Physical Security Integration: Unlocking its Full Potential

Del Williams

By Del Williams

Partnering with expert integrators is enabling the combination of video surveillance, access control, and IT tailored to specific needs and dramatically driving down costs while flagging and escalating only true dangers

For any operation with assets needing to be protected from theft or vandalism —such as car dealerships, truck fleets, equipment rental companies, or contractor lots— fully integrating the latest capabilities of physical security and access control systems can drive down costs significantly.

This “virtual” approach combines video surveillance, access control, and information technology (IT) integration to replace many of the functions of in-person security personnel, significantly reducing costs.  Virtual systems can be customized to a variety of loss prevention situations no matter the size of the operation or type of assets that need to be protected.  Examples include preventing the theft of vehicles, batteries, catalytic converters, copper wire, scissor lifts, and other valuable items.

The strategy takes full advantage of the interconnectivity of information across a broad range of systems and devices.  Based on the organization’s priorities, integrated systems can intelligently sift through millions of points of information and prioritize only the most relevant events to deter and prevent theft in ways that were previously not possible.

While such data has existed before today, many companies are unaware of another critical factor: that the costs for managed IT services and integration continue to drop while the capabilities of the various systems have increased.

“Using off-the-shelf tools to create super secure environments would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for larger organizations to staff, monitor and support.  We are routinely implementing these solutions with better, faster response, at a fraction of the client’s current cost,” says Eric Brackett, President of BTI Communications Group, a technology convergence provider serving the logistics, aerospace, healthcare, and loss prevention sectors. 

“However, I find that most business professionals are too busy with their existing responsibilities to realize how much has changed and how valuable it could be to them,” adds Brackett.

While the status quo for physical security is familiar, the rapidly growing volume of

data in the form of video, alerts, reports, etc. is threatening to hide the most important threats in the sheer volume of less important data.  Yet such information continues to be continually reported and logged on sensors, cameras, servers, PCs, smartphones, two-way radios, and thermostats.

The challenge has been sorting through these virtual mountains of data – often kept in separate, unconnected systems – quickly enough to act on threats in real-time, according to Brackett.  Furthermore, IT technicians usually do not have the expertise or time to manage all these separate systems by themselves.

“Now expert integrators have perfected the use of tools that bring all that information together into dashboards that convey needed information at a glance.  This is combined with technical and operational procedures to analyze, parse, and present it.  So, actual threats can be responded to and thefts deterred in real-time,” says Brackett.

Where traditional systems can inundate security staff with mind-numbing nuisance alerts, many of which go ignored, the goal of the fully integrated virtual approach is to vigorously and promptly protect valuable assets from theft without unnecessary staffing, excess equipment, or complexity.

In terms of video surveillance, that means instantly spotting any anomalies and escalating only those that need attention.  It means preventatively spotting any discrepancies indoor or gate access control, based on time of day, location, personnel involved, and other factors.  It means “slicing and dicing” a host of variables specific to the business that must be considered, and drawing the attention of security personnel or managers when it is time to act, and not when it is too late.

Looking Beyond the Status Quo

For many businesses that have security cameras and access systems already installed, there may be some level of integration but most are not able to unlock the full potential.  So many simply “live with” what they have, accepting that it doesn’t meet all their needs.

“People are disappointed when they hit the limits of their current physical security systems, and become frustrated when their vendor is not proactive about helping them find solutions.  For example, they may need the equipment to work even when it is raining, and do not want to turn off equipment because it wakes them every time a spider crawls across a camera lens,” says Brackett. 

System integration can be assigned to in-house IT staff, but many already find themselves overwhelmed with their existing responsibilities.  So, learning the intricacies and fine points of advanced networked video surveillance and access control, as well as figuring out the best way to integrate the systems to meet specific loss prevention requirements can be daunting.  In many cases, it simply doesn’t get done.

“Traditionally, full physical security integration would require a team of engineers with specialized training to set it up, keep it working, and manage all these events day-to-day,” says Brackett.

Given the challenges and limitations of the traditional approach to physical security, many businesses with assets requiring protection are outsourcing to managed IT service providers, who must increasingly be an expert in all systems.  With broad expertise, managed IT vendors can extract value from each individual system while taking advantage of the tremendous added value in a more comprehensive, fully integrated implementation. 

Utilizing such an integrated set of tools, along with enhanced system intelligence, can significantly reduce the need for traditional security guards.  Instead of a full-time security operation center listening to an endless flow of logs and events, such a system can be more proactive and provide essentially 24/7 virtual security for a fraction of the cost.  In fact, often this is accomplished without human intervention or the need for any payroll.

Unfortunately, managed IT service providers rarely are experts in all disciplines – but they do exist.  BTI, for example, can manage and integrate any/all systems down to the installation of cabling and computer hardware.

“We are continually designing and installing these systems down to the wiring, so it’s relatively easy for us to tailor them to the specific requirements of individual businesses needing asset protection,” says Brackett. 

According to Brackett, such intelligent systems then prompt security guards, supervisors, or managers to take immediate, appropriate action in a variety of settings to keep people or property safe.

As an example, he notes that a car dealership may need to protect their fleet from thieves entering their lots at night to steal catalytic converters that can cost thousands of dollars in parts and labor to replace.  Or a dealership may need to defend against the theft of vehicles.  A truck fleet operator may need to prevent battery theft.  In such a case, cut locks and sliced cables not only cost thousands of dollars of damage to each vehicle but also render it inoperable until repaired.

In choosing a physical security integration partner, however, the best have extensive knowledge of the available products and component parts of any system and are able to tie them together in a manner that extracts significant added value.  In other words, the whole properly integrated system should be much greater than the sum of its parts.

That being said, the price for such expert integration is much lower today than many business owners would expect for the quality of service and the effectiveness of the theft deterrence.

Where old school security may involve renting guards round the clock or missing important threats because disparate systems are not communicating, taking advantage of physical security integration can ensure a prompt response when it is needed to prevent theft at a much lower cost.

About the author

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. He writes about technology, business, health, and educational issues, and has an M.A. in English from C.S.U. Dominguez Hills.


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