Nikos Integration: No Seams Attached
Posted by Security Electronics and Networks | @Articles Case Studies | May 29, 2012, 7:00am AEST
WHEN I arrived on site for a demo of the system, I was impressed with snappy decor of the lobby and blown away by the system itself, which takes integration to a level I’ve never seen before. Nikos Property Group had the foresight to enable the building with building technology building blocks that would allow a tenant to further develop the building into a world class facility.
The base building security, mechanical services, electrical metering and lighting controls were all developed on an IP Platform allowing an integrated services delivery model to be further enhanced by the fitout. Lawrence Katz, director of Omnisystems Engineering Consultants (OSE), was appointed as the Building Services Architect together with the Sokolski Consulting Group (SCG) as the Services Engineers to deliver both the base building upgrade and the integrated fitout in record time.
It goes without saying that implementing integrated communications network (ICN) methodology is critically dependant on the level of investment from the owners and the services contractors. Getting system-wide consistency is crucial, too. The appointment of Katz as superintendant and lead consultant for the base building services engineers and the fitout meant the technology hurdles were easily overcome without the normal silo approach that often hamstrings ICN projects.
Importantly, Katz was on the Westfield D&C team as building services architect for the Sydney City Project as well as a similar role for the North Wharf development in Auckland. He says these experiences allowed the project to progress and be delivered within the extremely short program time.
“Integrators Australia, as the base building integrator, was the lead technology integration contractor for all IP based services, access control, intruder detection and CCTV systems as well as delivering lighting control for the Eascom Team, with sub systems all integrated on the base building infrastructure,” Katz explains.
“Eascom Electrical was the electrical contractor and OP Industries was the mechanical services and controls contractors. Omnergy was the metering contractor as part of the Eascom team. All mechanical and electrical services were renewed, from the main switchboard to the boilers and chillers. Lift car and machinery upgrades are in the final stages of delivery.”
Unlike many installation outfits, Integrators Australia installs IP-based electronic security and building integration solutions that are designed to simplify installation and operation, reduce costs and to eliminate, as far as possible, expensive maintenance contracts governed by proprietary formats.
This IP-focus is at heart of all contributions to the building’s solution, including Genetec’s powerful management system, the Axis cameras, the VertX access control solution from HID. All are vital to a solution that I think is probably the best and most complete building integration I’ve ever seen.
Driving this integration is Genetec’s Security Center management solution, this system has half a dozen sub-systems woven into it and expressed in their entirety on each workstation at the concierge desk. The primary systems handled by Genetec Security Center include video surveillance, access control, cardholder badging, visitor management, lift control, intrusion detection, lighting control and air conditioning.
Supporting Security Center are 54 Axis cameras (720p inside, 1080p outside), including PTZs with image stabilisation, while access control is HID VertX with HID’s SE readers.
“Genetec SC5 is task-based and has a Windows 7 flavour. This system is flexible and offers powerful integration, which is what we are exploiting”
Walking through the lobby and up to the desk it’s obvious that security is pervasive. I pass external and internal cameras – lots of them – and there’s turnstile access to the lifts – not common for a medium-sized building like this one. Looking at the turnstiles I can see there are HID readers fitted on both sides.
According to Katz, Nikos Property Group’s intention was to install a high quality integrated security solution that would easily integrate with all other building services using “out the box” interfaces to keep things simple and cost effective.
“We searched long and hard and the Genetec system is what we came up with. It’s certainly the best system of its kind I’ve ever worked with,” Katz says.
According to Integrators Australia’s Dean Monaghan, what the customer is running is Genetec’s Security Center 5.
“SC5 is task-based and has a Windows 7 flavour,” Monaghan explains. “This system is flexible and offers powerful integration, which is what we are exploiting on site.
“And when it comes to operating the system, tasks can be distributed between groups – concierge staff, security staff, security admin staff and installation staff – in terms of the permissions they are very granular.”
Given Security Center 5 is really the heart and soul of this system, it’s worth spending a little time considering its fundamental capabilities. First up there’s Security Desk – the unified user interface of the Security Center solution. Security Desk is design for task-based control and monitoring. A unified configuration tool makes all config much more streamlined with common entities being used multiple times within video, license plate recognition and access control.
When it comes to intrusion system integration, it’s possible to integrate third-party intrusion panels and perimeter detection systems. Operators can run reports on intrusion panel events or alarms and best of all, view video tied to intrusion events, and arm/disarm intrusion devices either through automated scheduled tasks or manually via the user interface. This is a very helpful feature for a site like this one.
Centralized alarm management means you avoid the traditional approach of separate alarm monitoring applications with unsynchronized data for different security systems. Administrators can configure, monitor and respond to alarms for an entire security environment. Advanced reporting capabilities allow generation of a variety of integrated LPR, video and access control reports without the use of external third-party reporting tools.
Neat too, is local video caching and buffering allowing all-frame video playback. It means operators get faster access to recorded video as Security Center buffers video locally on the client workstation. This reduces the amount of retransmission that is typically required for video playback and thereby minimizes bandwidth usage.
Visual tracking is another cool feature that lets users switch from one camera to an adjacent camera within a viewing tile when tracking a suspect, either in real-time or playback mode. And if you want to get clever, Genetec’s Software Development Kit allows integration of building management systems, enterprise resource planning systems, or development of custom business applications with the Security Center’s open SDK.
When it comes to directory integration you can connect to multiple directories and centralize the management and synchronization of Windows user accounts with the Security Center’s user and cardholder accounts. This allows provision of single sign-on capabilities and ensures newly created Windows users automatically inherit the proper physical building access rights.
Reliability is enhanced by a built-in failover mechanism and redundant archiving capabilities. A standby server can be setup and when the primary fails, the standby takes over so no data or video is lost. Users can deploy off-the-shelf industry standard failover solutions as alternatives – this is exactly what Integrators Australia has done on site.
Version 5.1 of Security Center offers cool stuff like real-time health monitoring of roles, client applications, edge devices and more. This allows administrators to proactively manage the health of their security platform. New tasks such as health history and health statistics reports provide valuable information about past and current performance of the platform.
There’s also uninterrupted video streaming to the Security Desk even if the Directory or other critical roles become unavailable. Security Center 5.1 also offers a new global cardholder management feature for synchronizing cardholders, credentials and other data between remote independent sites and a central location. That’s nice for tenants of a big site like on this site.
Having admired the symmetry of the building and its fittings, we take a run through the software. Monaghan says the beauty of the situation was that the tenant had brand new security staff straight out of the academy and this meant they picked up the management of the system very quickly. Training took place before the building actually opened, he says.
“Operationally, staff can use most functions with the exception of reports, which security managers handle,” he says. “We can give security staff limited access or extended access to system functionality. Every concierge operator has access to a selection of external cameras that we have selected to be monitored.”
“An obvious benefit of integrating CCTV and access control with SC5 is that we link the door entity to the camera so it’s nice and slick for the operators to use”
“An obvious benefit of integrating CCTV and access control with SC5 is that we link the door entity to the camera so it’s nice and slick for the operators to use.”
Monaghan says security officers were personally involved in the process of fine tuning certain elements of the system.
“We gave them the front screen populated with the key external cameras and then they chose the best cameras to work with after hours on a screen of their own.
“They can mix and match views – bring up the cameras they feel they need to monitor depending on the demands of their shift and changing situations,” he says.
Video surveillance on this site is overwhelming.
“We have strong coverage outside, in the carpark, around the building, at entrances, the lobby, in the stairwells and on various office levels. There are 5 cameras in the cafe here on the ground floor,” Monaghan explains.
Monaghan says the fact security officers can use check doors and lights and monitor access and alarm events from the concierge desk is also excellent.
“The SC5 integration makes it so easy. There are shortcuts. Hot actions – these make it easier to action common functionality. The air conditioning integration also works well – it’s perfect on the weekends – as long as you have access you swipe your card, push a button and on it comes.”
While the video surveillance portion of this system is extremely capable, what’s striking from my perspective is the level of integration the system offers. Every possible subsystem is integrated into the system’s front end in a way that’s intuitive and highly manageable.
There’s lighting integration into the same user interface so when security staff do their light check after hours they can go into SC5 and see which lights are on with a glance and turn them off – it’s very quick, easy and icon-based.
“Selection of the C-bus lighting control system was a no-brainer” says Katz. “The Schneider offering complemented the overall building automation process and the ease of this integration was a function of both an excellent system and a competent integrator”.
Another feature that relates to energy rating is the after-hours air conditioning. The air conditioning is on a timer so to use it after hours you have to present your card and on every floor there’s a card reader and a control panel that gives you a selection of east, west and central zones. To use those you just present your card and if air con control is included in your permissions then you can activate a zone after hours.
Improvements in energy efficiency to complement the highly efficient Powerpax Chillers was implemented using an Omniflex Energy Metering System which slotted nicely into the overall ICN concept. All meters are constantly logged with secure data available on the Omnergy website for any authorised user. This will enable the building tenant to proceed with NABERS Ratings and further evaluations of the building to improve energy efficiency.
“Now, let’s look at visitor management,” says Monaghan, pulling up a new screen on the front desk to show me.
“You can see we’ve got no visitors on site at the moment. But if you look at the functionality of the screen you can see that concierge staff enrol visitors in the same way they take on permanent cardholders. This means there’s always a muster report of who’s on site and whether it’s permanent cardholders or visitors.
“The enrolment process is very easy and consistent for staff. They select a template from the card printing template within the app, they use a webcam to capture an image – they put the details in, they sign the image and then print the card.
“Importantly, the access rules are created as part of this process. Once the access rules are applied, it’s done and the card can be printed. Alternatively, concierge staff can create the card and print it but someone who has authority can go and apply the access rules before printing so you can take that permission from concierge staff.”
Monaghan says that as an example of system flexibility, a compulsory host field has been created for health and safety reasons so when staff go through and populate the enrolment they have to select a host for every visitor. This means if visitors are unaccounted for in an emergency there’s a contact point for locating them.
“When it comes to physical credentials tenants use a Dymo printer to print visitor passes – that produces a self-adhesive photo ID and visitors stick it to their clothing. This is low quality and low cost (5 cents a card/sticker) printer for visitors while high quality proximity cards are used for staff.”
According to Monaghan, because there are 900 permanent staff on site, the cost of consumables is a real concern.
“There are 1000 people in the database – you can see in the list that the red ones are deactivated – but the cost of maintaining 900 proximity cards is substantial,” he explains.
“Something else I think is valid when talking about SC5 – if we look at the old system the building had – it was harder to administer. There was a completely different area of system admin issuing cards and visitor credentials whereas now the concierge staff can do the whole lot. It’s so much easier.”
And all this is done from the one console? I ask. Yes, the boys say, it’s just as you see it. Security staff should not have to leave their desk to do their job, Katz reiterates. Nevertheless, I think, while absorbing all this – it’s unusual to see everything integrated in this way, with access control and surveillance, lighting control, visitor management all contained in a single package. It’s impressive.
According to Monaghan, the easiest way to show the tightness of the integration between surveillance and access control is to do an investigation. He proceeds to undertake an investigation to demonstrate. First Monaghan calls up instances of tailgating in the driveway outside the access controlled vehicle entry of the building.
There are limited spaces so parking is at a premium and only for those with permission. Tailgaters sneak in after legitimate drivers have accessed the building. These events are clear as day. You identify a vehicle and search for all related events at the same time. In a short time we find a tailgater – in this case it’s a cardholder who has followed the car in front without bothering to badge in.
Next, Monaghan selects a door whose activity we are going to search over a period of one day. The footage is great, I say, admiring the images from the HD cameras. Identification is immediate and Katz tells me at night the cameras switch to black and white with no loss of apparent resolution.
“You can see here the advantage with the integration between the access and video is that when we want to check we can just click on each event and look at the video and do a matchup, all on the one workstation,” Monaghan says. “What security staff like is that they get the event, the video and cardholder image all in the one screen.”
As we navigate around SC5 I can’t help commenting that the system is slick, the layout and the way it functions is fantastic.
“Well here’s another nice feature you’ll like,” Monaghan responds. “See this yellow bar here – that’s video caching and I’ve not seen it on other systems. It’s a settable option and what you can do is when you are streaming video off the storage array, it caches it on the local workstation.
“With caching, when you go to play video back, instead of trying to read the video in reverse off the storage array which makes it very hard to go frame-by-frame because of the latency as HDDs are not designed to do this, it builds up a cache so when you when you are viewing video you are viewing it from the local workstation but when you log off, it empties the cache.
“When you look at the difference it makes its significant there’s a ten second key frame lag – cached video has no delay. It’s like the old VHS days – in a good way – you have perfect control.”
Next, we watch a bike being stolen from a bicycle pen under the building. The thief was a clever fellow. He brought a bike in and waited at the access controlled gate to the bike room for some cyclist from the company to arrive before telling them he had forgotten his card then took his old bike into the bike pen and left with a bike worth thousands.
“We got excellent quality images of this guy,” says Monaghan. “We were able to give police HD images of his face, clearly identifiable, as well as giving them all the related video. The police could not believe it, they actually called to say how impressed they were.”
This is a semi-greenfield installation in a brownfield building and that meant there were challenges associated with the concurrent layers of works, including combined processes of demolition and retrofit. Monaghan says that the nature of the site added challenges to the installation.
“Basically the building was completely bare when we started the install,” explains Monaghan. “In fact, no, it was worse than empty because parts of it were actually getting demolished at the same time as it was getting re-fitted. That made things slower and messier.
“We did all the access control cabling by ourselves while all the network cabling was installed by the electrical contractor. They pulled the network cabling to where we needed it. There was cabling Nikos Property Group wanted to re-use as well so that had to be retained and checked. As you can see, all the edge hardware is new.
“The turnstiles went in on the last day of the installation – they were physically installing these as the system was being commissioned. The mechanical installation was happening, the turnstiles were going in, it was all going on at the same time.”
Interestingly, Integrators Australia installed HID iClass SE readers on site.
“I think this is the first installation in Australia to use this technology,” explains Monaghan. “It means there’s near-field communications. You could use mobile devices or cards – we are using standard iClass cards but the selection of SE means they can migrate to near-field communication in the future.”
By now we are walking around the site. It’s a sweet job. The external cameras are all very nicely installed. There’s surface mount cabling for wall-mount cameras while the pole mounted units are integrated. The access readers for some doors are hidden behind screens on walls – you wave your card over a red light diffusing through the fabric to gain access. Even the loos are access controlled.
After taking a turn of the edge devices we head to the network room. It’s a cosy space under the building, secured in part by being invisible in plain sight. In the room are a couple of rows of those ubiquitous beige housings and opening them reveals the HID VertX V1000 installation. It’s very tidy indeed, this networked access solution.
I look over my shoulder at the rack footprint and it’s tiny – 3 or 4 bays at most. There are a couple of switches and a couple of servers. In terms of network layout, on every floor cameras aggregate and then pass over fibre to this location via switcher. There’s not much to see.
“Where’s the rest of it?” I ask the boys.
“That’s it,” says Monaghan. “That’s all it is. Access and video, redundant servers and all – that’s it. That’s the whole job – the guts of it is right there in front of you.”
The system is so streamlined I keep looking for additional elements associated with it – there should be more, I think. I’ve never seen a system so integrated – experience tells me most security teams are working between multiple systems, multiple workstations. Big systems, with big space demands.
This Nikos building is a flat-out wonder. It’s powerful, lean and intuitive. The integration is mesmerising. There’s video, access control and enrolment, visitor management, alarms, lift control, air conditioning, lighting and remote site management designed for energy and operational efficiency. And it’s all woven together like silk. Spectacular.