A Reader’s Recap of ASIS

Some 17,000 people recently converged on the City of Brotherly Love to discuss measures not so fraternal in nature—most notably, how to keep unwanted brethren out of their respective businesses. Indeed, attendance at the American Society of Industrial Security International's Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Philadelphia, Sept.

By Staff October 1, 2002

Some 17,000 people recently converged on the City of Brotherly Love to discuss measures not so fraternal in nature—most notably, how to keep unwanted brethren out of their respective businesses. Indeed, attendance at the American Society of Industrial Security International’s Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Philadelphia, Sept. 10-13, was surprisingly abundant.

The show proffered two full floors of exhibits featuring wares ranging from the latest in access control and digital video recorders to razor wire to uniforms. This seemingly disparate spectrum of products is somewhat of a microcosm of the picture facing consulting engineers today—in other words, where does the M/E/P engineer fit into the puzzle of security services?

“Security, for most M/E/P firms, is growing and expanding,” says Jeff Lupinacci, RCDD, a security and LAN specialist with Harrisburg, Pa.-based Brinjac Engineering. His firm, in fact, employs three full-time security specialists to deal with this changing landscape.

“In the old days you hoped your electrical engineer might put in a bird panel or maybe throw in a motion detector, but now it makes a lot of sense to bring more security aspects into the loop,” he says.

Which aspects to integrate, however, and what products and technologies to bone up on, is the million-dollar question. “The security market is really blossoming and the products and technology are becoming so sophisticated, you really have to have the expertise in house,” says Lupinacci, who was cornered for an interview while exiting the booth of a cable-management enclosure manufacturer. In this instance, the exhibitor was unveiling a security monitoring console cabinet that featured built-in cooling and several innovative rotating trays for easy maintenance and space savings.

Along a similar line, Lupinacci’s interest was piqued by video walls on display. While it might seem gadgety, he says it’s a fact that many companies now want their security centers to be showcases, and such ensembles are very impressive to prospective CEOs, he says.

Biometrics and CCTV

Biometric products, of course, were also out in full force, but their full-scale adoption still remains somewhat uncertain. However, Lupinacci notes that vendors are doing a good job packaging equipment.

For the bread-and-butter security equipment—access control and CCTV—Lupinacci points out that there were a slew of DVRs on the floor, all with notable improvements in faster frame rates and storage capabilities.

Other out-of-the-box security technologies included fiber-optic cabling offerings capable of self-diagnosis and “fence sensing.”

A window-protecting film that helps R-value from a heating perspective also caught the specialist’s eye. While a product perhaps more in the domain of the architect, Lupinacci points out it’s important for consultants to always be thinking in such ways, because early interaction with the architectural team can lead to better functioning buildings.

These kinds of ideas, in his opinion, help set consulting firms apart. For example, a big part of Lupinacci’s role at Brinjac, he feels, is making sure the security systems the company’s specifying are of real use to the end users.

“By the security team getting involved early, it’s a way to reach outside the box. Take guards. If we can provide real tools that will help them survey the whole building, that beats CCTV every time,” he says.

Teaming up

Another trend of note is engineering firms partnering with some of the large integrators of the security world—SimplexGrinnell, Siemens, Honeywell, for example—who are marketing themselves not as product manufacturers, but solution providers.

“That’s a message we’re trying to get to engineers,” says Kevin Maynard, SimplexGrinnell’s director of marketing. “We’ll buy any equipment that’s needed.”

Partnering is definitely the plan, adds Tom Giannini, CCP, the company’s director for integrated security systems. In his experience, a number of consulting engineers he’s worked with really don’t understand the nuances of integrating security systems. And even if they do, he says, the company has a wealth of resources and specialists to draw on. “And even if you don’t have an integrated system, but you do have 31 access-control readers, you still need that expertise,” adds Maynard.

Jim Hiller, a security system specialist for Denver-based engineer Swanson Rink—the firm responsible for the security systems in Denver International Airport—says such partnering is not an overt choice, but it is becoming more prevalent. In fact, in many cases, notably airports, it’s been their experience that some owners already work with their own integrators.

Such a relationship, he says, provides the firm with additional expertise, and in truth, makes life a little easier. “I know it’s lightened up my load of RFIs,” says Hiller.

Of course, one of the dangers of opening up one’s systems to complete integration is risking the possibility of a not-so-sophisticated operator shutting down systems, such as smoke dampers.

While that’s definitely a danger, Honeywell’s Greg Taylor says there are safeguards. For example, with many of the enterprise computer platforms out on the market today, it’s not difficult to program a system to prevent users from having such access.

Gianinni adds that much of the problem is one of training—something his company is trying to improve. Further, he says, part of avoiding integration problems is sitting down with the customer and finding out exactly what they want and what they expect. In many cases, he says, they’ve found the client’s desires are fairly simple.

Additionally, Taylor says it would help if manufacturers made their products much more intuitive. For example, their new enterprise building integrator platform includes an all web-based control that gives users options such as the ability to switch to a camera that automatically pans to an alarming station, giving operators three options: evacuate the building, call the police or call security.

Siemens Building Technologies is taking this concept a step further. Through its new central monitoring station in Dallas—a sequel to its Washington, D.C. facility—the company hopes to start taking more of a total security approach for their services. “We really believe remote access monitoring will be the wave of the future,” says H.B. “Trey” West, Siemens’ vice president of operations security systems.

Of course, the burgeoning security market is still fairly restricted to certain sectors, with aviation and schools seeing the most growth, notes Hiller. And Lupinacci adds that access control and CCTV still dominate most jobs.

But no matter the technology, Lupinacci maintains that delivering a suitable security plan is the most important factor. “You really need to specify equipment that the operators will really get some use out of,” he says. “Otherwise you’re just installing machines that look impressive.”