Video Surveillance helps Access Control

When a customer inquires about controlling access to their facility they may be thinking only of credentials such as cards or key fobs, plus readers and software that allow them to set time schedules and permissions. Their only questions may be how many users, doors and workstations the access system supports. Of course, access control technology has come a long way from these types of basic capabilities. It behooves the installing security contractor, therefore, to educate the customer on the more comprehensive solutions that are available.
Customers may understand their basic needs and wants, but they look to their system design and installation partners to be the expert who will tell them the best way to address these requirements. If they come to you with a specific system in mind, ask them a few probing questions to get them thinking in a new way about their current and future needs. For example, ask the customer that is looking for a basic system if there are areas within their facility or specific doors that are higher risk or require extra security. These areas may present you with upselling opportunities.
It is up to you to raise the customer’s awareness of how the latest access control technology can better meet the needs they have currently and those they expect to have in five to 10 years. After all, no one wants to invest in a system that will lack the ability to scale with them as their facility or organization grows and their needs become more complex.
If the customer appears open to the advanced capabilities of access control systems, ask questions that will lead them toward video integration, a powerful way to add an extra layer of security for their facility. For example, ask if they’d like to be able to see the person presenting the access credential before granting entry to high-risk areas or a visual log of who entered the facility after-hours.
While gaining essential access control capabilities, customers with integrated video can also avoid common risks such as tailgating and the unauthorized use of credentials that standard access control systems do not address.
Presenting hypothetical scenarios, such as the ones found in this article, can more readily explain the benefits of access control with video integration. These advantages center on greater overall control of the facility, the means to investigate access events through live or recorded video, and the ability to respond faster to security risks.
The result for the customer is a much more streamlined way to examine invalid badge use, door forced open, door held open or other alarm events. And they can view live or recorded video and control pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras directly within the access control user interface.
Integrated systems provide alarm verification that instantly displays live video images from nearby cameras upon an alarm event at a door, such as when a person presents an unauthorized credential or when a door is forced open. With this capability, the operator does not need to know which camera to select to investigate the event as the system automatically displays the appropriate video on the screen.
This level of instant response can improve the overall performance of a customer’s security staff. Security personnel do not need to go to the site of an event to investigate an alarm. They can view video of the event from their workstations and positively identify the cause, only going to the alarm location when follow-up is necessary. This reduces the amount of time security personnel spend away from their workstations and better prepares them with an understanding of the situation when they do need to visit the location.
Linking the time and date of access events to recorded video also facilitates easy identification, retrieval and playback of past events and alarms. For example, if a system operator is not at his workstation when an alarm occurs, he can quickly find out what triggered the alarm by viewing the recorded video. Operators can do this right from the system’s event log with just a mouse click. Pre- and post-alarm recording options also enable the operator to see video from immediately before and after the alarm event.
Access events can trigger cameras or recording settings to change without operator intervention. For example, an access event can prompt a p/t/z camera to move into a preset position or it can cause a DVR to record at a higher frame rate to capture more details of the event. Prompting higher-quality recordings ensures the video resolution is sufficient for thorough investigation of access events.
Local recording or archiving of live images or video clips from integrated video storage devices is also possible with most systems, giving customers the ability to capture individual snapshots related to important events.
Video can also become a more proactive tool and give security personnel better situational awareness through verification of access requests. When a reader is set for video verification and a person requests access, the cardholder’s image stored in the access database and multiple live camera views automatically appear on the screen and can be simultaneously recorded. A front-view camera allows for facial comparisons between the live camera and the static database image. At the same time, an overview camera can help the operator determine whether or not other threats exist at the door. If all appears normal, operators can manually open the door from their workstations to grant the cardholder access. This capability allows the immediate identification of threats, like the use of stolen credentials or tailgating, and helps ensure only authorized people are granted access to the facility or sensitive area within the building.
If a customer isn’t quite ready for video integration but sees it as a strong possibility in the future, choose a system that has this capability incorporated to provide an easy upgrade path down the road.
The process of tying together access and video — previously facilitated by the integrator — is now simplified through integrated systems provided by the manufacturer. What once the integrator achieved through “relay magic” (physically wiring together inputs and relays) manufacturers now provide built-in capability through logical control over an IP network.
Logical integration eliminates the need for multiple software platforms and interfaces. This results in fewer complications greater event-driven functionality, reduced installation time and costs, and simplified configuration. With built-in video integration, the system’s capabilities can easily advance when your customer’s needs require it or when budgets allow for the added expense of camera acquisition and installation.
When evaluating the various platforms available for access and video integration, make sure to look for the ability to display live video of an event. Almost all platforms allow the playback of recorded video associated with an event, but the ability to display live video will give end users greater control and improved situational awareness.
Also, look for systems that feature intuitive, graphical user interfaces and embedded help screens that provide step-by-step installation and programming direction. These features will reduce programming time and simplify system management, an important consideration when upselling access control. End users may be eager for the added capability but hesitant to sign up for a system that will require a significant increase in labor costs.
An easy-to-use platform also makes training the customer simpler, also an essential consideration. If the end user does not understand the system or use it to its full potential, they may feel the upsell was not in their best interests. Instead, customers should feel they were provided a system that not only meets their requirements, but gives them capabilities they may not have known they wanted but now cannot live without.
Also, consider whether a Web-based or client-server system is best for your customer. With no software to install and no additional computer hardware required, Web-based systems often provide faster setup and system configuration. End users can fully manage the system from any computer equipped with a standard Web browser via a dial-up modem, local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN) or intranet/Internet connection.
A Web browser can easily handle both the access and video control processes. However, a client server-based system may be the better choice if it supports the number of cardholders, readers, time zones, and inputs and outputs that will more closely meet the customer’s needs.

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