Inner Range Shows Integriti
by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Product Reviews | November 2, 2011, 7:00am AEDT
INTEGRITI represents a serious investment in money and intellectual capital and it’s impossible to understate the importance of this release to Inner Range, its distributor, CSD, and the hundreds of installers, integrators and end users that depend on it. The central focus of the design teams was to carry Integriti into a server-based environment – to make this a bona fide enterprise solution – and it’s pretty obvious that this is exactly what Inner Range has achieved.
Of equal importance to Inner Range’s engineers was ease of programming, ease of upgrade – not just in terms of initial installation, but also with importation of databases and all the fiddly things installers and end users do behind the scenes. It was pretty obvious from listening to Inner Range’s people talking at the show that enhancing installer experience was paramount to their efforts.
Importantly, the developers did not want to shift the product away from the vast pool of knowledge the industry has developed over decades installing Concept solutions. The result is a product the engineers say is similar in feel but significantly better, easier to install and far more powerful.
It’s not that Integriti is the same as Concept by any means. According to Inner Range’s Vin Lopes, Integriti is as big a leap forward as Concept 3000 was compared to Concept 2000. But while performance is enhanced, the nature of the system will be familiar to Concept initiates. Also relevant to mention here is that early in its development the Integriti prototype was known as the Matrix and all the features installers expected from the Matrix are incorporated into Integriti.
I got a look at Integriti at one of Inner Range’s workshops held in an adjacent meeting room at Sydney 2011 Exhibition. The crowd was predominantly made up of installers and they were an attentive bunch. Their interest and the packed meeting room were a testament to the respect afforded to Inner Range and this product. It also reflects the importance a major electronic security solution like this has to multiple integration and installation businesses across Australia and New Zealand.
As usual, I wanted to get an image of the board to give readers a feel for the engine of the product but perhaps unsurprisingly the Inner Range folks were a little reticent to share their board layout at this early stage so we’ll have to wait till next year for close-ups. Instead we’ve got pics of the snazzy Prisma Terminal in its new Integriti attire, along with a couple of oblique shots of the new controller.
Our demonstration was handled by Inner Range’s Adam Lopes, one of the software development team leaders on the Intigriti product. Lopes, whose enthusiasm for the product was infectious, wasted no time pointing out that Integriti is backwards compatible with Concept – in fact, to upgrade existing Concept LAN modules to Integriti you simply replace the control modules.
“This is a third generation platform from Inner Range so it builds on the experience we had with Concept 2000 and 3000 and we’ve taken the good points and we’ve changed things that could be improved upon.”
“This means there’s a great upgrade path for legacy systems and it also means that any Concept systems installed today can be upgraded quickly and cheaply in the future,” Lopes says.
“We also have a migration utility that allows installers to take existing Insight databases and import them into integrity so you can get the migration out of the way and move on to developing the new platform.”
As Lopes explains, Integriti is built to be a true enterprise class system with massive dimensions and scalability and he says Inner Range is still debating what the final numbers will be.
“The system scales to thousands of controllers, hundreds of thousands of users – possibly into millions – more than you could ever need in a real world system.
“This is a third generation platform from Inner Range so it builds on the experience we had with Concept 2000 and 3000 and we’ve taken the good points and we’ve eliminated those things that we learned could be improved upon.”
In terms of physical specifications, the Integriti controller has a 32-bit ARM CPU, 64Mb of RAM and 2Gb of Flash memory. It’s also got integrated Ethernet on board allowing IR to develop smartphone applications for remote management and uploads. There’s also USB host and USB slave capability, with USB host used for store and review, for backing up programming and updating firmware. Meanwhile the slave USB connection can be used for porting to laptops for programming. The controller also has a microSD card slot and is delivered with 2GB, though this could be upgraded if required to 4, 8, 16 or 32GB options.
A particular feature of the controller are smart fuses incorporating a microcontroller that monitor power requirements – the result of this being that the Integriti controller is resistant to shorting the LAN positive and negative – way better than glass fuses or PTC devices.
“Integriti retains the same real time architecture as Concept so although it’s got PC-style dimensions it is a real time device that will give you the same kind of reliability you expect from Concept – it’s not going to crash like a PC based system – it’s a real embedded device,” explains Lopes.
Another key area is expanders. There are multiple expansion modules with Concept – small, big, mini. Now, with Integriti, there’s a single type of connector called a Uni-bus connector and every type of expansion module from now on will always attach to the same connector. Importantly, it’s a daisy chain type, so you can attach multiple devices to a connector if required.
The demonstration system we’re viewing incorporates 4 Integriti controllers linked to an Integriti server via IP. This setup allows us to check out one of the coolest features of Integriti – namely automatic discovery of controllers on the network. Auto discovery is something that’s only recently arrived in the land of CCTV so finding Inner Range has incorporated this into an enterprise access control solution is rather neat.
Getting the controllers onboard is pretty straightforward. In Integriti software you simply hit the ‘Discover Controllers’ button and this initiates a function that locates controllers on the network. Once these are found it’s a single click to enrol a discovered controller onto the network and you then give the controller a name. There’s no need to consult a list of ID numbers – pretty sweet – and there’s no lengthy enrolment process either.
“Another cool thing about Integriti is that as you plug related gear into the LAN they are automatically discovered – the controller detects them and brings into existence all the inputs and auxiliaries without needing to show you all the possible auxiliaries that could exist or all the LAN modules that could ever exist,” explains Lopes. “This means the system grows in a dynamic way as you expand hardware.”
All the controllers can have firmware upgrade by software. You can call up a controller and see what is going on with the controller, what system is running on the controller, you can upload and change back to an older system – and do all this remotely – which is vital for sites that are hard to get to.
Remote firmware upgrade is very useful and remote rolling back means you can do firmware upgrades while knowing you can go back to the old system if something does not work as you wanted it to. Upgrade is a 2-part step, you upgrade then you check to make sure everything is working as it should. You can upgrade firmware from the smartphone app, too.
Something else that defines Integriti is its vast scale. According to Lopes, Integriti software has been developed to enterprise scale and the numbers he quotes certainly bear that out.
“At the moment our design limitations are 16 million users and 65 thousand controllers – that’s overkill – we know no one is going to encounter a system of that size – but the architecture to support such capability means any application in the real world is going to perform lightning fast. We’ve put a lot of effort into our database access engine to allow this.
“The way we achieve our scalability is by server clustering,” Lopes explains. “This is the same technology used by the likes of Facebook and Google – it’s basically linking lots of servers together and having them cooperate to perform a common task.”
According to Lopes, the cornerstone of the system is a move to change the programming of the system from controller-centric programming to system-centric programming.
“This allows us to seamlessly integrate a large number of controllers across geographically dispersed locations without exposing the complexity to end user – programming multiple controller systems should not be any harder than programming a system with a single controller.
“Following on from that philosophy we have changed our permission structure so that simple requirements can be expressed in simple terms. This means that if you have a small 4-door system with 10 users you don’t have to go to the trouble of setting up permission groups or user types or complex infrastructure – you just assign the permissions directly.
“This is a high traffic area of the system and we distilled this down to ‘Who’, ‘What’, and ‘When’ – we’ve made the system simple and linked it to the language people use to describe the permissions themselves.”
In the next part of the demo, we get a look at the process of creating areas and adding doors where the accent remains on keeping things simple and meeting installer wish lists. Access control techs prefer to apply door access to cardholders by area – it’s miles less fiddly than tagging multiple doors one at a time.
Thanks to that ‘Who’, ‘What’, and ‘When’ programming focus it’s possible to use ‘When’ so access can be denied at particular times – notably carpark access, which can be tricky to set up.
As part of all this, permissions are shifted up the database so they’re not be applied to an area list but direct to the user. This ‘When’ programming function applied to the user eliminates some of the juggling associated with programming Concept.
“When it comes to creating doors we thought the easiest way was from the hardware – in this demo the LAN has already been configured and if your job is to get a system up and running you just click on ‘Create Door’ and select the ‘Inside’ area – you can check the door is functioning using the software to open and close the lock a few times. It’s there and ready to go,” Lopes explains.
“The entity relationships between doors and modules are very flexible in Integriti and this lets you do amazing things but you don’t want to have to go through multiple programming layers if you don’t need to. So there are dialogues that take the most common scenarios and wrap them up into a single interface that goes and does the hard work for you.
“Once we’ve set up doors we add cards. We swipe a card at any reader in the system and the card appears and we can then assign permissions to the card. Setting up permissions is easy – we assign access to a door and an area and we can add as many permissions as we want and we are assigning permissions from a global pool that can be grouped by site or keyword, so the hardware is no longer the structure into which a system has to fit – it’s at a higher level of abstraction.
“Permission groups replace the user types that were used in Concept – it’s a list of what and when permissions that can be assigned to multiple workers. On top of ‘What’ and ‘When’ it’s also possible to deny a user access to a door and this is good for exceptional circumstances where using group-based systems makes it hard to manage.
“You can also create site-wide lockdowns, hierarchy and lineage – there’s a base worker and then there are specialised workers who need additional permissions. You can handle base workers in Integriti but we can do far more – we can introduce denials of access for a door to all workers on a site and it’s a lot more flexible than lineage where someone might be 2 types of thing.
“We can add 2 types of worker to a specific permission group and the programming is powerful and flexible and consistent. What and when allows the system to be programmed with a very consistent interface without needing to learn new constructs.”
Another important element of Integriti is analogue values.
“Most security and access control products have analogue outputs and analogue inputs and while many systems support this as an afterthought, with Integriti it’s been added from the ground up. Every single input and output has analogue status associated with it – it’s part of the core infrastructure,” Lopes says.
“We can take an input on the system and assign it an analogue value – we have grids that are totally searchable, you type a name into a grid and it searches down to what you are looking for – let’s say it’s temperature (it could be revs or whatever you like) now the input shows a percentage.
“There are dials and gauges coming soon. With a lot of other systems you have to go to a control module to see what things are doing but with Integriti the state of things is available all the time. This allows you to walk test.
“There are parts of the interface that are customisable and this is in response to endless requests from people asking us to change the interface to be exactly the way they personally want it to be.”
To achieve personalisation in the Area dialogue, you can click in the Dialogue box and an option comes up called Customise Layout. All the fields of the area are there and you can just drag things around and do whatever you like then save it as a template. It’s simple and it’s flexible.
“Importantly, all the changes we made during this demo you can jump into audit mode, see the changes and undo them if you choose to. It’s all granular and is done at a very low layer so it’s not just users it works to allow you to do a complete audit of the system – who did what and when,” Lopes explains
According to Inner Range’s Doug Frazer, who led the hardware team, one of the very hard things about designing Integriti was that the engineers wanted to come up with a system that attacked all of the shortcomings of Concept but did not want to throw away the immense amount of industry knowledge that surrounds Concept.
“I think we achieved this – I’m very confident that installers will look at Integriti and say: “This is just so easy why didn’t they do things this way in the first place?”
“I think they’ll choose Integriti over Concept,” he says. “Integriti is easier to use, more consistent, all the programming quirks have been taken out of it. Whether you are a new user or an old user you’ll see a nice, new and fresh interface.
“I’m absolutely confident installers will look at the simplicity and power of the new programming and they’ll be able to do everything much more easily whether it’s a system with 1, 2 or 4 doors or whether it’s a huge enterprise system – the programming constructs are the same.
“Having said this, Concept will continue to be around for many years to come so those who want to continue installing it can do so with our full support.”
“Integriti has been a long time coming – the system could be installed today but we don’t want to release it until we are happy – we are thinking before the end of the year for beta sites and a full release in the first quarter of 2012.”