But over the past
5 years things have changed significantly. A plethora of highly flexible security
management systems from companies like Cardax, DVTel, Genetec, Milestone, Inner
Range, GE, Lenel and others, are changing the way security teams handle the
management of their sites.

It goes without
saying that there are a number of developments that have occurred
simultaneously that are facilitating this, particularly improvements in global
networking infrastructure. But there are other important changes, too. The
rapid swing to digital video now allows surveillance to be integrated with
access control and alarm events in a networked environment in a way that has
never been possible before.

We know access
control has long dwelt in a networked environment but taking support for video
surveillance to the door controller level now allows security teams to see
events as they occur. For the uninitiated it might appear that the construction
of a capable security management system would be a fairly easy thing to
achieve. But the truth is that welding a wide range of programs and protocols
together is a major challenge for integrators. In many cases, programmers have had
to build interfaces for each additional layer as it has been added to a
management system – in some cases HLIs have been written for one device at a
time. This sounds agonising because it is agonising.

Importantly
though, the latest security management solutions are fast evolving beyond this
point. As the IP market solidifies and the players make their alliances, the
sharing of interfaces between manufacturers of devices and control systems, and
the developers of management systems, is roaring ahead. And it’s not just a
case of alliances between manufacturers for the sake of business that’s on the
job. The broader industry is pushing the integration agenda as well.

The ONVIF and
PSIA groups, both of which are committed to developing open architecture in
networked security environments, are also facilitating the next level of
building management where devices and systems will offer installers and end
users unprecedented integration.

I think it’s a
mistake to think it’s going to be a totally open road ahead – there are too
many vested commercial interests involved for that. But what we will see is an
integration landscape where some companies are on the inside and others are on
the outside. This imperative is likely to be felt in consultants’
specifications as well as in the real world where some independent systems will
plug and play together, while others demand the horror of a written
application.

It goes without
saying that while most the big management systems are used to bring together
disparate electronic systems on single sites and sites that are geographically
close, this won’t always be the case. Next-gen internet, further improvements
to comms and networking infrastructure and improvements in compression
protocols, are likely to join forces to allow the construction of enterprise
wide security management systems on a grand scale.

Sure – such
functionality does exist today but it’s able to work the way we’d like it to. Getting
live video around current global networks runs foul of significant and multiple
sources of latency that will take time to resolve. Importantly though, an
enterprise management future is not only possible – it’s now a certainty.