In the past, access control management was handled in a very centralized manner, similar in its architecture to the shape of an octopus: the control room, with its servers, computers and monitors, as the head, and then cables running out from the control room to the video cameras and building controllers and, ultimately, the edge devices.
Because there was no other way for these items to securely communicate other than by cables, that was pretty much the way it had to be. Given the limitations of the technology at the time, there were some advantages to this design: everything could be monitored and controlled from a single location and the security staff was right there in the same room and thus could communicate and coordinate effectively. But there were also several disadvantages: if the Security Director or CSO left the control room, he or she had no idea what was going on in their facility, usually relying on a walkie-talkie, and, later, a cell phone for updates. To make things worse, information could only be communicated verbally (literally drawing pictures with words), which was a slow and ineffective way to transfer visual images (as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words). Furthermore, in the event of a well-planned attack, there was a single location that could be targeted to take out the security command and control structure of an entire facility.
Things have changed. Today, we have a nearly ubiquitous network of wireless internet services. That, combined with modern tablets and smartphones with amazing computing power designed specifically for portability and accessibility, have opened up a world of mobility that would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago. This has allowed security systems to decentralize their people and hardware. Now, access control systems like the Frontier Integrated Platform and video management systems like Frontier Video have web clients and downloadable apps that security managers can run on their tablets and smartphones that allow them to visually check alarm statuses, view video, and even control PTZ (Pan/ Tilt/ Zoom) cameras. This has a number of benefits over the old “octopus” model: first, it frees the Security Director or CSO to move about the facility while still maintaining situational awareness, allowing him or her to maximize their productivity. Also, it allows for the monitoring of multiple facilities simultaneously, which eliminates the need to have a separate control room and team at each facility, freeing up already-limited resources. In addition, it allows for decentralized management, adding a level of redundancy to security management, so that if one person or location becomes unable to manage the security system, someone else in a different location can take over.
Much like the transition of video cameras from analog to IP, this move towards mobility in access control and video management systems is just another example of the steady trend of Security and IT Services coming together as security systems move on to networks and, ultimately, the cloud.
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