By Bill Zalud
IP connectivity for end-to-end communications including emergency and access telephones was the security challenge. Talk-A-Phone equipment was installed at a parking facility in Boston.
Joe Gillis saw the communications challenges, with security systems running on IP-based lines. Jesse Higgins knew there were evil spirits coming from storm clouds. For others protecting parking lots and garages, there was a new twist – terrorism. Emerging technologies, including radio frequency identification (RFID) and sophisticated image databases, also can play a role in parking security.
For Gillis of Barry Security Systems, Tewksbury, Mass., it started when his firm received a contract from the federal government to install security equipment at a homeland security facility in the Boston area. His goals were simple: “The key to addressing a customer’s security concerns is understanding the security challenge, then designing a cost-effective solution, finding the right components to bring it to life and installing it swiftly and professionally.”
The project required a highly reliable emergency communication system with integrated security video throughout the parking facility at access points and certain indoor locations. The entire system was to run on IP, providing not only a great deal of system flexibility, but also saving the customer $65,000 in cabling. It required integrating hardwired and wireless equipment to a single head-end without tunneling. So Gillis know he needed to integrate products of several manufacturers into one smoothly functioning system.
Requirements and installation
Gate operator from The Chamberlain Group can handle lightning strikes thanks to protection built in.
He turned to Talk-A-Phone Co. of Chicago, for the end-to-end communication solution, including providing the IP connectivity for emergency/access phones, as well as security video. The company’s hands-free emergency phones were mounted to existing poles on site. Other locations used two-button (emergency and info) versions. But the most innovative aspect of the phones was not the phone’s features, but the method of communication: The four-channel phones would use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
An easy-to-see telephone entry system coupled with a decorative gate and gate operator to provide both security and good looks to a gate-guarded community.
At the security command center, Gillis installed one such phone with two guard phones. Simply pushing the button would allow security personnel to initiate an emergency call to the command center and automatically activate a strobe in the wall mount. Additional software would allow the system to perform an automatic PTZ call-up of the camera or cameras associated with that calling unit.
At certain access points, another version of the VoIP phones with auxiliary outputs drove related devices such as strobes. Radio frequency video over IP used Panasonic PTZ cameras with Verint RF video connections, also routed through the VoIP units. The cameras integrated with the phone system at the head-end through an access control interface, with the cameras controlled through a Panasonic matrix. Smaller indoor phones covered certain indoor locations such as elevators.
Said Gillis, “(The Talk-A-Phone) products provided us with a reliable, cutting-edge solution to the issues that we faced. We needed to integrate voice communication and video over IP, as a seamless end-to-end solution. That is exactly what (the technology) gave us at a price that saved our customer $65,000 net by being able to go VoIP.”
Lightning strikes can disable gate-guarded community and inconvenience residents.
For Jesse Higgins, his vehicle access challenge is constant and comes with his company’s territory.
In Springfield, Mo., where Higgins’ D&J Automatic, a local installer of entry systems and gate openers is located, lightning often strikes not just twice, but tens of thousands of times each year. Nestled in the heart of the Ozarks, Springfield is in on the edge of the most active lightning area in the country; on occasion, even snowstorms are accompanied by lightning.
Threat from the clouds
One of lightning’s favorite targets is the stately iron entry gates that guard the portals of the area’s ever-growing number of gated communities. All that metal, plus all those underground wires and electronic components, can act as a vulnerable target. If entry gates are hit during an afternoon storm, people coming home that night could find themselves literally locked out of their community.
“The gate systems are a frequent target; most of the time, it’s the circuit board that gets hit,” said Higgins. “That’s the brains of the system, and if they get fried, they usually have to be replaced. That can cost a minimum of several hundred dollars. And it can also cause a real inconvenience for residents.”
Higgins’ company found a way to better protect the gates. “New gate openers and telephone entry systems (from The Chamberlain Group, Elmhurst, Ill.) have built-in surge protectors, and many have battery backup as well. As far as I know, they’re the only manufacturer who offers that. Dealing with lightning damage, and getting somebody back in business after a strike is a huge, time-consuming, expensive headache. We’ve basically switched over all of our new installations…we’re even doing some upgrades on existing systems,” he said.
The Chamberlain Elite line also comes with battery backup systems, so if there is a power failure, they’ll keep on working. “The most important thing to us is reliability, because we don’t want to be out there fixing them all the time,” said Higgins.
For gated communities with over 50 homes, the company normally recommends a dual gate system, with separate entry and exit gates, to avoid traffic jams during peak hours. For entry/access control, they prefer the Icon 26 Telephone Entry System, which they pair with an Elite CSW200ULDC gate operator. They have a high-level surge protection board and built-in battery backup. The combination means the access and entry system will be protected in the event of a direct lightning strike, and the community’s entry gates will still be able to function, even if there’s a power failure.
barricade system at the Miami Federal Courthouse can rise 18 inches when activated.
Based on the experience of Gillis and Higgins, the vast majority of threats involving security, vehicles and parking areas focus on protecting people and property from weather, vandalism, theft and violent crimes. Yet parking lots and garages are particularly vulnerable to vehicle-based terrorist attacks. Remember the first World Trade Center attack.
According to David Dickinson of Valencia, Calif.-based Delta Scientific, which creates vehicle control systems for parking lots, “When planning security features for a new or existing parking lot or garage, the first consideration is the level of security required. A parking garage for a foreign embassy or federal courthouse will require far more serious security measures than a parking lot for a mall. Other primary factors include the frequency of vehicles moving in and out, and whether there will be vehicle inspections performed or a fully automated system at the entrance.”
Smart cards combine with radio frequency identification to provide secure access into parking lots and garages.
To regulate traffic in and out, provide a safe place to transfer prisoners and for secure underground parking for judges, the Miami Federal Courthouse installed hydraulic barricade systems. According to Dickinson, each 10-foot wide barricade is a moving ramp, surface mounted, and which rises to 18 inches when activated. In normal operation, these barricades stay up and are lowered only to allow passage of authorized vehicles. The speed at which the barrier deploys can be fully adjusted to the security site and facility requirements. Security personnel at the Miami Federal Courthouse can have different speeds on different barriers and change the speeds as security warrants.
To ensure the units will not rise if a car is on or in the way of the barrier, the courthouse barriers use loop detectors. They hold the barrier open until the last part of the vehicle has passed the closing loop, located beyond the unit. Then they give a pulse on departure, instructing the barrier to rise.
No doubt, barriers make for inconvenience, and that’s a good security thing. However, in some applications, convenience can also bring a level of security, too.
RFID, for instance, can identify vehicles and allow them into a parking garage or lot, sometimes without the vehicle slowing down too much.
That’s the aim of a partnership between Chicago-based LEGIC Identsystems, a supplier of secure, contactless smart card technologies, and Nedap AVI, a specialist in long range vehicle identification. Late last year, they launched the LEGIC-powered Combi-Booster, an automatic, long-range vehicle identification (AVI) system.
An in-vehicle, mounted device simultaneously transmits and reads highly secure LEGIC smart card data in tandem with an embedded vehicle identification. It provides reliable identification of vehicles and drivers from as far as 33 feet at high speeds without the need for the vehicle to come to a stop. The system configures for hands-free vehicle access to parking facilities, gated and other highly secured areas.
Sidebar: Intelligent Security Systems
Intelligent vehicle systems are just around the corner. Such systems will check the velocity of an approaching vehicle, or set off an alarm if a car is coming down the wrong lane. Intelligent systems will protect innocent drivers who might be trapped between barricades and a speeding, approaching vehicle. Intelligent vehicle systems also will be able to tell if a vehicle is too large to enter a parking structure, potentially saving countless dollars on structural repairs. Whether building a new parking structure, or retrofitting an old one, there are myriad ways to protect people and property by using everything from common sense design to the latest technology.
One example of such new-age technology comes from Information Engineering Group (IEG) of Plattsburgh, N.Y. Its COPS-Secur-e-Park, for car park facilities, is a disk-based solution with vehicle classification for direct and fast retrieval of digital security video. A search engine facilitates the direct access to vehicles by license plate, partial plate, no plate, dimensions, date and time. Security can identify sanctioned vehicles and suspect vehicles, report anomalies, trigger alarms for direct action, build security dossiers for police investigation and, optionally, photograph the driver as a deterrent to auto theft.
Bill is the Editor of Security Magazine, and he can be reached at (630) 694-4029.
By Bill Zalud