Common Technology Oversights
In my experience, there are three very common discoveries when I reach out to new potential partners:
- A lack of awareness that their existing systems have much more potential functionality than they currently utilize.
- A realization they have invested too much money in related systems that have no potential to work together.
- Disappointment when I point out they have no VISION for leveraging technology to improve efficiency and mitigate risk, no DESIGN STANDARD to drive future system selection and no ROAD MAP to prioritize investment.
As a consultant, I find it is important initial meetings are positive. Highlighting these oversights may be a painful experience, if the discussion is mishandled. It is critical to help an end-user’s team become excited about the future of these systems, after concerns have been addressed… I have a PASSION for applied technology. I attempt to ensure everyone around me knows that excitement. Applying technology to resolve challenges and improve operational efficiency is challenging AND very rewarding. As design professionals, we lower costs, improve profits and mitigate risk and liability. A value message that should be conveyed with every interaction. I particularly enjoy that last meeting on every project when we review results, discuss what has been achieved and adjust that road map (discussed above) to check items off the list.
Achieving the Mission
It would be impossible to share the entire discussion here, so let’s review a few important elements that will exemplify the mindset discussed above:
Professional Services Model
What should be the expectation when working with a technology vendor? I dislike the idea that a vendor’s only role is to sell and install systems/equipment. Automated solutions are complex and require years of training and experience to fully understand applications. These companies should be “partners”, not just “contractors”.
What does it mean to be a partner? Simply put: a partner adds value to the relationship. Too many fail to realize – the advantages to leveraging automation can be far greater than the initial investment to deploy systems.
What are Professional Services?
Your technology partner should be performing the following functions:
- Optimizing existing systems.
- Discovering an organization’s “pain-points” and recommending features and benefits of existing and new solutions to eliminate them.
- Learning an organization well enough to recommend solutions to improve operational efficiency.
- Education regarding new products and technologies.
- Assistance with developing a 3-5 year road map and future-proofing investment in technology.
A quick word of advice – if you are working with a technology company that is not capable of this kind of relationship, find one that is.
Examples of Professional Services
Database Data Exchange (DDE)
When I bring up this topic, some folks become suspicious. Database programmers are very expensive. That level of expertise and integration is unnecessary here. I am referring to “interfaces”, NOT integration. Interfaces can utilize SQL Queries and Active Directory Service Interfaces to share data. These tools are application agnostic and do NOT require an integration to be deployed. It is a best practice to ensure platforms are SQL and LDAP (AD protocol) compliant. What is the benefit of exchanging data across databases?
Simple Example – University / K-12 users all have Student Enrollment, HR, Transactional (POS), Network and Physical Security user databases which require data entry. The user database from one software platform can be selected and maintained as a source to keep the others updated. An Interface can be written to share changes (deletions/additions) at the end of every school day to eliminate data entry in the four other systems, thereby eliminating daily administrative functions involved with user record maintenance.
Advanced Example – Still using the previous example… how about expanding the information in each user record to include: security hierarchy, area of study, extra-curricular activities, etc. This information could be used to update situational permissions, privileges and building access rights, thus eliminating additional administrative functions.
Application Programming Interface (API)
API creates integrated functionality across related systems. Automating – not data exchange this time – but logic that can be used to manage “if-then” functionality for signaling devices and software, or in the most complicated scenarios – offering complex event recognition and other similar functions. This can be expensive and difficult to accomplish when customized across systems, but my suggestion here is: let others do if for you – FOR FREE!
Simple Example – Card access software has the ability to trigger other systems when an individual enters a space. This capability can be leveraged to offer numerous advantages with related systems:
- Security Authorization: Trigger a video surveillance camera to authenticate identity and add a date and time stamp to recorded video.
- Energy Savings: Trigger lighting control or HVAC VFD’s in individual areas to save energy.
- Risk & Liability Management: Synchronize audio with a video feed to monitor high-risk areas.
Advanced Example – This can get in the weeds fast, but let’s look at a few rough ideas. Here is one feature type: activity recognition across systems. Here is another: shared functionality between cloud, desktop and mobile interfaces.
How Can This Be Free?
Please read through this section more than once and incorporate into your Organizational Design Standards. Engage an integrator (partner), or consultant to research strategically aligned manufacturing partners who have already written an API across their platforms. It is that simple. Engage a quality integrator that is able to leverage this capability and you have immediately future-proofed your technology investment.
Example – Here is the setup: A multi-building campus has extensive intrusion detection (IDS) with card access (ACS) and video surveillance (VMS) systems. The campus utilizes at least a few on-site security guard personnel. The three systems have previously written API(‘s) (integration) across to the other platforms. Alarm maps have been uploaded to either the ACS, or VMS. An alarm event posts in the event log triggering a text to a guard. A guard responds by opening an app on their smart phone that shows the alarm map to pin-point the location of the security event and immediately dispatches. Enroute, the guard triggers a Macro which uses inter-operability features to pull the four real-time camera feeds closest the alarm location into a split-screen on his phone, then verifies recent ACS events. This scenario improves guard response time and preparedness and allows fewer personnel to cover the same area.
Not the Future, Now!
I hope I have been successful in describing the potential functionalities that can be achieved with this approach. This capability is here now. Why not put this on your Technology Road Map, or begin suggesting this approach to your clients today?
This site is maintained by Douglas Levin, PSP, AHC, LEED AP. It is intended to be my personal professional blog. The content reflects my personal opinions and observations regarding the Physical Security Systems industry and Technology Sectors. The opinions expressed herein reflect my personal viewpoint/ideas and do not in any way represent the position of any other person, organization or company.