Which comes first CCTV or Access Control?
Which comes first CCTV or Access Control?

Nov 1, 1997 12:00 PM

My first directive is usually to view security from a CCTV perspective. However, as a point of education, it is time to take a look from the other side of the door to see what can be done with access control. I have found that to understand the present and the future, it is best to look back and have a basic understanding of the past. Let's take a short walk back through the progress of the security industry.

Proximity: 'what a hoot!' It started for me some 20 years ago with the introduction of the proximity-type electronic access control system - what a hoot! Present a card within a few inches of an antenna, and the electric strike was activated, the door opened or didn't, and a permanent written log was established as to the time, place and person. Suddenly, almost overnight, we entered the age of being able to control the flow of personnel with specific levels of security into and out of any area. No longer did we issue a key that could be copied, stolen or used without authorization; we could issue an electronic card that could be programed to any level of access our security demanded.

The first, most basic problem of that day was key pass-back. Hence the introduction of anti-pass-back and dual access technology. Anti-pass-back meant that a user had to leave a system before re-entering, preventing that user from passing back a card for a friend to use. The problem was that a user could present a card to an exit sensor, technically, but not physically, leave the system, and then hand a friend the card to come back in.

Enter video cameras, stage left By installing a camera at a gate or door, the presentation of a card to a sensor station would activate a recorder and create a permanent visual record to be compared with a printed record of door activity. If suspicious activity took place, there was visual and printed proof. It made a lot of sense at the time, but overall, it was bulky and expensive and was used only under the highest security levels.

A second problem with the original and current access control systems is the inability to identify the actual user of an electronic card. The problem has been attacked through the use of dual access technology. One such technology includes the use of a card and a digital PIN code. You go to an ATM machine, insert your card, punch in your PIN, and access is allowed to your account. The problem is that anyone with your card and PIN can have access to your account, and it is your word against the automation of the bank.

Creating visual accounts of all transactions at ATM machines enables verification of the actual user of an access card. When a card is presented, the access control system also activates the video system.

A third introduction of the camera to access control design came from the need to double-check identification. Present an electronic access card, activate a monitor at the central security point, and a professional security person can make a visual identification before allowing access - again, effective, but bulky, heavy on manpower and expensive.

Technology catches up with concept Thanks, however, to the design and introduction of smart card technology and fast-scan video transmission, we are now able to transmit visual and database information to any point in the world via active telephone lines. Therefore, we can now monitor and control several hundred or thousand points from a single central station anywhere in the world. With new advances in biometric technology, we are within short years of access control systems being able to visually verify our identity and doing away with the card completely.

CCTV and electronic access control systems have used burglar and fire alarm technology from the start. Dry contacts on doors, photo beams or motion detectors could be used to trigger a series of events such as increasing the recorder speed of the time-lapse video recorder; locking down an individual or group of doors; or setting off bells and buzzers.

Now, with the introduction of Windows-based computer technology, simple programming languages and larger disk storage capabilities, we have entered into true integrated system capabilities. It is no longer necessary to pick a point of departure in design. You can begin with CCTV, access control or an electronic burglary system and arrive at the same result - total system integration with complete, simple control. These new systems are no longer constricted to simple response functions on a chain trigger line; they can now perform macro command functions, which can contain huge numbers of individual and interactive commands, making alarm interface a more complete solution. It also means that the access control designer must take a long, serious look at the total concept of the system prior to installing a single piece of equipment.

Because of electronic advances in various types of access control, video and security equipment, our entire method of security evaluation is changing. No longer are we confined to a simple readout of what happened. We are now in a position to have "semi-intelligent" systems make security decisions for us, prior to, during, or even after an alarm condition. At the same time, however, companies are screaming for cuts in the cost of security while demanding increased effectiveness. Consequently, we have security budget cuts that erode our ability to provide protection the old way - through three separate eyes, so to speak. Hence the birth of multi-task access control, video and electronic security systems.

Putting it all together The fundamentals of creating a multi-task security system are the same fundamentals that go into making a standard, integrated system of any type: * Remember the purpose of security: to prevent, deter, annunciate, respond and provide evidence. You need to determine exactly what extent or level of security you are trying to implement. * Determine what your response will be to each potential infraction. * Last, but not least, determine exactly what type of equipment you will need to implement and follow through on the first two steps. Sound complicated? It isn't really. If nothing else, the new technology we are using to overview and operate our access control and video systems is forcing us to first think about the effects and consequences of our security design - something that has been lacking for years due primarily to the primitive capabilities that prevented our systems from being integrated.

Let's try a simple scenario with the new access control technology. First, we integrate the access system to the matrix camera control. Now the access system has taken over complete control of the camera system - of switching, programing and manipulation. Next, we go into a large office complex. We design the access control system to automatically lock down the building after working hours. With the use of macro commands, we program the system to automatically announce "X" time to closing and request that all employees still in the area check in at the nearest access point. At the same time, the system scans the entire day's activity sheet for anyone who may have checked in, but has not yet vacated the building.

Additionally, through the use of video cameras with digital video motion capabilities, the building is scanned visually for activity. In the event that activity is detected in a zone, a second announcement is made through the system to please check in. If the party has already checked in, the video system is activated to visually verify the person's identify based upon an in-house video databank comparison. If the person checks out and is authorized for after-hours activity, the system continues on its course of shutting down the rest of the building, including shutting off lights, locking doors, raising or lowering thermostats, putting the video recorders or CD-ROMs into the standby mode and more. How much more? As much as you can imagine and program.

As a last operation, all on-site personnel are checked in and restricted to activities that have been approved. Now, every 15 minutes or so (according to the dictates of the program), the access control system does a complete visual tour of the building via the camera system and registers unauthorized activities. This prevents false alarms and allows flexibility. Sound like Peter Pan in the land of Never Never? It isn't. It is the feasible potential of today's access control systems working in conjunction with CCTV.

Through software written for managing access control systems, we can handle everything from door contacts, to access control points, to video camera systems, to fire systems, to heating and cooling, to personnel location and identification, to lighting, to whatever your imagination or security situation demands.

The key point is that management can be achieved from anywhere in the world with a minimal number of personnel, thus cutting the overall cost of security to a minimum. The only necessary human point of contact within the security structure is the point of response. We still need someone to go out and investigate, interview and capture the bad guys, but at the rate things are going, I give it another 10 years, and we will have that problem solved as well.

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