Making the Connection Between Smart Buildings and Physical Security Solutions

Dan Cremins headshot
Dan Cremins is business development manager at Delta Building Solutions.

Coming from a long background in the physical security space, I have found it remarkable to learn that residing in every commercial building alongside the video management system is an adjacent building management system (BMS). Even more amazing is the majority of these systems are installed, serviced and managed by different companies, departments and people. There are exceptions, but the result is that these two systems are not integrated in any way.

While I am still relatively new to smart buildings, I have spent over 25 years doing market research and VOC to understand which uses cases have the best return on investment (ROI). From various discussions, trade shows and industry articles over the past year a few common themes are consistently heard.

The world changed with COVID, and two key issues are putting greater challenges on smart building solution designers.

  1. While most people no longer wear masks, many are much more health conscious, especially when it comes to air quality. Closed-door meeting rooms with every seat taken and stuffy air are a thing of the past. The same mindset for continuous fresh air extends into offices, cubicles, hallways and every common area.
  2. Many employees changed to a hybrid work model of coming into the office only a few days a week or not at all. This shift has left building owners and facility managers with the difficult task to not only rethink how to best optimize office space to save on costs, but also transform the workplace into an environment that makes employees want to come into the office versus staying at home more. That’s a tough situation to solve.

So, what does all this have to do with physical security? The answer lies in what technology is being used to address these areas, which can be summed up in two words: occupancy data.

A key part of any smart building has been to use occupancy data to automatically adjust HVAC to save on energy and reduce carbonization. As stated previously, the “V” part of HVAC, standing for ventilation, is bigger than ever before, not only to reduce pathogens in the air, but also to pull in fresh air on demand when high carbon dioxide levels are detected.

To accomplish this, smart buildings deploy occupancy sensors that generate data that feeds into the BMS. But wait a minute…don’t video, access control and intrusions systems also detect the occupancy of people? Absolutely, it does. Is that same data used for the smart building use cases discussed earlier? Surprisingly, the answer is most of the time no, unless a master systems integrator or consultant engineering firm was involved and had the foresight to pull it all together.

On the flip side, how often have you seen the data from building automation occupancy sensors integrated into a physical security solution? Besides occupancy data, what about other data generated from sensors measuring light, audio and air levels?  Couldn’t anomalies from building automation data be considered an event requiring security intervention? With a few exceptions, most physical security systems do not tap into this data, which is a missed opportunity.

Like in the physical security market, the smart building market talks about the single pane of glass that aggregates all building data into a common interface that every department and person can use. While that is an ideal scenario, maybe the best first step to increase the ROI of any single system is to simply connect the data from smart buildings and physical security solutions together. The resulting solution allows the data from one system to be integrated into the other system. Crossutilization of data sources can create higher accuracy and avoid costs of installing duplicate devices (and applications) to generate the same results.

Like so many times in our past history, it is time that to “take down the walls” that have kept valuable data siloed for so long so that it can be easily repurposed for different applications. Just pick from the list of available data to solve any use case and make your next smart building project even smarter.

Want to know more? Join SIA’s Proptech Advisory Board and get involved!