Posts Tagged Security Equipment Integration

Products That Don’t Exist, But Should

While working with a client for a high end residence, he brought up the video door bell gadgets that are all over the internet and in every Lowes or Home Depot. The objective was to have a decorative camera that would recognize video motion and record video and sound for visitors at the doorstep.

There are quite a few of these products available on the market, and for the general consumer they are probably a good fit.   But for our client base, a high end residence will typically have an integrated security and access control system, including video cameras.   Products like Ring and SkyBell must be used with a contract service that stores the video in the cloud, and are typically accessed and viewed via a smartphone app and are proprietary in nature.   This means they don’t support standards like RTSP or ONVIF which would allow off the shelf network video recorders (NVR) to record the video on-site or remotely as part of a comprehensive monitoring service.

To make things worse, these cameras typically operate over WiFi, and do not have any kind of battery backup.   Unreliable wireless communications and unreliable power don’t make for good security.   But at the same time we don’t want to add some industrial looking door bell to the client’s residence.   So what residential products like this are available currently that we can connect to our own NVR?  Nothing.   Really…. nada, zip, zilch.   There are currently no low profile, decorative products commercially available that will support a hardwired video connection and operate as a standard doorbell camera.

Another option was a product with a security camera integrated into the porch light.  Kuna makes some great looking products that would fit most any residential style and decor.  Kuna Maximus Light w/Camera But again, these products lock you into a monthly cloud service contract with proprietary protocols that are not available to 3rd party NVRs.  The Kuna Maximus product almost fits the bill too, providing good looks with security lighting, 720P video and two-way voice communications, but it still requires WiFi and is proprietary.

Someone Please Build This:

Here’s a product idea for high end residential and ornate commercial environments that want additional security.   Take a product like the Kuna Maximus where you have a decorative security light with a built in camera, but instead make it with the following features:

  • Motion Triggered Lighting (two-level lighting for soft accent lighting and full power security lighting when motion is detected).
  • 2 Megapixel IP Camera with Night Vision, H.264 video codec.
  • Two way audio communications with built-in microphone and speaker.
  • Support for HTTP, ONVIF, RTSP, FTP, SMTP, DHCP, DDNS, and SNMP protocols.
  • 10/100 Ethernet via built in powerline adapter, plus 802.11ac Dual Band 2.4G/5G Wireless support

So here’s the thinking behind this.  Almost every residence has a porch light at the front door.  This device would replace the existing wall mounted porch light, using the exact same 2-wire 12o VAC power that already exists.  It operates as any other motion security light, either “off until motion sensed”, or “1/2 brightness until motion sensed and then full brightness”.  It takes any standard Edison bulb.   The good part comes in where we add the camera that can use WiFi (if you must) or the built-in powerline Ethernet interface, allowing you to connect it to your own home network using a powerline module plugged into the wall near your router and then via CAT5 to your router.   From there it can behave as any other network camera on your NVR, or it can operate standalone with video motion detection and send emails when triggered, or upload via FTP to a web server, or whatever.  The powerline Ethernet adapters allow us to avoid WiFi where we can, and use the existing power wiring, eliminating the need for additional CAT5 cabling to the light.  If video is centrally monitored, the remote operator could communicate via IP audio to the person in front of the camera using a video management server.

This product should already exist, and quite frankly I can’t believe it doesn’t.  It would probably cost less than $300 retail, and I’d not only be using them on every executive residence that I was responsible for, I’d have one on my own home too.   And if you really want to have some contract service to store video in the cloud, fine… just don’t make it the only option.

 

Posted in: Reviews

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Do You Know Where Your Power Supply Is?

Altronix Eflow16 Low Voltage Power SupplyWe’ve all had it happen: either a bad battery or a blown fuse in a security power supply.   It causes cameras to fail, a card access door to stop working, or a whole panel to fail.

Power supplies in their simplest sense do a very basic thing:  They turn 120 volts AC power to low voltage DC power for low voltage security devices such as cameras, card readers, alarm panels, or detection devices.   And while they have become more sophisticated, adding fused outputs, relay contacts for fire alarm disconnects (life safety egress for maglocks), and smart battery chargers, until recently it was up to the security integrator or maintenance staff to maintain the power supply by testing power and replacing batteries periodically.

In the IT world, just about everything is monitored – Computer servers, network switches, server room air conditioning and filtration units, UPS battery backup systems, even cameras in the data closet monitoring temperature, humidity, and noise levels.  Much of this information is sent via the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).  This protocol is monitored by software that notifies console operations of the exact conditions or problems that may arise with hardware or software in the footprint.

Enter the power supply network module.  The Altronix LINQ2 is a new product that offers the same kind of monitoring capability used in the computer industry.

The Altronix LINQ2 network module is designed to interface with eFlow and MaximalF power supply/chargers. It enables power supply status monitoring and control of two (2) eFlow power supply/chargers over a LAN/WAN or USB connection. LINQ2 provides values on demand for AC fault status, DC current and voltage, as well as Battery fault status and reports conditions via SNMP.

Now security operations can be notified of potential problems and critical failures as they happen, or maybe even before.

For more information visit http://www.altronix.com/products/product.php?name=LINQ2

Altronix linq2 SNMP module

The Altronix LINQ2 SNMP Network Module

Posted in: Fire and Life Safety, New Equipment and Gadgets, Security Technology

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PINs Matter

scramblepad

Hirsch Scramblepad

When working with a client once, they asked us to help harden their biological research labs by recommending additional security measures they could install. We did an initial and very casual walkthrough with them of the labs and how they were used. They were particularly proud of the Hirsch Scramblepads they had installed for access controlled doors. For those unfamiliar with these, they are an ingenious type of PIN pad where the numbers change each time you begin to enter your PIN sequence. This way, someone cannot peek merely at where your fingers were and assume that if you were at the bottom right of the pad, it was a 9. Anyway, they were (and still are in some circles) the Cadillac of PIN pads for access control.

As we began interviewing some of the lab staff, we asked how well they liked the keypads and how they were used. Most responded that they felt the keypads worked very well and were kind of “Star Wars” like because of their technology. We soon learned however, that the PINs used were 4 digit pins, and that there were a couple of hundred people who had access to these labs. To make it worse, departmental policy was that the individual was allowed to select their own PIN.  Yikes.

So, I promptly walked up to a PIN pad, and entered “1234”.

“Click”.  The door opened.

Okay, “1379”.  “Click”.

Yep.  Hmmm, one more, “2468”.  “Click”.   Okay, I see the biggest problem…

The good news, is it was a cheap fix.  That doesn’t mean easy, it was just cheap.  The long term fix was to add card access with CARD+PIN readers to enhance security; but in the mean time, we just increased the number of digits in the PIN, and assigned the PINs to the staff instead of letting them pick their own.  That’s why it wasn’t easy.  Some of the staff complained because now they had to learn a new PIN, and sometimes they forgot it, locking themselves out of the lab until they could remember it or get it reset.   Memorizing a new number (don’t we have enough numbers, passwords, etc. to learn already?!) is not fun and shouldn’t be necessary just to get into work.

Reading this now, this all probably seems like common sense to you, and it is.  It’s just that sometimes common sense isn’t used in practical applications the way we would always expect.  Security is a hassle, an inconvenience.  So, someone decided to make it easier on people and let them pick their own PIN.   This is were Security Policy and Procedures come into play.  They should be developed, implemented, maintained, and tested.  Had a proper policy been conceived and applied to the issuance of access control PINs, our job wouldn’t have been so easy.

PINs Matter

Just like passwords, a weak PIN is worse than NO PIN at all, because it gives you a false sense of security when there really is none.  If you still use only PINs, pick unique PIN of at least 8 digits, and ensure that they are unique for each user.  But better still, couple a PIN with an additional level of access control such as card access or biometrics.  After all, two levels of security are always better than one.

 

 

Posted in: Access Control, Security Technology

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Analog to IP Camera Technology Migration

In a recent project, PR was contracted to assist a client in the migration of a multi-campus, traditional analog closed circuit TV system to a modern IP digital network based camera and recording system. This is a growing trend in the industry as clients realize the benefits not only increased camera resolution and recording capabilities, but also leveraging corporate infrastructure costs to reduce the overall total cost of ownership for their company.

It goes like this:

Traditional CCTV systems use analog NTSC (or PAL in some countries) cameras which connect via coaxial cable or fiber optic cable to an analog recording device, matrix switcher, and/or monitor. Sometimes the recorders are digital video recorders, but there are still alot of VCRs out there recording to plain old VHS tape. All of the equipment is still using or manipulating an analog video signal in some way.

The conversion requires new field devices, new infrastructure, new recording equipment, and new monitoring equipment. It can be expensive to install. However, the paybacks are big. With the advent of megapixel IP cameras, it is now possible to get very high resolution images that can be recorded and monitored anywhere your corporate network can go, and beyond. Factor in digital PTZ technology that allows for continuous monitoring of 360° from a single camera in high resolution, and you can now replace multiple cameras with only one. There are some limitations however, as outdoor PTZ cameras in parking lots or on poles aren’t necessarily good applications for IP PTZ cameras just yet. But eventually technology will catch up.

Hybrid compromises are available too, where analog cameras can be converted to IP encoded H.264 streams and sent to network video recorders (NVR) which record network video streams. The resolution is only as good as the analog camera (usually no more than about 500 lines, or 704 x 480 resolution). This pales in comparison to 1080p cameras or even higher resolution megapixel cameras on the market today, but it is a good way to leverage some legacy hardware with new recording and transmission technology.

The biggest advantage of digital IP video is the flexibility it affords. Need to move a video stream to a different recorder? Just change the IP settings. Need to monitor the video in multiple locations? Just pull down multiple streams from different PC workstations. Need to move the monitoring to a remote location or disaster recovery site? No problem, just connected to the video servers from the alternate location. All of these features were MUCH more difficult with legacy analog video.

In short, digital IP camera technology affords a suite of new and enhanced features that give security operations response and investigation tools that previously were nonexistent or too expensive to implement. There is a cost to this technology, but the power and flexibility is well worth the price.

Posted in: Security Technology

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