Customers Driving Changes to Security Integrations
Scott Ridder, Gallagher.
Integrated security solutions have become standard within the security industry, but recent years have seen a shift in the way companies want to manage their integrations, writes Gallagher’s Scott Ridder*. This trend has been driven by customers, who want to see security companies working in collaborative partnerships to create systems that offer the right functionality for them.
These integrations have traditionally been focused on bringing functionality into the security or access control system. Security companies have brought on board integrated functionality while ensuring their software remained at the centre of the integration. While this approach has allowed customers to increase the functionality of their security system, simplify interactions for security system users, and consolidate audit trails, it doesn’t necessarily cater to the unique requirements of each customer’s site.
Customer research has shown they want the ability to run their security systems through the platform that most effectively meets their needs. For example, sites that utilize access control and manage large areas of freely accessible public space, such as shopping malls, sports stadiums, and supermarkets, and whose site monitoring is primarily through their video management system, have indicated they would benefit from having some form of access control integrated into their video management system. This would allow them to easily manage access control in response to live video footage. We’ve had similar indications from the fast-growing cannabis market across North America, where close integrations are vital in ensuring operators meet very specific compliance needs.
Where an access control system is the primary system for maintaining site security, such as at university campuses and hospitals, sites want the ability to integrate functionality like elevator control, video management, or complementary security products like wireless access control into their access control system. Security manufacturers have been challenged to step away from aligning integrations around their own products, and instead identify the core functionality required by customers, in order to push or pull information into the applicable systems and create the right solutions for each customer.
Customers and manufacturers both benefit from this approach. Collaborative partnerships, where companies are working together at the manufacturing level, encourage cooperation and information sharing, and carry opportunities for joint marketing initiatives. Customers benefit from shared product knowledge between the companies, which provides them with a valuable solution that utilizes the best technologies across systems, and, if a fault arises, these companies have the business relationships to enable a collaborative approach to resolve the problem.
In addition to driving a change in the way security companies integrate with one another, customers are also managing their own integrations through the application of open interfaces. Security manufacturers are commonly providing a standard integrating platform which developers can use to quickly and cost effectively allow a site to integrate their disparate systems. These interfaces need to comply with modern programming standards, providing a generic, efficient, and – most importantly – a secure platform for integrating partners to develop upon.
An important aspect of these platforms is to ensure they are ‘forward compatible’, meaning once the integration is written, it will continue to operate with future versions of the security platform. These qualities give project managers and enterprise architects confidence in judging the risk and effort required to integrate the desired functionality, and subsequently increase the uptake of those using these integrating platforms. This practice is becoming increasingly common; over the past 12 months, Gallagher has seen a 300 per cent increase in the uptake of programming interfaces.
This increase is typically driven by larger sites writing their own integrations to create a fit-for-purpose security system unique to their organization. There are numerous reasons why a site would choose to do this, rather than adopting an off-the-shelf integration. It could be to improve operator experience and simplify training by having all systems running through a single platform, to simplify administration by integrating data for a single source of information, or to push alarms through to the correct department to respond to – for example, sending server and network related alarms to the I.T. department, or site lockdown alarms direct to a police dispatch system.
With customers driving changes to the way integrations are managed in the security industry, it’s clear the product-centric approach traditionally used by security manufacturers is no longer relevant. Enduring, collaborative partnerships and an open approach to managing integrations is the key to creating security solutions that meet the needs of our customers.
*Scott Ridder has been involved in product, engineering and technical support roles with Gallagher for over 17 years. In his role as senior product manager – Third Party Products and Alliances, he manages relationships with third party vendors who have integrated products with Gallagher. Ridder also holds responsibility for Gallagher’s APIs, the programming interfaces used by developers to integrate with Gallagher Command Centre.