By: Neil Cameron, Area General Manager of Johnson Controls Systems & Service Africa
Integrated security solutions today are able to place valuable real-time information at the fingertips of users across a business. While entry-level solutions often have only limited functionality and are not built using open systems, more mature integrated security solutions are being leveraged by line-of-business functions (e.g. HR and operations), as well as organisations in specific industry verticals, to add significant business value.
Applications once specific to business domains or reserved for specialised functions are converging thanks to use of standards-based infrastructure and platforms. From a user perspective, the growth of smart devices is increasing awareness of the utility of data. As users across business verticals become more adept in their use of data, they are driving the business case for integration of data from security systems with traditional back-end systems, and for access to more sophisticated features.
More sophisticated systems can have a higher capital outlay – they are often up to 30 percent more expensive than stand-alone systems – but the payback is often three to four times higher and faster. These systems offer greater functionality and more information. For example, an advanced access control solution will not just lock or unlock doors, it can let the user know which zones are active; how many people are moving about in them; how active they are over a period of a day, week or month; when they are most active; and which personnel are moving about in which zones. That’s a lot of information and it can be harnessed in real-time in many ways too, for example:
- switching on lights and air conditioning in real-time according to need, driving down energy costs;
- assisting the organisation to assess productivity of workers;
- assessing and optimising organisational workflow efficiency;
- indicating the use and value of assets within zones, especially where specific equipment is kept in certain zones;
- evaluating and minimising risk within the facility and to assets, for instance reducing traffic where valuable or dangerous equipment is stored.
And, of course, once the access control solution is linked to video surveillance cameras, HR databases, operational management strategies, safety policies, plant equipment performance logs and equipment maintenance schedules, there is an almost unlimited amount of data that can be extracted to meet important goals or outcomes, or to automate processes.
In different industry verticals, a lot of innovation is being applied to achieve important objectives.
In the mining sector where Johnson Controls has a large user base, access control systems inform time and attendance systems, as well as help automate HR processes – for example a leave form will be generated if the employee has been absent. In this sector, health and safety ratings also have a direct impact on operations. Mines are thus using their security systems in combination with HR systems to ensure workers’ safety and minimise risk to the business. For example:
- In mines, workers gain access to specific areas only if they attended regular ‘induction’ sessions that keep them alert and aware to the potential dangers in those areas. By linking the access control system with HR records, workers will be denied access to these areas if they do not meet requirements and will then be sent to HR for a review of the necessary material.
- Similarly, because fatigue can impact safety, mine workers may not do more than a certain number of shifts in a specific period. Controlling this can be difficult with a large workforce, so the practice of building alerts and thresholds into access control systems has become important for mining operations and administration.
At corporates like Hollard and Transnet, the Johnson Control access control solution is integrated with the building management system, tying occupancy to the operation of the building in areas such as the control of lighting and HVAC equipment. This can boost productivity as it does not limit the organisation to rigid operational times, while positively impacting energy usage and costs, as well as the environmental footprint of the organisation.
For multinationals, security solutions also provide business critical information. Multinationals particularly want systems that can assist with business continuity and risk, providing them with real time information regarding how many people are in which sites, the revenues associated with those sites and the consequent risk to the business in the case of disaster. In these instances, video surveillance and access control solutions as well as the management consoles used in control rooms contribute towards providing the necessary information.
In manufacturing and other plants these same systems contribute to operational aspects like process control, and efficiency assessments and improvement. In addition, where equipment or process support is required, these systems are often able to provide a means to do quick assessments of the situation and help inform decision-making.
In retail environments, security solutions are typically used to review performance of tellers but they can also be used for the operational and marketing aspects of the business. For example, if the control room staff notice via CCTV cameras that checkout lines are getting too long, more tills can be opened. Similarly, recordings can assist to optimise movement of shoppers through a store or identify fast moving merchandise to help drive marketing strategies.
There are myriad uses for the data collected, used, referenced and recorded by security systems. While the prime drivers for security personnel are managing risk and securing the wellbeing of staff or customers and safety of assets, there is a lot of value other sectors of the business can derive from this data generated by these solutions. As the benefits are realised, preferred practices will be identified, allowing organisations to realise a lot more value from their investments, and perhaps arming security executives with a better business case for investing in more advanced systems.