Security Trends And Facility Management

Here is a look at common issues facing facility executives when it comes to building security.

By Allan B. Colombo
From the August 2019 Issue

The need for adequate security and life safety is important to facility managers no matter what type of building or campus they operate and maintain. This is why it’s important that those in positions of responsibility have a well-rounded knowledge of all structural technologies along with available options and current trends. This includes a relatively in-depth knowledge of relevant local and State fire codes, OSHA considerations, and other important sources of facility regulation.

building security
(Photo: Natali_Mis)

Recently, Facility Executive magazine asked key players in the security and life safety markets what are the most common challenges they discuss with their facility management customers.

Most, if not all stakeholders will agree that the need to do more with less, in terms of dollars, is a common theme, which leads to a conversation on topics such as energy conservation, data security, more integration, additional advanced electronic access control options, and the need for open standards among even more players.

“Our corporate and government clients are always on the lookout for ways to save money,” says Nick Markowitz, owner, Markowitz Electric & integration of Verona, PA. “A good example of this is a recent invention offered by Comcast (national cable Internet Service Provider) that provides cable Internet under normal circumstances, automatically switching to Verizon 4G cellular when there’s a cable outage.” According to Markowitz, this is made possible through an agreement between the two ISPs (Internet Service Providers), thus saving facility executives and managers the expense of contracting with two separate ISPs.

In this issue of Facility Executive, we’ll take a good look into some of the latest trends and concerns surrounding security and life safety. We’ll also feature the thoughts and ideas of a handful of industry leaders on how to solve these and other problems.

Cost Cutting Through Energy Conservation

Whether it’s healthcare, commercial retail, industrial, hotel, education, or any other venue, facility managers are doing their utmost best to hold the line on their expenditures while providing the same or better level of security they always have provided, thus leading to budget reductions involving maintenance.

“Facility managers today have to do more with less, including prioritizing life safety and security while also meeting evolving user expectations and a variety of stakeholder priorities,” says ASSA ABLOY’s President of Electromechanical Specialties and High Security Group, Stacy Deveraux. “We offer a comprehensive portfolio of products that allow facility managers to create a multi-dimensional ecosystem to address a full spectrum of operational needs. Our solutions can, for example, provide not only security but also cost efficiency through reduced energy usage.”

Deveraux says that energy conservation is one area where costs can be controlled using more efficient technologies.

Replacing older lighting with LED lighting systems is one way to hold the line on energy costs. Installing a highly efficient building management system goes a step further by placing the various operating systems within a building, even an entire campus, under the distributed control of a central processing system. Adding IoT/IIoT (Internet of Things/Industrial Internet of Things) to the mix goes even a step further, making it even more difficult not to implement a cloud solution. And now that the same service is available via any number of specialized cloud-based processing centers there’s hardly an argument that can be made against doing so.

Many companies have done their part to hold the line on energy usage. For example, in the area of access control, the most recent addition to ASSA ABLOY’s Eco Suite of energy efficient access control products includes an electromagnetic lock that provides an 80% reduction in energy usage over other makes and models. For example, where an older, equivalent 600-pound electromagnetic lock draws 150 mA at 24 VDC, a new 600-pound model draws only 90 mA. In a word, the operational costs are lower because of a more efficient technology.

Advancements in video surveillance also have improved energy conservation over the last handful of years. One example is the replacement of the CRT display with that of today’s flat screen. Through the replacement of older solid state devices with more compact large-scale-integration, solid-state chips, these systems run cooler, last longer, and the cost of operation is significantly less than comparable systems from just a few years ago.

Addressing Network Issues

The challenge to do more things with less money also pertains to an organization’s computer network. The objective is to operate and maintain a network in such a manner that it continues working with as little downtime as possible. Downtime can cost a business a good deal of money and hardship when it occurs.

According to LifeSafety Power, this has forced owners and managers to look for added value in an attempt to lower total cost of ownership and generate a healthy return on investment for all their security solutions and system uptime. All this is accomplished using proactive maintenance and monitoring.

“With the increasing ability to integrate a wide range of systems—from security to building operations and energy management, facility executives know that it’s critical to have the kind of solution that will notify them ahead of time of potential problems and issues with their networked connected products,” says Michael Bone, marketing manager with LifeSafety Power.

Using advanced data analysis, facility managers are able to not only store data in a manner making it exceedingly fast and simple to find, even many years after the fact, but the analytical capacity of today’s software enables processing, storage, and customization of reports involving big data. Monitoring power quality is one way to avoid potential periods of downtime.

“For example, new enterprise power solutions are easily controlled through web-accessible platforms, allowing facility owners and managers the ability to gather detailed analytics to easily and continually assess power operations for optimum operation and assured 24/7 uptime,” says Bone.

Now it’s possible to monitor, assess, maintain, and troubleshoot systems remotely, which represents a huge cost savings in place paying for unnecessary service calls. On their own, or with the help of their security integrator, facility managers can conduct active battery management, with the ability to remotely reboot field devices and manage batteries remotely—another cost savings for the protected premises.

“Rebooting network devices is a common problem when an IP (Internet Protocol) device goes down. We use the ‘uSwitch,’ made by uHave Control to monitor and reset our cameras and other network devices,” says Markowitz. “What’s good about the uSwitch device is that it will automatically reboot the device and send an email alerting someone of the reset. This means we do not have to roll a truck to conduct a service call, thus saving our good clients a lot of money.” The uSwitch family of products are electromechanical relays with built-in web servers.

Integration To Address Cyber Crime

Although network technology makes life a whole lot easier for facility managers overseeing a building management system, IoT devices, IP cameras, data storage, and general communications, this also represents a risk to all concerned due to cyber criminals.

“As facility owners and managers work to standardize all systems for their buildings, they often run into new cybersecurity and integration challenges. At times it can be unclear what the integrations are actually delivering,” says Wayne Dorris, business development manager, cybersecurity with Axis Communications.

According to Axis, if an organization is integrating a physical access control system into a video management system, for example, the alarm integration can differ from the original manufacturer’s programmed features. Here the API (Application Program Interface) is a combination of the access control system API and the video management system (VMS) API. So, the functionality that the system now offers may be somewhat different than expected.

“To fully deliver the intended results, the functionality may require API development work between the two manufacturers, which can be costly and also delay projects,” says Dorris. “A standard physical security systems package won’t necessarily work on all buildings. Buildings differ in size and use and require an individualized approach. Offerings that can be both on-premise and either a cloud or hybrid cloud are helpful.”

Ongoing Issues In Access Control

There’s a definite need for electronic access control (EAC) in facilities of any size, whether it’s a single door or a facility with hundreds of openings. It’s important to have the right locking solution on specific kinds of doors in order to keep the bad guys out. With mechanical keys the means by which this is done involves master keying along with key control, which includes detailed computerized records of who possess what key. A problem with this method of access is that it lacks control as to who can enter what door, on what days, between what times, and on what holidays. And then there’s the matter of creating an audit trail on a user-to-user basis. Mechanical keyed systems simply do not fulfill all of today’s facility needs.

“Facilities, both large and small, must address a variety of security challenges while continuing to maintain a convenient and accessible environment for employees and visitors,” says John Moa, CyberLock director of sales. “Ensuring employees and members of the public can access only those areas in which they are permitted is highly critical. Additionally, many facilities use mechanical locks and keys, which are easily duplicated, difficult to track, and provide less than ideal security.”

Through the use of EACs, an assortment of credentials are available for a variety of purposes.

“Today, what I see is a highly mobile workforce that requires an enterprise solution that allows them to access doors at any location regardless of the city, state, or country it happens to be in,” says John Larkin, senior partner with Electronic Systems Consultants, LLC (ESC) of Columbus, OH.

According to Markowitz, many companies also are experiencing high turnover rates with regards to employees, and so it’s important to utilize a reasonably priced credential as well as one that lends itself to badging. “Many of these credentials are now used for time and attendance, employee IDs, and as a means of door access,” Markowitz says.

For those who would rather continue working with mechanical locks, CyberLock and CyberLock Flex System are designed to help alleviate the security concerns of facility management. Retrofitting with CyberLock electronic cylinders is straightforward and is designed for minimal impact on the facility and maximum impact on security.

“There are no wires to run or batteries to change and CyberLock cylinders deliver the freedom to deploy access control to virtually any access point or item on the premises,” Moa says. For many who do not want to contend with running cable, this is an ideal alternative.

Another trend is the accommodation of remote access control management where all aspects of remote monitoring of video cameras, door alarms, etc., are handled by the security integrator, including locking and unlocking doors, gates, and the activation of lights and sirens, especially at remote locations.

Using the Internet, including cellular, all of these functions and more are inherent in the aforementioned uSwitch product. “You can access uSwitch remotely which allows you the ability to control anything from anywhere over a network, such as securely turn anything on or off as well as open doors, gates and even start vehicles from any computer, iPhone or Android,” says Mario Costa, President of uHave Control.

Advanced Communications & Cloud Services

One of the challenges that facility managers face involves the need to provide their building users with a high-tech experience within a secure and trusted space. In this regard, the most significant trend, according to HID Global, is the use of ordinary smartphones for door access, rather than the usual assortment of physical credentials. This same smartphone also must be capable of accessing the building’s various applications as well as other resources.

“This requires a risk-based approach to threat protection as organizations seek to improve productivity and provide seamless, more convenient access to the enterprise and its physical and digital assets and services,” says Hilding Arrehed, vice president, cloud services, physical access control with HID Global. “We can see the power of these connected security experiences with respect to the latest mobile access solutions in the lobby and at the turnstile and elevator. These solutions simplify how occupants move through a facility and interact with smart building services.”

HID also sees the task of card issuance moving increasingly to the cloud. In the past access cards were issued to users on site using a printer connected to a PC. The PC was used to design an ID card, thereby accessing the ID database to encode data onto it, and then send the card to the printer.

“True cloud-based platforms enable the entire process to be performed remotely, with all secure issuance activities from design and encoding to printing centralized into an integrated system that an administrator can access in a card office at the main campus, or any satellite facility or other remote location using a tablet, laptop or any device with a web interface,” says Arrehed.

The need for security in commercial and multi-tenant properties is an absolute. Fine tuning network resources as well as maintaining all physical security and life safety devices is paramount if you expect a good outcome. Hiring a quality security integrator that can do both in a reliable, timely manner is key to running a power-efficient, network-ready operation—one designed to overcome all the obstacles put before it.

building securityColombo, a recipient of the prestigious Jesse H. Neal Award, is a longtime trade journalist in the security and life safety markets. His articles have appeared in locksmith, security, and fire-related magazines since the mid 1980s. He can be contacted via his website.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below or send an e-mail to the Editor at