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After the Doors Close on Sunday: The Role of Remote Access Management in Houses of Worship

By Andy Fliss

Utilizing an IP-based control system offers numerous advantages to any organization. Primary among these is that the system can provide Web-accessible control of virtually any electronic device, allowing the organization to manage almost every aspect of its facility, including A/V systems and lighting, from anywhere in the world via the Internet. For houses of worship in particular, remote access can be an invaluable asset, as churches often sit unoccupied for several days during the week. With an IP control system, houses of worship are able to monitor and control their facility remotely during these times.

Security
Break-ins and burglaries are an unpleasant fact of life, even at a house of worship. But how do you keep watch over your church for lengthy periods with no one there? One way is to install video cameras for surveillance. But of course this leaves you with hours of surveillance footage to sort through every week. Another way is to incorporate an expensive security system or alarm that simply might not be in your budget. An alternative to these approaches is remote access.

For example, somebody walks up to your empty church’s front door and rings the bell. A few things can happen here. One is that the bell rings inside the church, and that’s it. No one comes to the door and the visitor leaves, or maybe breaks in when they see no one is there. With a control system, however, the push of the door bell can activate a camera, while at the same time sending a text message to the administrator notifying them that someone is at the church. This accomplishes two things: you are informed that you have a visitor, and you have images of them. If it’s a welcome visitor, such as a parishioner, you can keep a look out for them at the next service to see if they need assistance. If it’s an unwanted visitor who broke in, you have images of them, and you’ve got them without hours of surveillance footage to sort through.

Disasters
It is hard to know if a disaster is occurring at your church when you’re not there. While most churches are equipped with fire alarms, very few have flood alarms. However, floods are not an uncommon occurrence, and without flood detection they can go unnoticed for days. For example, you’ve closed up the church after services on Sunday, but a toilet has been left running and eventually overflows. Or maybe a pipe bursts. Without flood detection, it’s possible you won’t find out until next Friday or Saturday about the situation. Leaving your church flooded for this long can lead to damage of the floor, carpeting, walls, and furniture. With remote access monitoring, however, a text message will notify the administrator of the problem. A church staff member can then be sent to the facility to turn the water off, thus avoiding a messy cleanup and saving money on damages and your water bill.

Going Green
IP control systems can also play a major role in helping your church meet its green initiatives through remote management of lighting and HVAC systems. When the church closes up and someone has left on a light or the AC, it doesn’t have to stay on till the church is reopened, consuming greater amounts of energy and raising energy bills. Instead, the system will send an alert to the administrator, who can turn off the lights or adjust the temperature remotely over the Internet.

A/V Systems
Even when a church is occupied, remote management can play an important role in its operation. Many churches today are utilizing advanced A/V systems to communicate their messages more effectively to their congregations, while also attracting younger parishioners. This includes multiple projectors and monitors in the worship center, audio systems, and digital signage. These systems are sophisticated and generally expensive, and many church staffers are volunteers without much technical expertise. If your church has a designated A/V expert, you want control of the system in their hands. But what happens when the church needs to use the system and your expert isn’t there? With remote management, the A/V expert can log onto a Web site and easily control the system from anywhere in the world.

Choosing a Control Solution
Before you begin looking for a solution, you can narrow the field by determining what your requirements are up front. Ask yourself how complex of a system you need and how much active involvement you want to have with the system? “Headless” systems are very minimal and completely passive. With these solutions, nobody is actively interacting with the system by hitting buttons to make things happen. “Front end” systems, on the other hand, are active. These higher-level solutions incorporate control panel touch systems and use custom designed interfaces.

When choosing a control solution, there are several things to look for. One of the most important is that the system is able to communicate in two directions. This ability is really the heart of automation, where the system receives communication, then sends out information or takes action based on what it received. There are many one-way communication solutions on the market, but they will not be able to provide churches with the abilities discussed above. Another important feature is integration with SMPT e-mail. Control systems with this feature are able to send out e-mail alerts to administrators.

Whatever solution a house of worship chooses, they are in a unique position to benefit greatly from remote access management technology. By utilizing a control system, a church can save time and money, leaving them with more of both to devote to enhancing their services.

Andy Fliss is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Aurora Multimedia Corporation, a leading provider of IP-based control systems, advanced video processors, and touch panels for A/V systems. He can be reached at afliss@auroramultimedia.com