By Mark K. Duato
Published in the October 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
Like many things in today’s world, facility security solutions have become much more complicated than in the past. No longer does it suffice for a facility manager (fm) to issue a purchase order for an assortment of locks and keys and call it a day. Modern security systems can encompass elements of electronic access control, may interface with a building’s IT infrastructure, use wireless (WiFi) network architectures, and incorporate a variety of entry devices including card readers and keypads.
Although they are more complex than previous options, current choices available for security systems provide far greater capabilities than those in the not too distant past. These abilities include real-time and offline monitoring, reporting, and auditing functions that keep track of which entrances and exits have been opened and closed at what times, and by whom.
This capability can be a necessity, rather than a luxury, if a facility is subject to government, industry, or military regulations requiring tight access control and auditing procedures. For example, a hospital must comply with safe medication practices as part of the new requirements in The Joint Commission’s (TJC) National Patient Safety Goals (NPSG) program, and they must securely protect patient records as a requirement of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules.
An effective security system is critical for protecting people, information, assets, and property, but when it comes to implementing an effective system, how much is enough—or too much? Fms should not skimp on protection for their organizations. However, budgets are ever tightening, and they need to know that they’re getting a sound return on their investments.
This is where technology consultants and security solutions providers can provide helpful insight, whether the resource is a manufacturer, systems integrator, or other consultative firm. These providers know how the hardware and software elements of an enterprise wide solution work together and how to scale a system to accommodate a facility’s particular requirements, while keeping a keen eye on budget.
Many manufacturers work closely with OEM security management software solutions companies, IT decision makers, and systems integration firms to ensure an end user’s security system will operate seamlessly with total reliability and within budget.
Implementing A Suitable System
When it comes to security systems, one size does not fit all. Fms should look to partner with companies that understand their needs and the challenges they face and that can act as valued consultants to help address those needs in a cost-effective manner. Suitable approaches and technologies for many types of facilities can include keyed and keyless locks, intelligent locks, and integrated security devices that can recognize an individual’s credential and grant or deny them access.
There is a market trend toward IP-driven intelligent locks that operate using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) connectivity via an organization’s IT network, and/or WiFi 802.11 wireless locks that interface with the organization’s network architecture without fms incurring the costs that are associated with traditional access control installations. There are also intelligent electronic keys, cards, and even emerging mobile phones with securely provisioned credentials that can be leveraged for access control in a facility.
Additionally, while choosing the right equipment is very important, it is equally important to implement these solutions with qualified and factory certified service providers. A technology company’s business partnerships are just as valuable a resource as the products they make.
When implementing a security system, fms and their security partners must first understand the characteristics of the facility’s existing IT infrastructure. This understanding is critical because the system to be installed should seamlessly interface with the existing IT network architecture whether it is wired (Ethernet) or WiFi.
Some questions fms should consider at this point in the process are:
- What existing IT architecture can be leveraged for this installation?
- How extensively is the facility wired with Ethernet cable?
- Does WiFi architecture provide more benefit in both the short and long term?
- Is it feasible, and perhaps less expensive, to install WiFi locks in areas that are difficult to reach by cable?
- How easy or difficult will it be to interface lock technology to an access control system?
The answers to these questions assist fms in determining the best path forward. The bottom line is: How can an organization best leverage its existing IT infrastructure and the investment already made in its IT architecture?
How Much Security Is Enough?
Different facilities have different security requirements and perhaps laws and regulations to adhere to, whether it is a healthcare facility, school or university, factory, office, or military installation. Experienced security providers are equipped to evaluate these specific needs and make recommendations for fms to evaluate.
For instance, an electronic access control system that uses a keyless lock, card reader, or key fob will be more secure than a keyed system or stand-alone keypad. Depending on the system architecture, people with authorized access codes can open locks to secure areas, and these codes can be changed quickly from any remote location, if that becomes necessary.
Fms may want the ability to gather an audit trail that tracks every movement of every employee (which can even provide a measure of legal protection for the employees and the organization). Others may not have a need for that type of tracking ability.
For instance, most hospitals require sophisticated and auditable access control systems so management can keep track of every milligram of every medication and account for who took it out of the pharmacy and at what time. Meanwhile, a private facility like a marina or gated community may simply need to provide its members with some type of secured entry/exit device or card, or intelligent key. A business may need to give certain people access to certain secure areas only at specific times. Video systems integration may further enhance an fm’s needs.
As noted, there are specialized companies in the security market that through experience have learned what type of solutions may best fit a particular facility, without requiring fms to build an entirely new network or database architecture to accommodate a new or enhanced security system. For instance, hospital security systems can be designed to interface with industry standard medication dispensing and billing systems. And, in a school or university an electronic access control system can be designed to operate in conjunction with smart card credential management systems.
A unified security solution often involves more than infrastructure and access control aspects. It may encompass video cameras, emergency communications, life safety equipment, and other peripheral security devices. And an electronic access control solution can be tailored to do much more than open and close doors. Again, the expertise of knowledgeable partners can be invaluable in making sure the hardware and software from various vendors will communicate with each other and integrate smoothly.
No technology stands still, and security systems are no exception. Many of these systems incorporate open architecture, designed to accommodate future technology advancements as the market and end user needs continue to evolve and expand. Against this backdrop, fms can be secure in the knowledge that they can leverage their organization’s existing investments into a solution that provides greater protection and accountability than they might even have thought possible.
As senior director of Integration Sales for ASSA ABLOY’s Door Security Solutions, Duato leads the Integrated Solutions Specialists team and works closely with the integrated OEM access control solutions companies as well as premier security systems integrators for the advancement and implementation of ASSA ABLOY’s electronic access control technologies. He has more than 25 years of industry experience and is a graduate of Bentley College in Waltham, MA with a degree in Management Studies.