. 

“All of the DVRs coming out now have Web-based access applications for reviewing and even doing playback of video from your smart phone,” Weidemann noted. “Controlling the cameras can even be done now from your smart phone. I just downloaded a system that allows me to pan in and zoom for one of our manufacturers, so it’s come to that point where applications are taking over the world.”



According to Weidemann, there are three different ways to look at designing camera systems for customers. One is to see a larger area such as a parking lot, which is known as giving them a scene. Another is a tighter shot on two or three cars, also known as an event, and the third is an even more focused look at an even closer image where you gain recognition or make out an individual’s face or a license plate. 

Customers might select one, two, or all three, but the selection dictates how vendors will put together that camera system. Mankowski characterized the images produced by today’s high-definition cameras as “very clear, even better than your television set.” JBM worked on a fraud case where the camera system read the fraudster’s name off his driver’s license when he presented a check to a clerk. 

“The technology is there, but the problem is employee turnover,” Mankowski said. “Once the office or retail store buys the information, the initial employees are trained, but as turnover happens, they don’t keep up with the training and therefore you get a great system but nobody knows how to operate it.”

Interfacing the music

Thanks to a higher degree of interoperability among private security systems, all three basic security functions usually can be integrated into one system. Security vendors have to be selective in the products and manufacturers they use, and additional software might be required to make different proprietary systems seamlessly work together. Enabling the interface will bring extra expense.

More often than not, it can be done, but there are turf fights and constant change to overcome. “That technology is all Internet protocol-based now,” Mankowski noted, “and the technology changes very fast, just like computers change so fast.”

Still, it’s worthwhile to have an integrated system, Weidemann noted. “You can have an access-control system that when you present your card to the system, it will turn off the security system, it will unlock the door, and the camera will take a picture of you going in the door,” he explained. “All that cannot be held in a single point as an event, so if I ever want to know when someone came in the building, I can go to your access-control card, I can pull it up on the access-control system, the management system, and know that you came in on Friday at 8:30 p.m.”

In terms of reporting metrics, Mankowski added that property owners and managers can review activity after the fact. “That’s all saved,” he noted. “If you want to see activity between May 1 and May 4, all the activity is right there. You just click and review. It’s very user-friendly.”

Cost of security

With the eventual price paid for a modern security system dependent on customer need and the physical characteristics of a facility, the smallest-scale version of an integrated system with all the above platforms would range from $7,000 to $10,000. From there, it could reach almost any price, but those who hunt for value can find what they need in a customized solution that incorporates products and monitoring services.

“Right now, we are working with a customer where we are quoting $150,000 for a camera system alone,” Weidemann said. “There are records that we have out there of $20,000, $30,000, or $40,000 just for an access-control system. It’s very hard to pinpoint.”

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