Buildings Looking to Integrate Security Systems With Automation
Integrating building automation and physical access control can allow building operators to control all building functions on a single interface.
SEVERAL years ago we were asked to solve a unique problem for a large sports arena. Overseeing a year-round, active venue hosting numerous events, venue management was specifically concerned about the monitoring of equipment during the overlapping basketball and hockey seasons.
The issue was that during part of the basketball season, the hardwood floor lies on top of the frozen hockey ice, and no one from the building was present to monitor the equipment that keeps the ice frozen.
Because the security staff didn’t have access to the facility’s network to view the data, they had to walk across the building – once an hour – to check the temperature of the ice. A solution was needed to integrate the security system with the building automation system to, ultimately, reduce the amount of staff time lost checking on both systems.
Big Benefits to Connecting Building & Security Systems
Customer requests for integration between building security and building automation have become more common in recent years for a variety of reasons. Building codes require more automation to meet energy efficiency targets, and, at the same time, building operators are using automation to cut costs.
Integrating physical access control provides real-time intelligent occupancy data to the building automation system that can trigger different HVAC and lighting patterns based on tenant preferences. Instead of managing door unlock schedules in one system and lights and temperature in another, for instance, the operator of an integrated building automation and physical access control system can schedule an event in a single user interface.
A number of traditional building automation platforms have added physical access control and video to their software platform to simplify implementation and allow them to offer a turnkey solution for facility managers. In the security space, physical security information management (PSIM) solutions have accomplished the same to a lesser extent. These solutions, however, haven’t slowed the deployment of standalone systems. While an all-in-one solution may work well for a building where there is a single owner operator, many buildings have multiple tenants or more complex security needs that can’t be solved as such.
Customers and their integrators need to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of connecting disparate systems together. If there is a solid business case and realistic expectations, a project has a much better chance of being successful.
Fortunately for integrators, most building automation systems use open communication protocols such as BACNet and LonWorks to connect to HVAC, lighting and other subsystems. This allows field equipment from different manufacturers to interoperate, and it simplifies the ability to integrate with other systems. Older equipment may use hardwired independent networks that require a gateway, but newer equipment operates using Ethernet-enabled technology that can communicate over the same networks as security devices.
Strong Design Skills Needed to Execute Proper Solutions
It is important to know how these protocols work across the network. Unlike video, these systems don’t use large amounts of bandwidth, but the network must be robust enough that commands and alarms are not lost or dropped. In some cases, additional devices may be needed to interconnect them so information is relayed quickly. In other cases, special software and licensing may be required to enable the appropriate functionality.
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Of course, not all integrations go smoothly. A number of years ago there was an instance where an end-user business wired duress alarms to an access control system that ran on a building automation network connected to a PSIM. The system worked, but it was slow to respond to an alarm condition because it was set up to poll all of the building points in sequence, rather than send alarms as high priority events. The solution was to install a more sophisticated controller with the features they needed, but the cost and delays could have been avoided had the system designer understood the technology and customer expectations better.
It’s not uncommon for different companies or individuals to be in charge of building automation, networking and physical security systems for a project. It’s not necessary to be proficient in all, as long as the requirements and capabilities can be communicated with the customer and vendors to deliver a complete solution.
For the arena mentioned earlier, we partnered with the building automation vendor and the customer’s network provider to use commercial, off-the-shelf software to link the security and building automation systems using industry standard protocols. It took time and planning, but in the end the customer’s needs were met and an integrated solution was delivered.
As more building systems become a connected part of the Internet, innovation and technology will certainly allow more and better integration to occur between the building automation and security systems. New innovations may have the potential to dramatically change the customer experience, but whether customers choose to integrate will likely depend on the benefits and level of confidence they have in their integrator.
Bio: Brad Konkle is Engineer Director — Software Solutions Group for Stanley Security. Reach him at Brad.Konkle@sbdinc.com.
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