Data, Data Everywhere: How Leveraging Information From Multiple Sensors Can Enhance Security and Efficiency

Lynn Wood headshot
Lynn Wood

When thinking of data, it usually is not associated with anything of an artistic nature. Instead, images of spreadsheets, wires or dark server rooms often come to mind. However, true data integration must be more than that. It needs to combine pieces of information that come from a number of sources and display them in a way that is meaningful and valuable to the user. This unified view paints a full operational picture from a security perspective, while individual brushstrokes made up of unique data points can be further dissected when necessary. Taken together, this viewpoint can provide valuable insights into the security and business inner workings of an organization.

In the security world, data integration enables users to streamline processes. Ensuring that software platforms work well together allows managers to kick-start a workflow with the press of a button, instead of taking multiple independent steps to systematically change numerous data points. Data across today’s modern enterprises is collected in many ways, such as through human resources, employee records and event management software, all of which are typically used in corporate, health care or educational environments. Integrating these platforms with access control and visitor management software can create a cohesive system for managing access to a campus and much more.

Data-Driven Decisions and the Internet of Things

The amount of data produced daily is astounding. According to Raconteur, it is estimated that by 2025, 463 exabytes of data will be created each day. That is 463 billion gigabytes, or the equivalent of more than 212 million DVDs, per day. This growth can be attributed to multiple factors, one of which is the Internet of Things (IoT), the network of interconnected devices embedded with sensors and software that collect and exchange data.

The security industry has a pretty good idea of what the IoT means for organizations, and at its core, these connected devices are providing a foundational element: data. As data is continually collected, organizations are tasked with identifying the best ways to use the information to their advantage. For forward-thinking enterprises, this can be achieved through the implementation of data sharing and integration between systems. The IoT introduces a new capacity for connectivity that is proving to be a real benefit, changing the way business is done as well as how employees work, and the interconnectivity between the two.

Data and Access Control

In the realm of access control, IoT technology can provide a wealth of options for granting and restricting access to various parts of a facility or campus, working seamlessly with other software and providing security leaders with more information about incidents in the event of an emergency. Additionally, advanced connectivity through smartphones and other IoT devices allows for a much more personalized experience through the use of mobile credentials, biometrics and analytics in new and innovative ways.

On a large scale, the IoT can be applied citywide, using data, for example, to measure energy use and identify waste, which can help to improve the way we live and work as a society. Within security, this might mean intelligent cameras, intrusion-detection alarms and other sensors that are analyzed at a central point within a security department.

An increased level of connectivity and integration in an organization can provide enhanced insights into the physical security posture, such as by measuring throughput rates and identifying traffic patterns. Additionally, the information gathered through network-enabled readers allows an organization to set specific “rules” that can be applied depending on the time of day and the day of the week, and those rules can be adjusted for special events.

Without software platform integration, in order for a new employee to be added to a system and given a security badge, his or her data has to be entered into not only the employee management software, but also the IT network, the security manager’s access control software and other systems. The art of data integration centers around the concept that each of these software platforms is linked in order to streamline workflows and make it easier to keep information current across an organization. So when a person is added to (or deleted from) one platform, multiple systems are updated in real time.

A critical component to venturing into IoT-friendly systems in the security space is protecting data and privacy. Systems integrators, dealers and consultants play a crucial role in the deployment of access control systems that use advanced IoT-enabled devices in a safe and secure manner. If an end user or facility manager wants to use connected devices, security professionals must educate them about best practices to protect organizations from threats. For these entities, effective cybersecurity is a prerequisite to success.

Going Beyond Security

Integration between access control technologies and other types of systems, like HVAC or building controls, can help enterprises identify ways to save energy and become more efficient, such as:

  • Lighting control – Automatic lighting is not a new phenomenon, but this technology has been slow to spread. However, with the addition of “smart” devices (think Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, but for large facilities), there is a significant shift toward streamlining control of a facility’s lighting. Software integration between access control platforms and smart lighting technology can help make this a reality by signaling when someone has entered or exited a facility and triggering a response to turn lighting on or off in a specific location. This can produce cost savings by reducing energy usage.
  • Heating/cooling management – For many facilities, climate control is a significant expense, which means measures that link usage directly to need are getting a lot of interest. When the first person of the day enters a facility, that information from the access management software can trigger an automatic notification for the HVAC system to turn on for the day, and the opposite occurs when the last person leaves at night. Further, software integration can be customized to the point of controlling the temperature based on someone’s preferences within a specific office space.
  • Lockdowns, evacuations and attendance reporting – The benefit of using access control to assess building occupancy becomes clear when lockdowns or evacuations are necessary. Using access control software to determine how many people are present in a building, along with integrating roll call systems to ensure accurate reports, can be invaluable tools in these emergency situations. Having accurate records is essential for making sure people are safe and accounted for as an event unfolds.
  • Human resources records – When an HR department or school registrar is tasked with the management of employee or student information, they require innovative technology platforms. This technology can be integrated with access control software to streamline the onboarding of staff and students. Additionally, with the use of a visitor management platform, visitors can be granted access to certain parts of the facility based on their reason for being on the campus, and credentials can have assigned time limits to ensure that they will not be used beyond their expiration or outside of their approved times of day.
  • Strengthened security – The goal of integrating access control software with other platforms, ultimately, is to deliver enhanced security to both employees and assets within an organization. The ability to gather insights about visitors, building occupancy and who is present at any given time can prove useful for officials during an incident, allowing them to obtain critical information with the push of a button.

The Future of Data Integration

As the amount of data being generated by devices grows each day, it is important to recognize the value of integration. Each and every system and sensor that a building leverages can contribute crucial information to an organization’s overall safety and business goals. Access control technology is at the center of this effort, enabling operators to protect the occupants of a facility while enhancing everyday efficiencies through the incorporation of additional systems. The true art of data integration lies in having the vision to bring all of the incoming information together to obtain a cohesive operational picture that allows for more informed decision making.

Lynn Wood serves as product portfolio manager for Vanderbilt.