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Maximizing Your Security Systems & Integrator Relationships – Part I

Re-posted with permission from Campus Safety Magazine and edited.

Campuses face complex security technology challenges that can be daunting. Here’s how four high-level school and healthcare security end users determine the types of technologies they use, as well as how they vet the integrators they hire to install everything.

The article that follows is the result of a Commercial Security End-User Forum, where participants opined on topics ranging from the sophisticated technology solutions they seek, the inherent challenges they face and the must-haves they require in an integration partner.

End User One is the director of security for a large school district. End User Two is the director of security at a healthcare provider. End User Three is the director of support services at another healthcare provider, and End User Four is the president of a security services provider.

In-Demand Security Technology Solutions

Referencing the industry shift over the past 10 years from analog to IP, End User Two believes the industry is once again undergoing a dramatic change. The focus now, he contends, is cyber-hardening those IP-based systems, noting that it’s top of mind for larger facilities today as those threats and vulnerabilities constantly evolve.

“It’s important to continue to develop ways to meet those evolving threats,” he says. “In addition to risk mitigation, clients today want to take advantage of IP technology to use it for ways to better support their business operations. The security cameras serve to protect assets, but we’re looking to find analytical solutions to bring back value to the business.”

Analytics can provide information, for example, on how to improve space utilization to better manage building structures and layout, End User Two adds. It’s important for campus end users to not only talk to their integrators about risk but everything else the campus can do using security solutions.

“Cyber-hardening the infrastructure as a whole and learning about new tools available to help increase the value to the business are important, and asset protection is of course our No. 1 priority. But we’re looking at the analytics side as well,” says End User Two.

End User Three points to the network management system (NMS) and access system as the backbone of any security system. He concurs that analytics is worth end users’ time to explore, citing facial recognition capabilities as important in a hospital setting, which leverages that technology to remember a face, rather than relying on staff to do so. This is particularly important for End User Three since the visitor management system (VMS) at his hospital is spread out.

When End User Four was asked what he views to be the most important requested security measures and technologies today, he agrees it’s beneficial to mesh legacy and new systems to glean as much information as possible for full situational awareness.

“This is especially important in a large enterprise with multiple sites and systems to get them onto a common platform in order to collate that information so it’s actionable and useable,” he says.

Mass communications and emergency notifications have become a critical technology, as it’s essential to be able to send intelligible messages, especially on distributed campuses, End User Four adds.

From his school district’s perspective, End User One says the most crucial components of his security solution are cameras and electronic access control with lockdown capability. Given the rise of school shootings across the country, these fall into the must-haves category in the education sector.

Integration, Coverage Challenges Loom Large

Some obstacles to a successful solution highlighted by End User Four include integrating existing security systems onto a single operating platform in a way that will provide the end user with the relevant and time-sensitive information they need.

He points out that building automation systems are highly integrated and communicate well with each other to produce analytics and provide high levels of information.

“But we’ve been reticent to do that in the physical security space and it’s a challenge for end users today,” he says.

End User One says that with access control, many school districts have a wide variety of openings to cover. Hardware typically must be retrofitted, and a lot of the products may only fit on some of the doors across all of the district’s buildings. This can be costly and require multiple vendor solutions.

Another challenge, he says, is having an IT infrastructure capable of supporting all the security measures in place. For instance, he has more than 1,200 video feeds running within the schools.
The healthcare sector has some distinct challenges as well.

“The thing that would keep me up at night would be infant security,” End User Three says. “The way we’ve secured the hospital, I don’t lose sleep because we have a good team and a good system.”
Workplace violence is another issue at the forefront of healthcare security, he points out.

“We’re asking integrators what products are out there,” says End User Three. “Our staff is at risk, and the state of California recently passed the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act. It’s getting a lot of traction and play, and we’re trying to do what we can here on the ground.”

Some technologies specific to this that End User Three refers to are analytics, gunshot detection and aggression detection. He and his team have been researching options and working with their integrator to understand what’s available. End User Three stresses how important it is for an integrator to understand not only the user’s needs but also their budgets, particularly in K-12 education and healthcare markets.

“They can bring in a million-dollar solution, but the budget likely won’t be there to support it,” he says. “Understanding what you need and can afford helps you identify that solution.”

Come back next week for the rest of the article…

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