Security Systems Turn Up The Heat
 
Security Systems Turn Up The Heat

May 1, 2003 12:00 PM
By MICHAEL FICKES

The $8 billion Fortune 500 SCANA Corp. has begun to integrate the controls of its company-wide building security systems, fire safety systems, and heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems into an all-in-one system based in its Columbia, S.C., headquarters.

SCANA owns electric, natural gas, and telecommunications businesses and facilities across Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Eventually, a single Honeywell system called Enterprise Building Integrator (EBI) will enable authorized personnel in Columbia to use a single computer station to adjust the temperature in a Myrtle Beach facility, monitor a fire alarm in a Raleigh, N.C. facility, zoom in on a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera view in an Atlanta facility, and activate access control and photo ID cards for new employees in a facility in Fayetteville, N.C.

Traveling security and facility managers will be able to log onto the company's wide area network (WAN) and to respond to alarms from any of SCANA's wide-reaching facilities or from a laptop in a hotel room.

In addition, personnel putting in overtime on weekends will be able to activate the HVAC in their offices by carding in through the access control system. When they leave for the day, carding out will return the HVAC to weekend settings.

Integrating security and building control systems inside a single facility and among many facilities is becoming more practical as hardware and software systems inch toward more open and less proprietary designs.

In 2000, SCANA decided to move toward open building system architecture. The first step in the SCANA transition came with the installation of EBI, a system designed to manage diverse building systems, including those related to HVAC, lighting, fire safety, and security. EBI manages building systems based on open standards such as LonWorks and BACnet. In addition, EBI can communicate with access controllers and readers outside the Honeywell fold.

Scott Cleary, SCANA's supervisor for technical systems, is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of open building systems. "You are married to closed technology until you want to change it out completely," he says. "Open architecture gives you options. If one supplier's products don't perform, you can replace them with another supplier's products."

While building system technologies have become more open in recent years, security technology has yet to reach this level, says Steve Switzer, a field program specialist with Honeywell. But there is progress. Honeywell has enabled EBI to work with several intelligent access controllers, including panels from PCSC, NexWatch, and other suppliers.

SCANA recently completed the access control changeover to EBI, new readers and new controllers. Company-wide, the new system consists of 600 HID readers. About 175 readers and 15 to 20 intelligent boards control access to SCANA's headquarters. The remainder of the readers control access to other SCANA facilities.

The headquarters is open to the public, and readers do not control access to the building's main entrances. Instead, SCANA security officers provide perimeter security by patrolling the main entrances. "Inside the facility, access is controlled with technology," Cleary says.

Readers and alarm contacts protect sensitive offices as well as the stairwell doors leading to the elevator lobbies on each floor of the 20-story building.

A Honeywell badging system and Fargo Electronics printer produce photo ID badges and proximity cards for the company's 8,000 employees and numerous vendors. The company's three-state network of facilities draws on the services of five primary badging stations and several smaller remote stations.

The EBI system has enabled SCANA to begin what has so far been a relatively smooth transition by bringing the access control onto the network. As time, budget, and other priorities dictate, Cleary will integrate other building systems into EBI.
Next Steps: CCTV, Fire, and HVAC

Now that EBI is running the access control system, SCANA has moved on to the next leg of the integration process: CCTV.

Currently, SCANA's CCTV consists of color cameras and switchers supplied by Pelco, Clovis, Calif. Integral Technologies, Indianapolis, supplies the digital video recorders (DVRs).

Approximately 50 cameras monitor the SCANA headquarters building. Cleary declines to discuss security systems in remote locations, noting only that all of the company's facilities are monitored.

To manage the CCTV system with EBI, the cameras must connect to the company's network, where EBI resides. The connection requires a device called a video streamer, which takes in analog video signals and pumps out digital video signals. The digital data flows from the streamer into a network connection and looks for another server with a particular Internet Protocol or IP address. Thanks to the network and the magic of IP addresses, the video can flow to the security center switcher without the need for dedicated cabling.

While not open in a strict sense, the system's architecture will allow Cleary to evaluate and purchase video streamers from different vendors.

Working with Honeywell, Cleary has set up a test for the integrated CCTV configuration at one of SCANA's remote sites. "We're testing the functionality of the video components, and so far we're pleased with the results," he says.

The tests are also evaluating the effect of digital video transmissions on the SCANA network. Will it slow the day-to-day flow of business data through the network to unacceptable levels? "We've put a huge amount of video on the network, and the effects so far have been negligible," Cleary says.

When the video streamers and network transmission capabilities prove themselves to Cleary, he will begin to connect streamers to each camera on the system and slowly move the entire CCTV network onto SCANA's WAN. After that, Cleary will replace the proprietary digital video recorders with a system of video servers managed by the company's IT department. "That should provide us with unlimited video storage and lower costs," Cleary says. "It will also make it easier to replace equipment. If a DVR fails, we have to order a replacement. If a server fails, the IT department simply downloads the video and puts it on another server already in inventory.

Integrating the fire safety and HVAC systems will follow a similar pattern, says Steve Switzer, a field program specialist with Honeywell. Connecting any device to the network requires some kind of intelligent interface that produces a digital output. Intelligent controllers provide the digital output for the access control system. Video streamers provide the digital output for the CCTV system. Similarly, digital controllers will enable fire alarm and HVAC data to enter the network.

EBI provides graphical screens with floor plans and icons of all the control points on the system. By clicking on the icons, it will be possible to manage all of the digital data arriving from the access control and CCTV security servers (or controllers) as well as from the fire safety and HVAC controllers.

Consolidated security and building controls will provide SCANA personnel with important advantages during emergencies. "If there is an outdoor air quality problem such as smoke, you don't have to go to three or four PCs to shut down the outdoor air," says Switzer. "You can start and stop the HVAC fans from one interface. You can also command the fire safety system and the access control system from the same interface. You don't have to move back and forth or train people on different systems."

Truly open systems may not reach the broad security technology market for some time. Still, SCANA's work with Honeywell suggests that it is possible today for a company and a technology provider to cooperate in integrating systems that offer benefits beyond yesterday's strictly proprietary technology.
Michael Fickes is a Cockeysville, Md.-based writer and regular contributor to Access Control & Security Systems.


 
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