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What is an integrated security system - Steve Frost G4S Academy Specialist

Too often I have seen the term Security System Integration applied to different systems, designed separately, sometimes retro fitted, that present in a single GUI (Graphical User Interface). Whilst useful this should not be confused with a true integrated and holistic Security Solution.  
G4S integrated security system

A truly integrated Security System should have a synergy of design and allow Operators and Managers to have full functionality presented to them through a single interface. The security system should act as a hub, allowing Security Managers and Operators to integrate and operate all of the discrete systems from one place and seamlessly control access via doors, turnstiles, lifts, car park barriers as well as monitoring real-time events via CCTV, controlling access to assets and areas via HR and active directory systems and tracking assets and personnel.

Essentially there are four levels of System Integration, these are outlined below:

  • Full Integration – all Systems designed and operating in synergy with full functionality presented through       a single GUI.
  • Partial or Hybrid Integration – Some of the systems employed integrate whilst others remain separate.
  • Interconnected Systems – Systems capable of communicating and carrying out basic tasks.
  • Disparate Systems – no integration or communication between various systems.

There are many considerations when looking at the level of integration required, functionality, benefit and cost being primary considerations.  Perhaps the most  significant benefit of investing in an integrated security system is that it can be designed specifically for the business requirements.  

Packaged enterprise security solutions simply cannot account for all of the unique issues that different companies might face.

When it comes to security system investment Businesses have to keep their bottom line in mind.  An integrated system can reduce overhead by improving the overall protection.  Eventually, the integrated solutions could automate most aspects of the enterprise’s security process. This would allow the Business to address issues quickly and effectively with easy coordination and streamlined processes for personnel.  

Most companies that choose to invest in security system integration find that the overall savings outweigh the upfront costs.  It should always be considered that a 24/7 manned guard presence or operator can cost in excess of £120,000 per annum.  Even reducing the workforce by one number could bring £600k savings over 5 years.

Within the High Security or Critical National Infrastructure arenas fully integrated systems are of the utmost importance.  In order to mitigate the threats to the absolute ALARP the systems need to be robust, scalable and provide full traceability in the event of any incidents.  It is highly recommended that the Security Systems sit on a fully dedicated network to ensure security and also bandwidth.  The need to provide early detection and provide the Operator with the correct Operational Procedure can be the difference between an incident occurring and merely a reportable event.

Noah Price, Head of the G4S Academy for the UK and Ireland, explains about the G4S principal security effects.

“Principal security effects are exactly the same as they were thousands of years ago and have not changed,” explains Noah Price. “What has changed are the security solutions, which are constantly being developed.”

“In the industry, there are differing opinions on what the principal security effects should be. At G4S, our view is that Detect, Delay and Respond form the key backbone principal effects in any integrated security programme.”

True integrated Systems provide not just an interaction between systems but by using a PSIM or SMS they allow the Human Operators to focus on real events and provide an immediate Operational Response.  The integration allows double-knock intrusion detection from separate detection methods which mitigates false alarms, it will automatically highlight true events over false alarms and provide the appropriate actions available to the operator, whether it’s a physical response, audible response, or other such as illumination.  These factors mitigate complacency in the Security Professionals and give peace of mind that true events are not missed.

A valuable benefit of integration is post incident findings, the ability to provide data and reports further enhances the Operational Procedure and threat knowledge.  All Security Policy processes need to be backed up with specific knowledge.  It’s essential to use the right technology for each individual scenario, and never use technology just for the sake of it.  Sometimes a solution may be policy or procedural change, further training or upskilling the on-site security professionals.  However, a true integrated security system provides the capability and expertise to select and integrate the right technology to add value to the business.  It should provide intelligent data analysis, whether that is done by humans or machines, it can systematically collect data and produce reports, scrutinising that data and providing insights to the Security Team.

Integrated Systems also have a part to play in Health & Safety, for example an integrated Access Control System should provide automated door and gate release when a fire is detected – however it should also be noted that there are instances where the threat actor will create a fire incident in order to gain access to the building and consideration to this vulnerability should form part of the Risk Assessment process.  A Gold Command Police facility in the South of England had several recycling and bin stores up against their external fence line which was highlighted by their Security Consultant as a highly accessible medium for such an incident.  Due to the nature of the site it was the policy that on detection of a fire anywhere onsite all access points would open and all occupiers would evacuate to the muster point – which was outside the secure perimeter.

Further to the immediate benefits an integrated system can offer more than Security.  Time & Attendance systems can integrate into ACS providing the ideal means to collect employee attendance figures and provide immediate information regarding occupancy levels for a facility.  

By further utilising the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected devices methodology coupled with analytical packages a CCTV system can add value to a Retail Business by providing insights into buyer behaviour, hot spots, loitering and hot item information.  This can go further to provide targeted marketing messages and advertising in store by using software capable of predicting gender, age and ethnicity.  There are numerous examples, whereby corporate Security Teams are able to “sell” back this data to their Marketing departments enabling a very real ROI on capital expenditure.

Designing a fully integrated system can provide a truly scalable platform capable of adding value to a Business.