Tech Success: Antar-Com wires courthouse for safety

IT solutions in action

Project: Integrated physical security system

Agency: Westchester County, N.Y.

Partners: Antar-Com Inc., White Plains, N.Y., and Software House Inc., Lexington, Mass.

Goal: Replace the aging access-control system of the Westchester County courthouse.

Obstacle: The control system that tracked who entered and left the building was past its prime. Some components, such as the employee identification-card readers, were not working. The system also did not allow for integration. When an incident occurred, such as a robbery, security workers had to painstakingly piece together building access logs with archived video surveillance footage.

Solution: The county hired Antar-Com to install a replacement access control system, one that ran on the building's data network rather than on a closed-circuit system. Antar-Com used an integrated access control console from Software House to oversee operations.

Payoff: Access control data and video surveillance footage can be obtained from the same console. Other benefits: Courthouse employees can pre-register guests over the local area network directly from their desktop computers; the security team can send video surveillance clips by e-mail; the system keeps synchronized data on login times and surveillance footage.

Peter Boriskin, regional sales manager for Lexington, Mass.-based Software House, said the company has worked with major physical security integrators.

Justin Lane

Software House uses IT to integrate physical security monitoring devices

Antar-Com Inc.'s integrated physical security monitoring system got its first test shortly after it was installed in the Westchester County, N.Y., courthouse.

In May 2002, about a week after the system was put in, a fire alarm went off in the nine-story courthouse. As people exited the building and fire trucks were dispatched, the security crew needed to find out fast why the smoke alarm was pulled -- and if, in fact, there was a fire.

The new system, which included a security camera overlooking the tripped firebox, provided the answer within five minutes. Searching through the video footage using the C-Cure 800 access control management console from Software House Inc., security officials discovered that an elderly woman had confused the fire alarm for a door handle to the bathroom. Mystery solved.

If it wasn't for this console, "it would have been a guessing game" to figure out why the fire alarm was set off, said David Fernandez, director of engineering for Antar-Com of White Plains, N.Y. "They would have gone over and looked at the fire box on the wall, and wondered what had happened." Instead, officials found the answer before everyone was even out of the building.

Using standard networking protocols, Software House's C-Cure 800 can assemble data streams from video surveillance cameras, digital video recorders, barrier turnstiles, X-ray equipment, intercoms, metal detectors, visitor management systems and other security devices. Using this data, it can monitor for unusual events, combining input from different sources to give security officers a fuller picture of unusual activity.

In early 2002, Westchester County gave Antar-Com a $3 million contract to replace its aging physical access control system. The card readers were starting to malfunction, and vendors no longer supported them.

With about 70 employees, Antar-Com, which focuses on telecommunications and security projects, has increasingly been doing this sort of work since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, counting as its customers state and local governments as well as commercial enterprises

"They were looking to install something that wouldn't be obsolete right off the bat, something they could expand and grow with over the years," Fernandez said.

Using the open data networking standards, Antar-Com can install a solution that could accommodate new features and devices that also used this platform. Plus, with a standard protocol in place, the county can use tools that would combine the data from all of its security devices.

"Physical security has become more network-dependent. It's flowing into the hands of the information systems department. Everyone wants the connectivity, especially with remote sites," Fernandez said. One client, Computer Associates International Inc., has hundreds of buildings that it is linking together.

For Antar-Com, one advantage the Software House access control system brings is its tight integration with the digital video surveillance equipment from its sister company, American Dynamics Inc. of San Diego, which was also used in the job. Tyco International Ltd., Exeter, N.H owns both companies.

For instance, if someone forces open a door that is being watched by a security camera, the access system saves the video from the time of the event. The video file can even be e-mailed to other parties, including police or fire departments.

For Westchester County, the system tracks visitors coming in the front door, as well as shipments coming in through the loading dock. Because it runs on a server, it allows employees to pre-register guests over the local area network.

Peter Boriskin, regional sales manager for Lexington, Mass.-based Software House, said the company has worked with heavyweight physical security integrators, such as Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee, and Siemens AG of Munich, Germany. Government jobs include the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress and the State Department.

Overall, Tyco's fire and security division generates about $10 billion in revenue per year.

Boriskin said the company has been looking more toward information technology as a way to provide even greater features to its customers. For instance, its Internet protocol- and Ethernet-based products can interact with human resources software, such as PeopleSoft, and with third-party devices, such as fire alarms. The console can be customized to replicate floor plans of the building using computer-aided design blueprints.

"We try to keep things as automated, as integrated as possible," he said. *

If you have an innovative solution that you recently installed in a government agency, contact Staff Writer Joab Jackson at jjackson@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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