December 2011

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Conservation of Merging Technologies
Is Access control the key to change in how we operate our buildings? Can a camera change the way we manage our properties?
Clark Northcott
Clark Northcott

Security Business Development Manager,
Enterprise Accounts,
Schneider Electric

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Is Access control the key to change in how we operate our buildings? Can a camera change the way we manage our properties?   I feel the winds of change and see the emerging technology that will guide us into the next generation of smart buildings.  Today we can monitor the activity within our building by using simple presence detectors. We can schedule or adjust our lighting by way of photocell or light harvesting technology.  (Light harvesting technology monitors the natural light in an area and controls the intensity of artificial light to maintain a predetermined lighting level while conserving energy).  Heating and cooling is accomplished with a network of temperature sensors, thermostats and presence detectors to create a comfortable building.

Both access control and video surveillance have completely embraced IP Technology.  With this embrace manufacturers are able to share information across platforms.  The fluidity of this information is how the modern building will move to the future.

Video Surveillance

Close Circuit Television Video (CCTV) has been superseded with the introduction of Internet protocol (IP) cameras.  This change has opened a floodgate of IP video manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon of technology with some racing for the highest megapixel camera, quality and performance while others are just racing to be a flash in the pan.  Meanwhile the smart ones are developing cameras with intelligence.  These may seem like ordinary cameras; but intelligent cameras have the ability to flag details within the video, analyze scenes and even search, based on specific criteria.  The medium that makes this possible is called Meta Data.  Meta Data is the term for information within Data that describes itself.  Harnessing this resource allows you the opportunity to utilize surveillance cameras for far more than security.  Imagine a presence detector that could tell you not only if someone is in an area but how many.  Intelligent cameras will allow you to create rules based on the number of people, the duration of stay and the size of an object.  IP Cameras with Meta data will have a much more active role in the way we manage our facilities.  IP cameras will become intelligent detectors of our buildings.    

Example of video analytic using meta data and Mega pixel technology 

Example of video analytic using meta data and Mega pixel technology

Access Control and Security can complement intelligent IP Cameras with the addition of specifics.  Access control provides specific data about a user and their privileges within your building by way of credentials.  Credentials come in many different proximity forms; swipe, touch, and biometric.  Proximity cards or fobs are the most popular allowing a user to present a card within a couple of inches to a proximity reader to transmit the unique ID.  Biometrics is another technology that uses your finger, hand, or even your eye to create a unique ID.  The credential of choice is then used to identify a person entering a building or moving within a facility.

Knowing who is entering your building allows the building automation system insight as to what areas within the building would be inhabited.  The system could then be programmed to predict where that person will go and where that person spends the majority of their time based on their role, department or time spent in a given area. This information can then be utilized to control heating and cooling zones, and lighting grids specific to that individual's habits.  With integration access control will work in conjunction with the other intelligent detectors (IP cameras) and traditional sensors.  Integration will adjust and control the rest of the building dynamically if that person deviates from the predicted area, while maintaining a convenient energy efficient environment.  I understand that the heartbeat of every building is different, but if you can hear the pulse, you can tailor your efficiency around it. 

Access control can also be used beyond your typical door or gate. Access control is a great tool to monitor time spent in communal areas.  You could even use it to identify who is using green charging stations, assist with reporting and billing of these services.

Riser of products sharing infrastructure  

Riser of products sharing infrastructure

Examples of how this information could be used to improve the efficiency of a building.  

Security cameras create a visual audit trail of activity in and around your building.  Intelligent cameras can monitor large and small areas while providing real time data to the Building Automation System to proactively raise or lower the flow of air to maintain a comfortable environment.  Cameras are becoming staples around the perimeter of our buildings for employee and asset safety. 

Lighting is also used in the same manner.  Integration of lighting to your video surveillance system allows you to conserve energy, increase safety and decrease crime.  Intelligent cameras can send a signal to the lighting system to dim when there is no activity, and increase brightness in your parking and perimeter areas when your employees log out of the building with their card access reader, or when the camera detects them leaving the building.  Turning lights up or additional lights on when you detect someone or something approaching your facility sends a message to criminals that they have been detected, deterring crime before it happens. Besides the obvious efficiency reason to run your lights at a lower level you are also being a steward to decreasing light pollution.  Intelligent cameras can also be used in elevator lobbies to send the appropriate number of cars when a single button is pressed; or tell retailers when they need to open another till. These are only a few of the areas intelligent cameras will assist make our facilities efficient and improve our quality of life.  

Dashboard for buildingDashboard for building
Dashboards for a  building

Facilities are being adorned with expensive assets like solar panels and turbines.   Access control and intelligent cameras can double as security and maintenance tools to remotely monitor these assets.  Whether you monitor a number of buildings across a country or the equipment mounted high on your roof top, decisions can be made before dispatching service technicians or snow removal personnel.  By avoiding the cost of physical inspection you decrease the risk and liability of placing your maintenance staff and contractors in potentially dangerous situations.

 Dashboard for building performance
Dashboard for building performance

[an error occurred while processing this directive] Customers are also looking for easy to use programs to display the health of the building.  Tools that put information at the customer's fingertips assist to measure and track the efficiency of a building and productivity of renewable energy generation.  Displaying this information in a simple to use customised dashboard improves efficiency of staff and buildings.  Having a single pane of glass that communicates to all your building automation, security and electrical needs is a  powerful tool.  The phrase “You can’t manage what you can’t see” is true and if you can’t easily translate what the savings reflect in dollars, it is difficult to sell the cost of integration up the ladder, or build the case for "Return On Investment".  Manufacturers such as Schneider Electric make it easy and affordable to provide integration.  Interoperability among products and open architecture eliminates redundant building communication, saves space in electrical and IT closets and eliminates a lot of the finger pointing when you try and integrate multiple different manufacturers. 

Technology with deeper integration, leads to smarter buildings, making intelligent decisions.

About the Author

Clark Northcott is a security expert and professional in the electronic security field since 1996.  He is a Gallagher Security Management Systems Certified Professional and a Graduate of Security Systems Implementation & Design from Sheridan College. Clark is a Member of ASIS International and has published several articles on the topic of security convergence. Clark spent several years as the Ontario Regional Manager at Access Direct, and is currently the Security Business Development Manager, Enterprise Accounts at Schneider Electric.



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