Why intergrating CCTV and access control isn’t as easy as you think

February 29, 2024


access control

Andrew Williams, Senior Security Consultant at Global MSC Security, speaks to SJUK about the challenges of intergrating CCTV and access control along with the benefits of doing so.

There are many operational benefits to be gained from integrating CCTV and access control systems.

You do not have to look to hard-to-find case studies, typically from manufacturers, explaining how ‘quick’ and ‘seamless’ it was to provide their customers with greater control, improved awareness in the control room and the ability to respond faster.

Whilst this can be the case, often the decision to integrate these two fundamentally important physical security systems can present technical, commercial and sometimes cultural challenges.

Evolution of access control

Aside from large critical infrastructure and green-field sites, physically security systems are rarely installed or upgraded wholesale, it is an evolutionary process.

This is in part because security investments are still considered a grudge purchase by those outside of the industry and they often represent a significant capital expenditure, making it unfeasible to rip and replace them.

Consequently, CCTV and access control systems have often been viewed in isolation, with integration either not considered or an afterthought.

This is exacerbated by the way in which this type of product has traditionally been sold.

So called ‘box shifting’ of cameras, access control readers and cards has long been the business model for many manufacturers.

For a long time, this commoditised approached has worked for all parties – the customer wants 200 cameras for the best possible price and the company gladly obliges.

Today, this procurement model still exists and it has resulted in a disconnect between what is being sold and what the organisation wants (or in fact needs) today and tomorrow.

Updating systems

Roll forward several years and now that same company that bought 200 cameras is looking to update its access control system.

They go through the same procurement process of sourcing the technology that will meet their immediate need for the lowest possible price.

The company now has a CCTV infrastructure performing as it should and a new access control system that works perfecting, but now they want to integrate the two and discover that it is not as simple as that.

Technically it may be a relatively straightforward process, given that most modern technology operates on open systems.

The caveat being that the respective manufacturers ‘get on’ and are willing to collaborate, which sadly isn’t always the case (as I learned the hard way as an installer).

Furthermore, it is likely that the two systems will be on separate maintenance contracts which can complicate matters further.

The situation can be all the more frustrating for the security team, given their incumbent CCTV supplier may have its own access control system, which was rejected during the competitive tender process, as the objective of then procurement department is achieving value for money not the added value the solution brings.

Organisations can overcome these obstacles by forward-planning, but that requires an overarching knowledge of the systems available, their capabilities and suitability, both now and in the future (this is no easy task given the pace of innovation), an understanding of how manufacturers work together, along with an eye on future trends and practices.

In recent years there has been a huge amount of consolidation in the security technology industry.

Respected and relied upon mid-tier manufacturers have been swallowed up by large corporations, who have recognised the opportunity to sell fully integrated solutions.

The need for adaptability

It is here that an external consultant can add real value, if they are brought in early enough, to help create the tender and navigate the variables that may delay, impair or even prevent an organisation taking advantage of the many benefits to be had from integrating these two core systems.

It may be a single vendor solution that is the best fit, but it could be a best-of-breed combination from smaller niche manufacturers that may not be on the radar.

In my 40 plus years at the coalface of specifying, installing and using these systems, every organisation wants something slightly different.

Having someone that can appreciate these nuances and marry them to the right solution from the right vendor or vendors can not only make sure the system delivers, but ultimately save money in the longer term.

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