Tune in to CCTV

Dec. 5, 2001
More options mean more opportunity

By Linda K. Monroe

Assessing, then addressing, a building's vulnerabilities have become Priority No. 1 for many facilities professionals. While a management team's first line of defense should encompass the sharing of information within the corporate culture, security-related product options have never been more prevalent. At the recent American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) show, the talk among attendees and exhibitors centered on the integration of security: access control, closed-circuit television (CCTV), security personnel, and more.

CCTV technology - once simply used as a viewfinder in cases of intrusion and theft - has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. "In the digital era, CCTV is an important part of a larger system of safety, with access control, burglary, and life safety systems all tied together," says Jim Sandy, general manager, Visual Imaging Products and Security Systems, at Park Ridge, NJ-based Sony Broadcast and Professional Co. (BPC).

Frank Abram, general manager at Panasonic Security and Digital Imaging Co., Secaucus, NJ, agrees. "Rather than looking at 'closed-circuit television,' we now have 'network-circuit television.' As CCTV is being integrated with card access, it has become a more important management tool. For example, at the Dulles, VA facility of AOL, management is able to monitor all facilities in the United States - and, very shortly, will be monitoring facilities around the world - because CCTV and security-related systems are on the network. Such technology is, literally, extra eyes for the security force and management organization. In the not-too-distant future, the industry envisions a security network where each CCTV camera and each cardreader are nothing but nodes on a network."

Although both agree that network-based CCTV applications require significant amounts of bandwidth to ensure good, high-quality pictures, those issues are being overcome with network improvements and enhancements. Concerns about compromising building security, however, remain. Sandy notes, "The cost of network products is declining, so we may see a push to [adopt] parallel networks: one for data and one for security and safety."

In certain instances, declining prices in CCTV technology have resulted in a shift in product selection, adds Sandy. "Some [building owners] are choosing to put in multiple, inexpensive cameras to cover the same or larger field(s) of view initially covered by a speed or pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) dome, … which, by definition, has a lot of moving parts that could be affected by part failure," he says."

Other relatively recent CCTV-related issues include:

• An industry-wide shift from black and white to color recording, resulting in better, more complete information to management.
• Aesthetic improvements in styles and sizes of CCTV cameras to complement today's high-performance (and highly competitive) building interiors.
• Broader applications - namely data centers and educational facilities - in which to monitor personnel and/or student access/location from a remote or centralized site.
• Emerging applications that involve wireless networking.

Improvements in integration capabilities and processes, according to Abram and Sandy, should move CCTV in further directions. "CCTV, in and of itself, is not the sole answer to everyone's security problems," says Abram. "But coupled together with card access and other life safety equipment - integrated into a single system - it can become a very valuable management tool. That's what the industry is working towards."

Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.

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