One of the reasons there has been significant growth over recent years in the deployment of enterprise level access control systems is that advances in technology have enabled the delivery of significant benefits over and above just providing access control to a building.

As a result, in addition to security managers being responsible for the security of people, property and assets, there is likely to be a number of other stakeholders involved in the decision to justify and fund the installation of an access control system. These could include but are not limited to, health & safety, operations and human resources management.

Compliance

A key word likely to be continuously on the lips of these stakeholders is ‘compliance’, as failure to comply with government regulations or local laws could have serious consequences for organisations that have a duty of care to the general public. An inspector’s visit to a food processing plant, for example, could prove costly and may even result in temporary closure unless it can be verified that everyone working at the plant has undertaken appropriate training and has a valid hygiene certification. The same smart access control cards which facilitate staff access through an entrance to a building, may also be configured through integration of the various systems to produce a report of all those whose hygiene certificates are due to be renewed.

The weak link

In this and many other scenarios, the hardware and software elements of an access control system need to be working effectively 24/7/365. The weak link will most likely be the server that the various software applications are operating upon. Unfortunately, even a well-designed and maintained system is still vulnerable to downtime as server manufacturers cannot provide a 100% guarantee that there will not be a component failure at some point. Furthermore, it is important to remember the potential impact of a cyber attack upon the associated software applications too.

Knowing your options

Data backups and restores: Having basic backup, data-replication, and failover procedures in place is perhaps the most basic approach to server availability. This will help speed the restoration of an application and help preserve data following a server failure. However, if backups are only occurring daily, significant amounts of data may be lost. At best, this approach delivers approximately 99% availability. This sounds good, but consider that it equates to an average of 87.5 hours of downtime per year, or more than 90 minutes of unplanned downtime per week.

Continuous availability means that no single point of failure can stop a security software platform from running
Having basic backup, data-replication, and failover procedures in place is perhaps the most basic approach to server availability

High availability (HA): HA includes both hardware-based and software-based approaches to reducing downtime. HA clusters are systems combining two or more servers running with an identical configuration, using software to keep application data synchronised on all servers. When one fails, another server in the cluster takes over, ideally with little or no disruption. However, HA clusters can be complex to deploy and manage, and you will need to license software on all cluster servers, increasing costs.

HA software

HA software, on the other hand, is designed to detect evolving problems proactively and prevent downtime. It uses predictive analytics to automatically identify, report and handle faults before they cause an outage. The continuous monitoring that this software offers is an advantage over the cluster approach, which only responds after a failure has occurred. Moreover, as a software-based solution, it runs on low-cost commodity hardware.

HA generally provides from 99.9% to 99.99% uptime. On average, this means from 52 minutes to 4.5 hours of downtime per year, which is significantly better than basic backup strategies.

Maximum uptime

Continuous availability solutions are able to deliver 99.999% uptime; this is the equivalent to just five minutes of downtime per year.

Supported by specialist continuous availability software, two servers are linked and continuously synchronised via a virtualisation platform that pairs protected virtual machines together to create a single operating environment. If one physical machine should fail, the application or software platform will continue to run on the other physical machine without any interruptions. In-progress alarms and access control events, as well as data in memory and cache, are preserved.

Continuous availability means that no single point of failure can stop a security software platform from running and unlike high availability, back-up and clustering solutions, there is no failover or reboot required and therefore absolute minimal downtime. In a business environment where non-compliance can have serious consequences, adding a continuous availability solution to support an existing or new access control system would seem to be one of the easiest decisions to make.

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How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today
How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today

There’s a lot of excitement around artificial intelligence (AI) today – and rightly so. AI is shifting the modern landscape of security and surveillance and dramatically changing the way users interact with their security systems. But with all the talk of AI’s potential, you might be wondering: what problems does AI help solve today? The need for AI The fact is, today there are too many cameras and too much recorded video for security operators to keep pace with. On top of that, people have short attention spans. AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could.AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could It is designed to bring the most important events and insight to users’ attention, freeing them to do what they do best: make critical decisions. There are two areas where AI can have a significant impact on video surveillance today: search and focus of attention. Faster search Imagine using the internet today without a search engine. You would have to search through one webpage at a time, combing through all its contents, line-by-line, to hopefully find what you’re looking for. That is what most video surveillance search is like today: security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. The ability of AI to reduce hours of work to mere minutes is especially significant when we think about the gradual decline in human attention spans With AI, companies such as Avigilon are developing technologies that are designed to make video search as easy as searching the internet. Tools like Avigilon Appearance Search™ technology – a sophisticated deep learning AI video search engine – help operators quickly locate a specific person or vehicle of interest across all cameras within a site. When a security operator is provided with physical descriptions of a person involved in an event, this technology allows them to initiate a search by simply selecting certain descriptors, such as gender or clothing colour. During critical investigations, such as in the case of a missing or suspicious person, this technology is particularly helpful as it can use those descriptions to search for a person and, within seconds, find them across an entire site. Focused attention           The ability of AI to reduce hours of work to mere minutes is especially significant when we think about the gradual decline in human attention spans. Consider all the information a person is presented with on a given day. They don’t necessarily pay attention to everything because most of that information is irrelevant. Instead, they prioritise what is and is not important, often focusing only on information or events that are surprising or unusual. Security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further Now, consider how much information a security operator who watches tens, if not hundreds or thousands of surveillance cameras, is presented with daily. After just twenty minutes, their attention span significantly decreases, meaning most of that video is never watched and critical information may go undetected. By taking over the task of "watching" security video, AI technology can help focus operators’ attention on events that may need further investigation. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing For instance, technology like Avigilon™ Unusual Motion (UMD) uses AI to continuously learn what typical activity in a scene looks like and then detect and flag unusual events, adding a new level of automation to surveillance. This helps save time during an investigation by allowing operators to quickly search through large amounts of recorded video faster, automatically focusing their attention on the atypical events that may need further investigation, enabling them to more effectively answer the critical questions of who, what, where and when. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video – like clothing colour, age or gender – will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing. This means that in addition to detecting unusual activities based on motion, this technology has the potential to guide operators’ attention to other “unusual” data that will help them more accurately verify and respond to a security event. The key to advanced security When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations There’s no denying it, the role of AI in security today is transformative. AI-powered video management software is helping to reduce the amount of time spent on surveillance, making security operators more efficient and effective at their jobs. By removing the need to constantly watch video screens and automating the “detection” function of surveillance, AI technology allows operators to focus on what they do best: verifying and acting on critical events. This not only expedites forensic investigations but enables real-time event response, as well. When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations. Just as high-definition imaging has become a quintessential feature of today’s surveillance cameras, the tremendous value of AI technology has positioned it as a core component of security systems today, and in the future.

8 tips for visiting a large security trade show
8 tips for visiting a large security trade show

Security trade fairs can be daunting for attendees. At big shows like IFSEC International and Security Essen, there can be hundreds of physical security manufacturers and dealers vying for your attention. Stands are sometimes spread out across multiple halls, often accompanied by a baffling floor plan. As the scope of physical security expands from video surveillance and access control to include smart building integrations, cyber security and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is an increasing amount of information to take in from education sessions and panels. Here, SourceSecurity.com presents eight hints and tips for visitors to make the most out of trade shows: 1. Outline your objectives. As the famous saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” Before you plan anything else, ensure you know what you need to achieve at the show. By clearly noting your objectives, you will be able to divide your time at the show appropriately, and carefully choose who you speak to. If there is a particular project your organisation is working on, search out the products and solutions that address your security challenges. If you are a security professional aiming to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, then networking sessions and seminars may be more appropriate. 2. Bring a standard list of questions Prepare a list of specific questions that will tell you if a product, solution or potential partner will help you meet your objectives. By asking the same questions to each exhibitor you speak to, you will be able to take notes and compare their offerings side by side at the end of the day. This also means you won’t get bogged down in details that are irrelevant to your goals. Most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category  3. Do your homework Once you know your objectives, you can start to research who is exhibiting and decide who you want to talk to. Lists of exhibitors can be daunting, and don’t always show you which manufacturers meet your needs. Luckily, most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category. Many exhibitions also offer a downloadable floor plan, grouping exhibitors by product category or by relevant vertical market.  It may be easier to download the floor plan to your phone/tablet or even print it out, if you don’t want to carry around a weighty map or show-guide. 4. Make a schedule Once you have shortlisted the companies you need to see, you can make a schedule that reflects your priorities. Even if you are not booking fixed meetings, a schedule will allow you to effectively manage your time, ensuring you make time for the exhibitors you can’t afford to miss. If the trade show spans several days, aim to have your most important conversations early on day one. By the time the last afternoon of the show comes around, many companies are already packing up their stand and preparing to head home. When scheduling fixed meetings, keep the floor plan at hand to avoid booking consecutive meetings at opposite ends of the venue. This will ensure you can walk calmly between stands and don’t arrive at an important meeting feeling flustered! Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth 5. Make time for learning If you’re on a mission to expand your knowledge in a given area, check the event guide beforehand to note any education sessions you may want to attend. Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth. This is one of the best opportunities you will have to learn from industry leaders in the field. Be sure to plan your attendance in advance so you can schedule the rest of your day accordingly. 6. Keep a record Armed with your objectives and list of questions, you will want to make a note of exhibitors’ responses to help you come to an informed decision. If you’re relying on an electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet to take notes, you may like to consider bringing a back-up notepad and pen, so you can continue to take notes if your battery fails. Your record does not have to be confined to written bullet points. Photos and videos are great tools remind you what you saw at the show, and they may pick up details that you weren’t able to describe in your notes. Most mobile devices can take photos – and images don’t need to be high quality if they’re just to refresh your memory. 7. Network – but don’t let small talk rule the day It may be tempting to take advantage of this time away from the office to talk about anything but business! While small talk can be helpful for building strong professional relationships, remember to keep your list of questions at hand so you can always bring conversations back to your key objectives. Keeping these goals in mind will also help you avoid being swayed by any unhelpful marketing-speak. It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to exchange business cards with everyone you speak to, or even take the opportunity to connect via LinkedIn. Even if something doesn’t seem relevant now, these contacts may be useful in future. Have a dedicated section in your bag or briefcase for business cards to avoid rummaging around. With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely 8. Schedule time for wandering With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely. Allowing dedicated time to wander will give you a welcome break from more pressing conversations, and may throw up a welcome surprise in the form of a smaller company or new technology you weren’t aware of.  Security trade fair checklist: Photo Identification: As well as your event pass, some events require photo identification for entry. Notebook & pen: By writing as you go, you will be able to compare notes at the end of the day. Mobile device: Photos and videos are great tools to remind you what you saw at the show, and may pick up details you missed in your notes. Paper schedule & floor plan: In case batteries or network service fail. Business cards: Have a dedicated pouch or pocket for these to avoid rummaging at the bottom of a bag. Comfortable shoes: If you’re spending a whole day at an event, and plan on visiting multiple booths, comfortable shoes are a must!

What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?
What are the obstacles to adoption of mobile credentials for access control?

Using a smart phone as an access control credential is an idea whose time has come – or has it? The flexible uses of smart phones are transforming our lives in multiple ways, and the devices are replacing everything from our alarm clocks to our wallets to our televisions. However, the transformation from using a card to using a mobile credential for access control is far from a no-brainer for many organisations, which obstacles to a fast or easy transition. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: When will mobile credentials dominate access control, and what are the obstacles to greater adoption?