How to salvage $1.3 million in security technology
How to salvage $1.3 million in security technology

Jul 1, 1998 12:00 PM

When a main technology supplier changed priorities, the University of Maryland Medical System popped a software pill to save a huge investment in security hardware.

Four years ago, the University of Maryland Medical System installed a state-of-the-art access control system manufactured by Edicon, a Kodak company.

The system ran on Apollo hardware with an OS/2 operating system and featured an innovation in security technology: a single, integrated database that managed access control, alarm monitoring and badging systems.

In 1996, two years after the Medical System installed the Edicon system, Kodak dissolved Edicon and made arrangements to support Edicon's existing access control installations through a third party. The support was expensive, and no provision was made to support growth.

Limitations on growth presented a problem for Timothy K. Wilkinson, director of security for the University of Maryland Medical System. "We manage a large system that grows and changes constantly, as the University System grows and changes," he says. "When Edicon left the business, we were faced with the prospect of scrapping a $1.3 million investment. We began to look for an option that would allow us to save as much of our investment as possible, without limiting what we could do in the future."

Wilkinson turned to CIS Security Systems Corp., Springfield, Va., for help.

CIS recommended converting to a software system developed by Lenel Systems International, Fairport, N.Y. Lenel's access control software worked on the Apollo hardware - magnetic stripe card readers, modules and intelligent field panels - allowing the Medical System to preservemuch of its hardware investment.

Moreover, the Lenel software ran in a Windows NT environment. "Many major MIS users, including the University of Maryland Medical System, are converting wide-area networks to NT," says Mick MacDaniel, vice president of sales and marketing with CIS. "By replacing Edicon's OS/2 platform with Lenel's NT platform, it became possible to tie into the Medical System's network and eliminate communications cabling requirements for new locations.

"Most of the major access control companies are now developing similar NT capabilities, but Lenel started early and is ahead of the pack," says MacDaniel.

Such a conversion would not only preserve most of the Medical System's hardware investment, but it could also eliminate future cabling expenses and control the cost of system growth.

Jumping hurdles The existing system controlled access to 180 doors. About 120 access points were located in the main complex, which consists of half a dozen buildings in downtown Baltimore. The remaining 60 access points were in nine remote facilities located throughout the metropolitan region.

The system also included 40 CCTV cameras covering doors and hallways throughout the main complex. Smaller stand-alone systems monitored the remote facilities. (See sidebar "CCTV at the University of Maryland Medical System.")

Cabling for both access control and CCTV ran through a series of underground corridors that form a common basement beneath the buildings of the main complex.

To make the conversion work, CIS had to leap two hurdles.

First, the digitally stored images in the Edicon badging system could be converted to the Lenel system, but the cost would be prohibitive.

MacDaniel and Wilkinson developed a simple solution.

"Many employees had been carrying badges for three to five years," MacDaniel says. "After that much time passes, it's wise to take new pictures, because people change. We decided to convert everything in the access control system except the digital images. When the time came to replace an individual's card, we would take new photographs within the Lenel environment. Eventually, all the employee photographs will be digitally stored in the Lenel database. Until then, we are maintaining the Edicon image database."

The second hurdle proved more difficult. Apollo intelligent field panels cannot talk to a network. This posed no problem for the existing local access control network, which used Apollo panels but had already been cabled. A simple firmware change could convert the panels for use with Lenel's NT-based software.

But Apollo's lack of network compatibility did complicate the process of adding new access control points to the main complex and to the nine remote sites. One major advantage of converting to Lenel was in being able to plug into the Medical System's network without installing new cable. Without a network-compatible panel, that advantage would be neutralized.

In the absence of a network-compatible Apollo panel, Lenel developed its own. "We decided to install the new Lenel panels when adding to the access control system in the main complex," MacDaniel says. "That allows us to hop on the network and not worry about new cabling."

A different problem arose at the remote sites, where Apollo card readers report to Apollo master panels and use the Edicon OS/2 system to make a dial-up connection to the security station at the main complex. The Lenel NT software available when the conversion was first planned could not accommodate dial-up communication. The alternative was to replace the existing Apollo panels with networkable Lenel panels and communicate via the network.

"The problem with this was there were nine remote sites, and the security department didn't have money in the budget to cover them all at once," MacDaniel says. "We have decided to convert the sites to network connections one at a time as funds become available."

Converting the system Perhaps the greatest challenge in converting the system from Edicon to Lenel was doing the work without taking the system off-line for a significant period of time.Obviously, if the Lenel system failed to work, there wou ld be downtime. So instead of plunging directly into the conversion, Wilkinson and MacDaniel began by expanding the system.

Part of the project called for the addition of access control to the shock trauma center in the main hospital. "We wanted to control access to the operating rooms and treatment areas," Wilkinson says. "By installing the new Lenel system in shock trauma, we could make sure that the concept - both the NT software and the network connections - worked before undertaking the major conversion."

CIS installed Lenel card readers at the shock trauma doors to be controlled, hooked them up to a Lenel network panel, and made a connection to the network. The center came up live on-line at the work station back in the security station. It worked.

"We watched the system for two weeks and fixed a few minor problems, but overall it worked fine," MacDaniel says.

And that meant that it was time to convert the main system, which included 120 readers that report to two-reader modules, which, in turn, report to two 64-reader master field panels at opposite ends of the complex. Existing cabling already tied the system together. To make the conversion, technicians simply swapped Edicon firmware for Lenel firmware in the two master field panels.

The work was planned for a Friday night to allow the weekend in case problems developed.

"When we removed the Edicon chips and installed the Lenel chips, the system came right up," MacDaniel says. "The next step was to check the card readers to make sure each was operating properly. We had some problems here and there, but it only took about eight hours to get them all up and running. All in all, the conversion went very smoothly."

The nine remote sites contain the other 60 card readers. So far, CIS has completed the conversion of one of the remote sites. The remaining eight will come on line as the budget permits.

"Eventually, we'll also integrate the 32 elevators in the main complex into the Lenel system to allow us to control access to the various hospital units," Wilkinson says.

In the end, the conversion has saved the lion's share of the original investment in Apollo access control hardware, while adding NT networking capabilities that will permit expansion and modification of the system virtually at will.

Security at the University of Maryland Medical System is healthier than ever.

CCTV at the University of Maryland Medical System

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) provides an additional level of security for the University of Maryland Medical System.

Approximately 40 Pelco and Chugai color cameras, including three pan/tilt/zoom and 37 fixed models, cover doors, lobbies and hallways in the six buildings of the main hospital complex in downtown Baltimore.

Camera control is provided by a high-end Pelco 9750 matrix switcher located in the support operations service center, which is the main security, dispatching and communications station for the complex. Pelco monitors enable the service center staff to scan for problems and attend to alarms that go off.

Sixteen-input Dedicated Micros multiplexers tied to SVHS Sony time-lapse videocassette recorders record virtual real-time video from each camera in the system.

As new cameras are installed around the complex, small substations are being set up to allow local monitoring. For example, the Medical System's magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) center has two cameras. One covers the waiting room, and the other covers the hallway leading through locked doors into the examination rooms. Two monitors in the MRI administration center allow attendants to keep an eye on the lobby and entrance. Should a visitor without an access card arrive at the door, the attendants can decide whether to admit the individual after a conversation over a telephone hook-up from the door to the administration center.

"The MRI substation is also fully connected to the service center," adds Timothy K.Wilkinson, director of security for the University of Maryland Medical System. "We're putting in more and more stations like this to allow people to do their own monitoring. I think this is better than building an enormous security room and trying to monitor everything from there. Primarily, we use the the support operations service center to record all the cameras for later review if necessary and to respond to emergencies that may arise."

Wilkinson has installed stand-alone CCTV systems at the Medical System's nine remote facilities. Between four and eight cameras cover each site. The cameras are Sanyo, Panasonic and Sony, with Pelco housings. Small Pelco switchers manage the cameras, and eight-camera-input Robot multiplexers manage Sanyo and Panasonic time-lapse videocassette recorders.

"We don't record cameras from the remote sites at the service center," Wilkinson says, "however, we do monitor all alarms and administer the access control systems from there. In the near future, we will add CCTV viewing and recording capabilities for the off-site locations to the service center."

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