Monday, May 26, 2014

Intrusion Security in the 21st Century

By Allan B. Colombo

Electronic intrusion detection has experienced significant changes over the past few decades. Some of them include advances in technology while others involve how traditional alarm companies do business. This is especially true where projects demand network connections and advanced forms of integration.

In this story, we’ll take a look at important technological trends, we’ll examine why it’s sometimes necessary for traditional alarm companies to partner with systems integrators, and we’ll look at several ways in which the very face of intrusion protection could change in the somewhat distant future. To help us do this we’ll call on the expertise of a long-time security expert, Richard Cantor, CEO, with Amerigard Alarm & Security Corp., New York, NY.

Trends in Technology
On the technical side, one of the most notable changes seen in intrusion protection is how security systems integrate with consumer-oriented mobile devices, such as smart phones.

“Today everything is market driven in the end and our industry and the technology which is now offered is all blending together. We are indeed in the iPhone/Internet age. The bottom line is consumers are savvy about products, services and pricing,” says Cantor.

A good example of this is the ability for the homeowner to control their residential alarm system from a remote location using a laptop or cell phone from anywhere in the world. The same connection allows them to view one or more cameras, as well as affect temperature, lighting, and other subsystems in the home.

Business owners and managers also have come to rely on these same technological features. This has effectively extended their reach into the workplace itself, which allows them to keep a closer eye on shoplifting and internal theft. This involves a relatively high level of integration.

“From a product offering standpoint things are blending together more and more. Security systems now offer home automation and home automation systems offer security, and both can take advantage of new wireless protocols such as Z-wave,” says Cantor.

Cantor also says that “…our industry is moving toward cloud type services with Honeywell's Total Connect services, 2Gig's new product line, and Elk's--which has been around for some time now. So right now it’s the wild, wild west out there.”

For example, Home Automation Inc. of New Orleans is poised to integrate wireless, digital locksets and lighting controls with HAI’s Omni-Pro controller using Zigbee technology. This same methodology can be used to link these same locksets with the homeowner remotely over the Internet. More and more we’re also seeing the use of wireless networks using WiFi.

The problem for some traditional alarm companies, however, is that security technicians often lack the necessary skill sets to deal with digital technology in the network realm. When this is the case, it’s not uncommon for them to contract with systems integrators to assist them with the Internet Protocol (IP) side of the job.

IP Video Surveillance
IP network technology now abounds in any number of disciplines within the security venue, including access control, life safety, and CCTV (Closed Circuit Television).

“The CCTV market is in the vortex of developing changes in technology from IP and megapixel cameras to network recorders and analytics with no firm direction yet,” says Cantor.

For example, more and more alarm dealers are being asked by their clients—both residential and commercial—to provide outside access to camera systems. Consumers simply want to take advantage of all the benefits that today’s digital IP technology provides. The same technology can be used by central station operations to look in on facilities immediately after receiving an alarm signal. Police also can be let into a building remotely by the owner over the Internet as well as central station personnel.

“You could add the prospect of remote video monitoring, though that is likely to remain a small niche market,” says Cantor.

There are those who are sure to disagree with Cantor’s assessment in as much as many communities have mandated the use of video verification or some other means to curb the unnecessary dispatch of police officers and fire fighters. Remote video has long offered this capability and will continue to do so in the years to come.

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Central Station Operations
Specifically, IP technology enables central station operators to integrate central station computers with cameras on site. This allows them to look in on specific locations within a facility where alarm signals originate.

By verifying whether anyone is actually there allows the operator to make a determination whether to dispatch the authorities. And, where video is recorded, operators can look back at recorded clips, especially those taken in the vicinity of motion detectors and other intrusion devices that caused the alarm.

The same effect can be achieved by integrating alarm systems with the video motion detection built into some modern IP cameras, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), and other network devices. Mobotix IP Megapixel cameras, for example, not only have the ability to send images by email, but they can generate voice prompts that can be played to the assailant via an audible device.

Many times integration is as easy as linking a DVR with a modem or router while other times it requires additional effort. Traditional alarm technicians who lack the skill sets necessary to complete this portion of the job are turning to systems integrators for assistance. For this reason it’s important for traditional alarm firms to develop partnerships with such. Systems integrators are the best choice because they deal with network technology on a daily basis. The Future of Intrusion Protection Although experts will vary on what they see ahead for intrusion protection, radical changes are sure to lie ahead that will change the face of our industry. Two technological changes that I believe will do this is artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition, coupled with changes in communication technology.

“The CCTV market is in the vortex of developing changes in technology from IP and MegaPixel cameras to network recorders and analytics with no firm direction yet. Then in general all sorts of technologies are merging together,” says Cantor. “Alarm systems now incorporate access control and home automation and as soon as we have accurate facial recognition systems, access control will be revolutionized. Then you will see real integration of alarm, access control, and CCTV.”

Later in the 21st Century it’s quite possible that intrusion security will take the form of a fully integrated access/security system using facial recognition combined with AI technology. Gone will be traditional door switches, motion sensors, and access control cards, tokens, and fobs. At that point the AI controlled system will know who belongs and who does not. Through a host of cameras, the AI will also be able to determine when a break-in has taken place. Equipped with the right action plan, the appropriate response will ensue.

Taking this concept one step further, by mobilizing the AI controlled system to include roving mobile units, equipped with cameras, voice interfaces, and other attributes and features, it will be possible to confront those who enter a protected space. Verification of identity will take place using facial recognition, voice, hand geometry, genetic markers, and/or other biometric attributes. When an unauthorized individual is discovered, it will be possible to notify the appropriate authorities for immediate response as a perpetrator(s) is maintained in one of many locations that may act as a man trap.

No matter how you look at the future, intrusion protection will never be the same as in years past. As we move further into the 21st Century, the use of network technology is sure to increase while older methods of detection, identity verification, and signaling fall by the wayside. In their place will be a brave new world.

About the Author
Allan B. Colombo is a 28-year trade journalist in the life-safety and physical security markets. His work has appeared in numerous publications throughout North America, including Security Distributing & Marketing, Security Sales & Integration, The Electrical Distributor (TED), Electrical Contractor, Security & Life Safety Magazine, Security Dealer & Integrator, Locksmith Ledger, and others. To contact Al Colombo, call 330-956-9003, email him at or visit the Safety & Security Facebook Page at


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