Integrated security systems can provide a significant advantage in the modern building installation.
What exactly is an integrated security system and how can it help in reducing costs?
Non-Integrated Security Systems
Traditionally, most buildings require three separate security disciplines:
- Access Control
- CCTV or Video Surveillance
- Intrusion Detection
These systems are usually three separate products, each of them may require their own servers, software, control equipment.
Each system has it’s own cabling, sensors and field devices and operate independently of each other.
Whilst these systems can and do provide effective levels of security, more and more end users these days require more interaction between systems.
For example – triggering the CCTV system to increase the frame rate of recording when an intrusion detection event occurs.
To achieve this integration may require complex interfaces between different systems that increase the maintenance and support overhead.
Software upgrades can also increase the risk of a particular function or interface ceasing to work when one the CCTV or Intrusion System has a new version of software installed.
What exactly is an integrated security system?
An integrated security system has a single piece of hardware and a single server and software application which is capable of performing multiple security functions.
If we take the example above, a system which can provide Access Control, Video Surveillance and Intrusion Detection on an integrated system would look something like the image below.
Because there is a single set of control equipment, single server and single software application and single set of cabling.
Installing the system reduces the total implementation cost by one third in comparison to deploying separate systems due to the reduction in equipment and cabling to be installed.
Benefits of Integrated Security Systems
Reduction in Maintenance Effort and Costs.
Upgrading a non-integrated system is very time-consuming.
Firstly, the engineer has to upgrade three different server applications (one for access control, one for video surveillance and one for intrusion).
After the server software has been upgraded, the engineer then needs to visit each workstation that has client software installed on it and upgrade that software too.
With an integrated system, the engineer simply needs to upgrade a single server application, and then upgrade the workstations running the client software.
Some integrated systems also deliver the user interface via web-browser and therefore it is simply a case of upgrading the server software.
Where systems from multiple manufacturers are required to interact with each other, the risk to the main contractor increases.
More commissioning time is required to ensure that the individual systems can be integrated to operate as desired.
This should be subject to a factory acceptance test to ensure that any issues are identified before the equipment is purchased.
By its nature, integrated systems are designed by the same manufacturer.
We can be more confident that this has been tested by the manufacturer of the entire integrated solution.
This this again, reduces costs and risks prior to deployment.
When we integrate multiple different systems, we punch holes in them, at different levels, such as the controller or server level.
The image below shows these interfaces, in this example, we have a total of 13 separate interfaces at the server, controller and field device level.
Every new integration we add creates another potential point of weakness and creates another opportunity for an attacker.
Integrated systems are also more secure as the number of holes is significantly less, providing fewer opportunities to an attacker.
So are integrated systems a silver bullet?
In a word, no.
A single manufacturer cannot be good at everything.
No single product or solution is suitable for every client, project or situation.
Take the example of an access control system manufacturer who only has experience of access control.
They may have been producing access control systems for a long time, but being able to build a market-leading surveillance solution would be unlikely.
It would be better to tightly integrate a market leading video surveillance application.
While this requires an interface, and introduces risk, this needs to be balanced with the additional functionality provided.
Integrated security systems provide a good solution for most security requirements.
They can reduce costs and risks for main contractors, but they must be correctly specified.
Question: How can an integrated security system contribute to your next project?