Part 2 of our Security in Healthcare series

IP-based physical access control systems are easier to operate, expand and integrate with other solutions

The future is digital, and analogue systems are a thing of the past – or are they?

The fact is, in the healthcare vertical at least, we may still have a way to go before the full potential of IP-based systems is realised. Obstacles include a lack of funding and the challenge of sharing IP bandwidth with other healthcare technologies.

Bandwidth competition

While many hospitals have invested significantly in IP systems, one challenge is bandwidth: Security and video systems often have to compete for bandwidth with other now-IT-driven systems in healthcare facilities, such medical records systems, x-ray systems and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems. Security departments may not be the highest priority when allotting bandwidth, given they are competing with medical devices and systems that generate revenue.

As a video company that serves the healthcare vertical, Pelco by Schneider Electric sees progress on the transition from analogue to IP video surveillance devices, but there are still a large number of healthcare facilities that do not have the necessary funds to convert completely to an IP-heavy infrastructure. A big advantage of these facilities making the transition to IP is that users can access real-time video at any time from any computer, anywhere, says Kyle Cusson, Business Development Manager, Healthcare, Pelco.

“This is immensely important for information security requirements and disaster recovery,” he says. With analogue, the information gathered is physically tethered to the camera and DVR. However, there are hybrid solutions – such as encoders that convert analogue to IP – that exist and allow facilities to capitalise on existing investments for the time being.

IP to gain ground soon

“Over the next five years, we will definitely see a massive shift to IP solutions because they are becoming more cost-effective to deploy and are delivering superior video quality and flexibility to users,” says Cusson. 

The transition isn’t always all-or-nothing. It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to depend upon outdated, analogue-based video systems with limited capabilities while providing surveillance of a large facility, says Jeff Whitney, Arecont Vision’s Vice President of Marketing. “The transition happens after a major incident or awareness of new risks and challenges that the existing systems cannot address,” he adds. “That’s when surveillance technology is often moved from inadequate analogue systems to IP megapixel surveillance cameras.”

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities have found the idea of an IP transition both cost-prohibitive and difficult to deploy
A big advantage of healthcare facilities making the transition to IP is easy access of
real-time video any time from any computer

Arecont Vision SurroundVideo

Arecont Vision, a provider of video to the healthcare market, delivers megapixel surveillance cameras that reduce the cost of surveillance while increasing video coverage, improving aesthetics, and delivering high-definition (HD) video.

Customers are able to continue to get value from their existing analogue systems in some cases, while supplementing them with modern digital network-based video surveillance systems until existing systems reach their end of life, Whitney says. The network-based system can then replace the legacy analogue system fully. Whitney notes that Arecont Vision’s SurroundVideo multi-sensor megapixel cameras replace multiple PTZs and fixed cameras while providing improved video coverage at a lower cost, and the system is less intrusive than the analogue systems they replace. “In new projects, most customers already have chosen to deploy IP network surveillance camera technology and gain all of the benefits and improved security immediately,” says Whitney.

Cost-to-benefit analysis

 “We have seen the transition from analogue to IP become most complete in regards to display, with digital monitors almost completely replacing analogue monitors,” says Jumbi Edulbehram, Regional President, Americas, Oncam, which provides a broad range of 360-degree fisheye cameras and integration software to the healthcare vertical. “That’s where it really ends.”

He says many hospitals and healthcare facilities have found the idea of an IP transition both cost-prohibitive and difficult to deploy. There has been some investment in relatively inexpensive decoders, which convert analogue to IP.

“Cost is definitely a factor in the resistance we’re seeing in these facilities, but as the technology is developed further, that will help drive the cost down,” says Edulbehram.

New adoptions take time, and there will be a long period when different technologies co-exist, says Robert Laughlin, President, Galaxy Control Systems, which provides access control systems ranging from single-door systems up to multi-site enterprise-level integrated systems. For this reason, it will continue to be essential that new software and systems are backwards-compatible with the existing equipment in place within organisations. Users need to be able to upgrade in a way that fits with both their security needs and their budgetary limitations. Access control systems such as Galaxy’s will continue to be integrated with a range of systems, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to every access need, Laughlin says.

The transition happens after a major incident or awareness of new risks and challenges that the existing systems cannot address
New adoptions take time, and there will be a long period when different
technologies co-exist in the healthcare market

Networked physical access control system

Many healthcare institutions also want a path to IP-based physical access control system (PACS) solutions that are easier to operate, and that simplify expansion, customisation and integration with other solutions that can share the same network, says Sheila Loy, Director Healthcare Strategies, North America, HID Global, provider of comprehensive healthcare security solutions to create a safe, compliant environment for patients and employees.

Networked access control simplifies infrastructure enhancements and modifications because hardware platforms aren’t tied to proprietary software, she notes. It’s also easier to add wireless locksets that connect with the online access control system, thus reducing wiring costs and eliminating the problems of easy-to-lose keys while providing near-online and near-real-time control of the opening. IP-based solutions also provide a single, integrated system for combining security, access control, video surveillance and incident response, perimeter detection and alarm monitoring systems. Hospitals can invest in a single, unified IP network, and logically control multiple technologies that previously co-existed only on a physical level. Plus, they can leverage their existing credential investment to seamlessly add logical access control for network log-on, and achieve a full interoperable, multi-layered security solution across company networks, systems and facilities.

Analogue or IP debate – a thing of the past?

"We will not only continue to see
more security devices on the
network, but we will also start to
see more cutting-edge medical
technology and equipment that
is network-capable"

Other manufacturers see analogue in the healthcare vertical as largely a thing of the past. Camera technology has advanced so far and so fast that the analogue or IP debate is really a thing of the past, says Dave Ella, AMAG Technology’s Vice President of Product Marketing. “The question now is how quickly budgets will allow for the transition to newer technology,” Ella says. Hospitals benefit from higher resolutions (available with IP cameras), which can identify individuals and license plate numbers. Almost all AMAG healthcare customers are integrating their video to their access control system, which vastly speeds up response to security incidents as they unfold.

Brandon Reich, Senior Director of Surveillance Solutions, Pivot3, agrees. Today, virtually all new installations are IP, he says. There are a number of organisations that still deploy analogue into large installed bases, though most have converted to IP by this point. In some cases, the rise of HD analogue video has extended the usable life of installed analogue systems, but by 2020, Reich expects the market to be vast majority IP. Pivot3 hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) solutions for video surveillance provide a high level of protection against liabilities related to lost video.

The future belongs to network-capable medical technology

In the security industry, we have seen the transition from analogue to IP systems take place over the course of several years, and it is debatable whether or not that transition is complete,” says Steve Birkmeier, VP of Sales and Business Development, Arteco. “Similarly, within the next few years, we will not only continue to see more security devices on the network, but we will also start to see more cutting-edge medical technology and equipment that is network-capable.”

Securing the security devices

Birkmeier says this is a burgeoning topic of discussion within the larger conversation about where the internet of Things (IoT) is leading us. However, it also leads to some interesting questions, such as: How will we secure these “wired” devices through the network? Will new compliance standards or regulations have to be put in place? What kind of failover strategy or reliability factors can these life-saving devices guarantee for vulnerable patients if the network goes down?

“Taking all these questions into consideration, it is imperative that we continue to invest in IT-centric access control solutions and open up integration opportunities with these technologies to ensure the security of patients, corporate and patient data, hospital staff and equipment,” says Birkmeier. 

Read Part 3 of our Security in Healthcare series here

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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