Smart Solutions: Courtesy Switching
Many end users will make an investment in a security system for a number of reasons. Top of the agenda is risk mitigation, closely followed by compliance and duty of care issues. However, the system which they purchase will be capable of many more functions, and sometimes including simple value-based additions can make a difference to the users’ attitudes towards budgets. For example, even something as simple as courtesy lighting is a necessity at many sites, and can be deployed as a standard part of a security system.
When considering the implementation of a smart solution, it is easy to get somewhat carried away. Smart solutions most certainly can control entire buildings, campuses and even cities, but it more likely that they won’t! The most popular smart solutions carry out everyday mundane tasks, but do so without any need for interaction or distraction. In short, the end user knows the tasks have been carried out and so can keep their attention on things more important, such as running their business or organisation.
It is easy to consider some tasks as too simple for an advanced security system, but it should be remembered that security industry thinking does not always align with that of business managers. What we see as simple – switching a light or opening a gate, for example – may be a value-added function for the customer.
Benchmark was told about one installation where the security company had been asked whether the system being installed could also switch off lighting when areas were not occupied. Thinking that such a simple task would need to be very cost-effective, the company quoted an additional low cost which included a minimal profit.
The additional work was not awarded to the security company. A networking company was also working at the site and had quoted a cost at around 500 per cent of the security company’s price for the same functionality. The user did not believe that the task could be carried out at the lower cost. Afterwards the integrator involved admitted they had lost the work because they had underestimated the value of that function to the end user.
With regard to courtesy lighting, it has to be said that there are a plethora of low cost options out there. Security floodlights with integral PIRs can be had for a few pounds, and the internet throws up a whole range of lighting controllers for a pittance! However, none of these create the professional first impression some businesses seek.
Additionally, these low-cost options are ‘dumb’. They turn a light on or off, and that’s it. They cannot include any integration with other elements of the security system, and do not offer the ability to change the performance of the device dependent upon site status conditions.
In short, they are not an alternative to the flexibility offered when a credible security system makes use of its additional functionality to offer simple site management benefits.
Professional security systems not only offer consistent performance, reduced nuisance activations, integration and greater flexibility with regard to scheduling, but more often than not the devices can serve multiple uses. When the system is set an external detection device can form a part of the overall security coverage for the site. When unset, the same device can be used for the automation of other non-security devices.
If the site makes use of a VMS such as Milestone’s XProtect range, a smart intruder alarm system such as Texecom Connect or an advanced access control system such as Net2 from Paxton, it is a simple task to add switching of non-security devices.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) estimates that slips, trips and falls have an annual cost to businesses in excess of £500 million. The move towards a more litigious society has been driven by an army of ‘no win, no fee’ lawyers eager to contest any injury in the workplace. Businesses can ill afford to ignore any potential risks on their site.
Because the systems can offer a smart solution, there are a number of options which may be implemented. For example, something as simple as a staff member using an access control token to exit a workplace offers a wide range of opportunities. During prescribed hours, this could switch external lighting. However, the additional cost of an exit reader is easily justified because the system can also deliver accurate occupancy information, muster reporting, time and attendance data, payroll information and so on. Adding an exit reader to switch lighting might seem extreme, but it’s actually a part of an overall smart approach which delivers additional benefits to the user.
It has to be accepted that the example being used here – switching a light – is, in the grand scheme of things, not difficult to achieve. However, the courtesy element of a system need not be limited to lighting. The ability to link lighting with video, for example, ensures activity-based image capture in good lighting conditions. When the system is set (or a specific mode is in operation) the lights, cameras and other devices can perform differently. Additionally, control of gates, barriers and doors can be automated where public or visitor access is required. Again, when the system is set, these can add to the protection of entry and exit points.
As more manufacturers introduce added value products to supplement security systems, the range of benefits that can be introduced increases. In the vast majority of cases the devices being used for security will still detect motion or behaviours when the system is unset. This functionality is already available, but in a system solely used for security is not exploited in any way. By utilising the information for other non-security tasks, the system delivers business efficiencies.
If installers and integrators are not offering the additional functionality, the end user will still need to provide systems to control courtesy lighting, gate automation, traffic management and a host of other tasks. As the security system is being installed anyway, and many of the protected areas will be entrances and exits, approaches, gates, etc., it makes sense to offer the additional functions.
Exploiting the flexibility inherent in modern security systems is often a simple process. Much of the required functionality is built in to the products and systems, and often the biggest requirement is for the installer or integrator to keep an open mind to allow a more flexible way of approaching security system design. Many businesses and organisations are already making use of converged technologies to realise business efficiencies, and as such they expect to get more from any and all modern technology-based systems. Without added benefits, there is a risk that security systems will be seen as a ‘grudge’ purchase by some customers.
However, even the most simple non-security functions mean that end users will interact with their systems on a day-to-day basis to achieve positive benefits. This eliminates any feeling of ‘grudge’ because the system is working for them. It remains a security system, with the main task being the protection of people, premises and assets, but it also adds value to day-to-day operations.
Access systems can make use of auxiliary outputs to trigger non-security devices. Additionally, advanced access systems such as Paxton’s Net2 solution can be fully integrated with Milestone’s XProtect VMS access module. As such, it can be part of a smart solution delivering courtesy switching as well as more advanced integrations. This ensures a very high degree of flexibility, with actions triggered by transactions or access events, specific individuals and even sequences of events.
Detection obviously plays a significant role in switching, and using credible detectors is essential. Whilst external PIRs and dual techs do a very good job of detecting people, active infrared beams can also be used to protect gates and approach roads and will detect both people and vehicles.
This makes it possible for non-security devices to be triggered when vehicles arrive at site during periods when the system is unset. These could be scheduled so that during high traffic periods such as the start of day of when scheduled deliveries occur to allow free entry. During other periods they might trigger digital signage, deliver a notification to a warehouse manager if a loading bay is entered, or in the winter months could switch courtesy lighting between the car park and building entrance.
For ease of installation, Optex offers wireless photobeams. These can be connected to a VMS, reaping benefits when it comes to integration and advanced flexibility.
Optex detectors can be specified as including an IP interface which allows simple addition of the Milestone XProtect platform. Where legacy detectors exist, the Optex PIE-1 IP interface allows a quick and easy integration. Optex detectors can also be specified with a wireless Ricochet interface. This allows them to be used as part of a Texecom Connect system.
Texecom Connect makes use of Recipes which allow systems to include advanced security scenarios based on AND/OR logic. These can also include automation such as the switching of any powered device. The wireless nature of the Ricochet platform ensures ease of installation with a high degree of stability.
Finally, video analytics can be supported by Axis cameras, with options from Axis themselves and from a range of third party suppliers. Because of the approach taken by Axis, installers are able to pick and choose which analytics are running on which specific cameras, and these can serve dual purposes, with scheduling allowing different actions as and when required.
In most security applications, the devices required for simple non-security tasks already are in place. While some non-security tasks require devices to be located in special positions (such as people counting), the majority do not. The additional configuration time is minimal, but for the customer it adds value, and that’s a positive for any installation.