Articles by Michael Byrden
Michael Byrden, Sales Director of ACT, considers the convergence of facility management. He describes how ACT, the access control manufacturer, has acquired a VMS and analytics development house in order to unify security solutions and bring customers nearer to the goal of a truly intelligent building. Desire for open systems Major acquisitions have been dominating the news recently and, even if this lays me open to a charge of naivety, I genuinely believe that they aren’t predatory. As more and more building disciplines are network-enabled, manufacturers are simply striving for open systems. Access control (the simple process of giving people permission to open a door) is an obvious fit with camera and video management. The IP revolution is putting more layers of information on the same platform which means more scope for collaboration between sub-systems. Today’s BMS products are allowing bilateral exchanges of information that are correlating sets of data which would previously have gone unconnected and therefore unnoticed. A door held ajar at a major site at the same time as an internal motion alarm occurs may be mere coincidence but as system developers, we now have the ability to flag up twin occurrences to security operators in case they indicate a break-in. Need for ‘image-driven’ access control Every aspect of our lives is now image-driven and it’s common for access control management systems to have pictures of the user database. At the most elementary level, it’s hardly a brainwave to have a VMS activate a PTZ camera (or begin recording at a higher resolution) when an unusual event occurs such as a user making multiple unsuccessful attempts to identify themselves to a door. An alert can appear on an operative’s screen, and the briefest visual inspection and comparison of images will establish if a bona fide employee is experiencing difficulties or an attempted intrusion is taking place. In an extreme case such as an unexpected door activation at a plant room or server room out of hours, access control can integrate with VMS to begin high-resolution recording by every camera in the area and prompt guards to review the footage by creating a screen pop-up And yet for all our pronouncements about ‘open systems’ and ONVIF compliance, it’s still a leap of faith for an installer (or a distributor) to guarantee that when it comes to on-site usage in the real world, access control and VMS will consistently talk to each other. With two manufacturers involved, passing the buck is all too common and any installer with a few years’ experience will be able to tell a horror story or two about finger-pointing when things go wrong. VMS and analytics for ACT But as the result of a purchase that was part of organic growth, ACT now has VMS, video analytics and other smart functions integrated into its solution offering. There is no third party; compatibility is guaranteed, upgrades are performed concurrently across the entire range and in the rare event that systems don’t talk to each other immediately there is a single port of call for technical help. This is of course the ideal for a greenfield site but ACT continues to broaden its integration with third parties not only to give clients the choice they demand but in order to prove agile at sites where there is a need to combine with legacy equipment. ACT’s VMS acquisition included video analytics functionality and our developers are creating a wide range of algorithms with obvious scenarios for access control usage being the definition of sterile zones and identification of loitering. Our perimeter protection work includes rail applications and we now have viable and increasingly robust behavioural alerts on would-be platform suicides. After a bad start when they were ‘oversold’ by non-technical marketers, people-counting algorithms are also increasingly practicable and the life-safety correlation between being able to open extra doors when unusually heavy footfall occurs will be obvious to anybody who so much as opens a newspaper occasionally. Interoperability means that access control will no longer plague operators with vague alert situations that may be no more than a localised voltage problem. Convergence allows the technology to serve the user rather than operatives having to respond to imprecise alarms Video and access control integration Integration of sterile zones with an access control GUI allows security officers to lock down doors and groups of doors as soon as an intrusion is suspected. First-responders can be given accurate real-time information and even allowed to view a location remotely to make decisions with optimum data. Site awareness of this kind can save lives in an ‘active shooter’ crisis at a campus environment. On the most basic level, intelligent eLock devices can now be associated with a video audit trail of door usage by activating recording when a door is opened so avoiding the need to monitor eventless footage. Integration of VMS and access control provides multi-tiered protection for buildings against intruders who may be disaffected former employees trying to use old pin codes and cards. The user can immediately isolate a relevant video clip, analyse it and export it for evidential purposes. But equally, having been alerted to an unusual event, users of the VMS frequently realise that the alert is being caused by a legitimate member of staff who can be allowed access or given instructions from a PA system. The same ‘right to have’ and ‘right to be there’ principles of hierarchy and time zones used in access control can be used in the VMS. Thus, in an extreme case such as an unexpected door activation at a plant room or server room out of hours, access control can integrate with VMS to begin high-resolution recording by every camera in the area and prompt guards to review the footage by creating a screen pop-up. This is truly bi-directional communication. Interoperability between VMS and analytics I don’t need to be lectured on the Internet of Things (IoT), listen to webinars on ‘big data’ or sit through seminars at trade shows on PSIM to realise that a door controller and an IP camera, while seemingly disparate devices, are now no more than addresses on a network. And I don’t claim that it was a quantum leap to realise that my company could better serve its clients by giving them access control that provides robust visual verification through being fully integrated with VMS. I don’t like SDKs any more than my end-users do. And clients get rapid return on investment since common conventions running through the GUIs lead to reduced training costs. Interoperability means that access control will no longer plague operators with vague alert situations that may be no more than a localised voltage problem. Convergence allows the technology to serve the user rather than operatives having to respond to imprecise alarms. Our software is analysing evidence and has the agility to discriminate between possible threats before presenting clients with real-time visibility and a call to action. Full VMS (as opposed to simple camera viewing) with analytics, PTZ and exporting of evidential clips all from a tablet used at a remote location via a native app or web browser is now becoming reality.
ACTviquest highlights intruder attempts to restricted door anywhere on site to operators and presents with camera feeds in relevant zone Dante Group has installed ACTviquest, an integrated access control and video management solution, at the £100m Manchester Arndale shopping mall. Unique in the security industry, ACTviquest from ACT enables users to operate cameras and access control from a single platform as part of a unified suite. The Arndale is the third largest city-centre shopping venue in Europe. It has complex needs and required a scalable solution that would combine VMS with access control as a genuine integration rather than a ‘bolt-on’ compromise. ACTviquest offers flexible video recording, retrieval and archiving options with broad access control information such as break-glass, door forced or door ajar scenarios. Users at the Arndale are benefiting from a GUI that shows the site with a 3D feel which represents all devices and their current status as icons. Fire alarm systems and break-glass incidents are included in these views. If a member of the public or an intruder attempts to use a restricted door anywhere on the 140,000 square-metre Arndale site, ACTviquest highlights this to operators and presents them with camera feeds in the relevant zone. The Arndale has a nine-floor central tower with offices that are used by its own staff and third parties. Employees use MIFARE cards with access privileges appropriate to their job. They present their card to readers, and door control is then managed via ACTpro 4000 controllers. These units are designed for high-traffic volumes where changes to the cardholder database are a regular occurrence. They can manage up to 60,000 users. ACTviquest mobile app for remote monitoring "ACTviquest is empowering management at Manchester Arndale to process an ever-increasing range of data types and combat broad security threats", says Michael Byrden, Sales Director, ACT ACTviquest has a mobile app that not only allows Arndale managers to view the site remotely but means they can leave the control room during an incident to gain information on the ground as a situation unfolds while still viewing camera streams and access control status from a smartphone or tablet. This level of information can contribute to optimum decision-making. The app, which is available for both iOS and Android, gives comprehensive PTZ control of cameras. As an alternative, users outside the operational hub can both view and control up to six cameras as well as monitoring access control events simply by logging in to any major web browser. Thousands of business visitors come to the site in Manchester’s city centre for appointments every week. ACT worked with Dante Group and Thames Valley Controls (a high-technology lift control specialist) to ensure that ACTviquest is aware of which lifts and doors are appropriate for each visitor’s destination. If a visitor tries to enter areas that are not applicable to them they will be denied access. As the project develops, ACT will be integrating with over 150 cameras (both IP and encoded feeds from analogue) at the Arndale. The software supports all major camera brands including Hikvision, Ganz, Vivotek, Bosch, Samsung and Sony. Combat broad security threats Michael Byrden, Sales Director of ACT, said: “The installation shows ACT supplying unified access control and situational awareness to one of the most important shopping malls in the UK. Unlike most retail sites, the focus here is public safety and general logistics rather than shrinkage. ACTviquest is empowering management at Manchester Arndale to process an ever-increasing range of data types and combat broad security threats.” ACT solutions are being used extensively in the retail sector. Other major applications include the French chain Hyper U, Asda in the UK (a subsidiary of Walmart), Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Ocado (an online supermarket). Dante Group provides project management services as well as commercial fire and security systems throughout the UK. The company has mechanical and construction divisions. It has achieved the quality standard ISO9001 and environmental standard ISO 14001. Specialisms include CCTV, door entry, intruder alarms and PA/VA.
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