Unifying Operations with Open Platform Power, Part 1: Integrated Video and Access Control
The Milestone mission—to optimize end user processes by delivering open platform IP video surveillance software—remains as true today as it was in 1998 when the company was founded. XProtect video management software (VMS) was designed from inception to be a flexible, scalable foundation for ongoing innovation and growth.
The Milestone belief in an open platform extends beyond camera support, into areas like access control systems that have historically stood apart from video surveillance. Traditionally, the security industry has been very proprietary, with software, cameras and access control all coming from different manufacturers with separate specifications. This means that the infrastructure is tailored for a specific camera model, environment or application. When the customer wants to add capabilities, this proprietary environment greatly limits their options.
What if there was an open architecture for access control, with a single ‘pane of glass’ — a unified user interface — to manage all security systems efficiently?
Inputs like alarms and alerts would all appear on a single display and get routed to appropriate channels. In this environment, the access control system, cameras and video management system would all share data and communicate with each other as a connected, unified solution with easy visual overview and most importantly, verification and evidence of events.
Such intelligent solutions can combine all the metadata from the various components as a rich repository of ‘brain dumps’ from the multiple sensors. Voila! Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning, here we come.
When we talk about an open platform VMS integrated with access control, we’re talking about an application program interface (API) and a software development kit (SDK) that make it happen. The fact that Milestone is on our eighth generation of each demonstrates our commitment to continually improved functionality and ongoing development across the board. We also do testing and certification of integrated partner solutions to ensure they inter-operate optimally and can be installed with proven guidelines. This builds partner expertise and confidence, and customer trust.
More and more Milestone customers were asking to display access control events on the VMS user interface because the video client provides the real-time visual representation of what is going on in and around the facilities. Milestone therefore created an access control module, XProtect Access, which enables working with multiple access control brands under the umbrella of a single interface in the video management software. Wow, that is cool.
The VMS interface can display access control events from multiple vendors synchronized with the associated video for an overview of many cameras at one time – rather than having to pull up camera views one by one to check against access control alarms. For looking at images in more detail, pop-up windows enlarge with just a click, to zoom in further.
Consider some critical questions:
- What’s the incentive to combine access control with video surveillance?
- What does video integrated into a VMS mean for operators?
- And finally, what is Milestone doing that’s different?
To address these, let’s first think about a security solution in broad terms. A video management system tracks and monitors events, in real time, and records video data for later investigation and resolution. Access control systems manage facility access in real time as well (i.e. card management and door or gate controls). Milestone merges these activities, so our customers can get video verification of access control events that are viewable from the most often used interface, XProtect Smart Client.
The way Milestone brings these capabilities together is unique. XProtect Access works with an unlimited number of different access control partners. When a person swipes a card, which sends a signal to the access control system, the access control system connects to the plugin, which communicates to the Milestone APIs through the SDK, which connects to XProtect Access, and synchronizes with the video to display on the Milestone XProtect Smart Client.
By doing this, XProtect Access provides the same look and feel for multiple third-party access control vendors, all displayed on a single screen. This greatly simplifies operator training and adoption, they only have to manage a single unified interface to take advantage of displaying access control events on the Smart Client. Furthermore, operators can search and process video for sequencing and storyboarding, evidence lock and export – the next stages of the workflow.
Milestone currently has 36 access control vendors who have created integrations with the XProtect VMS, and about half of those have already been developed through the XProtect Access interface that allows use of multiple third-party systems to operate in collaboration.
Fast-Growing Relationship Between Video and Access Control
Currently, some 80 percent of access control installations are implemented with a video system in some way, even if just running in parallel to double-check incidents. In addition, customers now want systems that go beyond the traditional scope of access control running independently.
Let’s take retail as an example. Often, basic access control is required to monitor customers entering and leaving a store (think of security tag scanners at entrances or access control for loading docks and utility doors), as well as to secure the perimeter. It’s a logical and effective step to integrate video into the system to provide incident verification with alerts of unusual activity and situational awareness for all these areas. Having video respond to an access control alarm is a very effective tool for real-time response, as well as for capturing and archiving events to share evidence with authorities and resolve outcomes.
At Milestone headquarters, XProtect Access is set up with Microsoft Active Directory users so when an employee swipes their badge, they are immediately identified in the XProtect Smart Client. A photo image appears onscreen as the door opens. The person’s security clearance level appears onscreen, as well as a time code and confirmation that the video is live and currently recording. This visual verification adds a critical extra layer of security. We can now be absolutely sure who is entering and leaving the premises at all times. If the person is not identified as having access, the door can be opened or locked down manually with the VMS, too.
Milestone XProtect Access allows a customizable search based on a single access event, a specific door or a cardholder. XProtect Access can also search for events exclusively associated with a single person, storyboard the panels to see exactly what transpired over time, and create an evidence lock to ensure the video does not get deleted or tampered with.
Our customers invest in video tied to access control for a reason — visual verification of people entering the facility. Real-time verification may be required, but the ability to find video of an event or entry quickly, as well as saving and exporting the video in a way that allows it to be admissible as evidence, is critical.
These are just some of the things that make Milestone XProtect Access a worthwhile investment.
By Reinier Tuinzing, Strategic Alliances Manager, Americas, Milestone Systems