Market-Driven Custom Applications
The list of possibilities for custom integration is literally endless (see sidebar on page 65). Although opportunities do exist in smaller installations, generally integrators will see potential for customization in larger, more complex projects. This is partly due to the amount of systems running, devices installed and intricacy of business processes or regulations typically found in these enterprise deployments. Regardless, some markets are more open to the idea, simply because there is a need.
City-wide deployments, for example, are very open to customization efforts since they have multiple security and business-related systems functioning in tandem. Often, they are blending video surveillance, access control, license plate recognition, analytics, portal overt digital systems (PODS), computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) systems, gun detection and so much more. They also require above-par efficiency when handling events or emergencies, and rely heavily on technology to ensure data is being shared across all entities.
Universities are also great candidates for in-depth customization. Typically, they are very forward-thinking in their approach to security and their IT departments will proactively pitch ideas. At the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM), for instance, the residence halls have been equipped with a new campus alert system. This was developed through an SDK in response to state fire marshals who believed locks on shared bathroom doors in the dorms could be a safety hazard.
“We’ve helped ULM install an input device in dorm bathrooms that triggers an alarm in the system saying, ‘Assistance needed in dorm 104,’” says Brian Smith of United Automation. “So instead of having the student call into the dispatch center, they would pull a switch on the wall and an UPD operator would be able to dispatch a police officer to help the student.”
Giant retailers are also very much interested in custom efforts, specifically concerning point-of-sale integrations with video or anything to help minimize loss. Similarly, transportation organizations see value in integration onboard and wayside signage or application-specific systems like sonar technology at ports. And correctional institutions have been known to use customization to develop unique guard tour applications.
Win-Win: Commoditizing Your Ideas
As mentioned earlier, customization can help an integrator differentiate themselves in a bid, but they can also offer these services later and continue a relationship with an existing client. In some cases, when the effort is made to develop a custom application or a new functionality, an integrator can use this new solution to fulfill a broader market need. The solution itself becomes a software owned by the integrator that can be pitched to any potential customer. Because the development work is already completed, an exponential profit can be made for subsequent sales.
Customization can open a number of doors for integrators looking to expand their portfolio and win more business. And end users win too. Customization helps automate tasks, adds that extra personalization to the way a business functions, improves efficiency and system management, and ultimately can help lower operational costs. In the end, taking the time to evaluate and explore a security solution’s SDK makes smart business sense.
Field-Driven Customization Concepts
With a flexible and open security platform, developer resources available and the manufacturer ready to support an integrator’s efforts, the sky is really the limit. Some of the most open and robust SDKs on the market offer to the ability to develop some very impressive and unique system capabilities. Here are a few popular examples of custom applications that were built with the genius of an integrator developer and an SDK:
Automated lockdown driven by specific events — Not every security platform has built-in functionality for lockdown of specific areas in a building based on an event. However, it is a feature that is very popular among schools, universities, and police departments. Using development tools of security software, this is a simple macro to create where at the click of a mouse or other specified event, areas or building doors are automatically locked.
Parking lot full signage integration — Universities, airports or cities need to monitor the entrances and exits of vehicles into their parking garage so they can efficiently direct traffic to available parking areas. By integrating magnetic loops or vehicle counters within a security platform, the software will be able to recognize when the lot has reached full capacity and then trigger signage to indicate the lot is full. This automates a very mundane task, frees up valuable resources for other important tasks and enhances the level of service offered by parking facilities of major organizations.
Employee snack bar with access control and payroll integration — Using an SDK to integrate a POS workstation with access control readers and tying automated payroll deductions on the backend allows for moneyless purchases in a 24/7 unmanned break room. Employees simply select their items, swipe their cards, process their transaction and all the information is automatically relayed to the backend and deducted from their paychecks. Video surveillance integration adds another level of security, or serves to disprove any dubious claims.
Steve Bocking is Sales Engineer Manager at Genetec (genetec.com).
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