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IP-converged – the new dawn?

A market starved of information but brimming with potential. Enterprises hungry for next-generation systems, but reluctant to rip and replace. The transformation of the security function, from grudge purchase, to architect of business value. These were some of the issues debated recently at an industry roundtable hosted by NG Bailey’s IT Services division. James Hill, pictured, the engineering company’s electronic security sales manager, chair of the event, reports.

On this point – analogue systems are history, converged IP is the future – consensus was established from the outset. The benefits of IP-converged security systems, compared to their analogue predecessors, are vast. Installing an IP backbone over which to run all of a site’s security, from CCTV to access control, increases visibility, reduces maintenance overheads and enables integration capable of transforming the department’s value to the business it serves. Continuing to implement standalone analogue systems, each with their own service contract and unique maintenance characteristics, makes little sense in a hyper-connected world.

Challenges remain
Chief among the challenges is the reluctance of customers to kiss their investment in analogue systems goodbye. After 30 years of capex outlay on analogue, with the accompanying opex needed to manage and maintain these systems, is now the right time to disrupt proceedings, especially given the UK’s precarious economy?
But the prevailing conservatism is also a market opportunity, especially for integrators with skills and expertise in IP and analogue. The smart use of encoders, for example, can enable IP-based devices to operate over analogue cabling, providing a bridging technology that enables customers to embrace devices which are already familiar to them, such as HD cameras and smartcard access systems, without committing to a total network overhaul.

Industry resistance
Wes Harper, MD of security consultancy, HarperMorgan, noted that there are only a few integrators that have the required knowledge of IP and the practical skills to design and manage hybrid analogue and IP systems. He said: “Many traditional security installers have systems built on analogue implementation and maintenance contracts, so it’s easy to see why so many are reticent to have a discussion about the benefits of converged-IP. This trend is limiting the flow of information about IP solutions to end-users which, in turn, means they are not always able to make an informed decision. This is inhibiting adoption as a result.”

Departmental collaboration
Organisations that have made the leap to converged-IP now need to ensure their internal resources are organised for the business to derive maximum value from its system’s capabilities. Chris Ferrari, Facilities Manager at King’s College London called for greater collaboration between IT, FM (facilities management) and security departments, highlighting the need for a new cross departmental culture to be forged. He said: “Experience from each of these departments will be needed if the systems are to reach full potential.”

IP data can be used to make immediate enhancements to a site’s operations. Systems can be set up to activate one another, according to pre-determined triggers. An out-of-hours card swipe at a particular access point, for example, can be programmed to trigger a neighbouring CCTV camera to focus on the doorway in question and commence recording. The increased resolution of HD-CCTV images enable facial recognition to be conducted on a building’s occupants, allowing the identity of swipe cardholders to be verified before access to protected areas of the building is granted. Fire and incident alarms can trigger immediate CCTV visibility of the zone in question, and trigger automatically lock down (or release) of fire doors or entrances in order to aid evacuation or contain an incident. All such benefits can only be reaped, however, if the business knows what it wants to achieve and how to go about setting up the system accordingly. Further down the line, data gathered from IP security systems can potentially feed into a whole variety of other business processes, such as an organisation’s drive to reduce its power consumption, by identifying redundant equipment, for example, or detecting air conditioned zones that remain uninhabited.

Retail benefits
In retail, where the primary objectives behind IP security are to reduce theft of goods and mitigate fraudulent accident claims, huge steps are already being taken. Michelle Douglas, National Safety and Loss Manager, River Island, is planning to introduce IP-converged HD-CCTV in early 2015. She said: “It will enable security staff to respond faster to incidents of theft because we can track suspicious activity in HD and in real time. We have already built a strong reputation for in-store security. Many known shoplifters no longer target River Island stores. We’re driving them to our competitors’ stores instead!”

What is clear is that a great deal of work still needs to be done before UK enterprises will reap all the benefits of IP-converged security systems. The role of integrators will be key to this progress, not just in driving awareness and adoption of the systems themselves, but also in consulting with organisations about how they can migrate at a pace that suits their appetite for change and also how their all new, connected systems can be utilised to deliver maximum value to the business.


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