Houses of worship have become sophisticated users of technology in the areas of voice, audio, video, and lighting. Similarly, new technologies are being utilized to provide enhanced security for congregation members and church property.
While security issues may not have been a priority in the past, many houses of worship continue to struggle with theft, burglary, arson, related criminal damage and threats to facilities and property. Securing buildings, patrolling grounds and parking lots, safeguarding property, and preventing unauthorized visitors have all become important daily responsibilities for today’s church leaders.
Unfortunately, the costs associated with installing, maintaining, and repairing even basic security systems have often been prohibitive. To date, security systems relied upon proprietary software and solutions, which required investment in expensive, dedicated equipment and custom software programming.
This situation is changing. For the first time, largely due to the ubiquity of the Internet and IP-based applications, security systems are significantly more affordable and within reach for most houses of worship.
IP is the Future
Over the past few years, organizations of all types and sizes have migrated their proprietary networks onto Internet-based networks (based on Internet Protocol, or IP). IP has rapidly become the single most popular network protocol in the world, and a majority of buildings and facilities now have an Internet or Intranet connection.
These organizations have discovered that IP networks can distribute real-time voice, audio, video, and data to disparate locations. Whether within a single building, to remote sites, or across the world the networks are much more efficient and cost-effective than non-standard, proprietary approaches, because IP enables a multitude of diverse applications to utilize standard network technology.
The primary benefit of this IP-based strategy is the cost savings and flexibility associated with using one converged network, rather than installing several smaller, proprietary networks. each dedicated to a specific application and each requiring custom programming and maintenance. Unlike with proprietary solutions, users with IP solutions have access and control of virtually any audio, video, lighting, data, heating and air conditioning, and security application from the desktop.
IP revolutionizes audio distribution and now security
IP has already revolutionized the way in which voice and audio is distributed at many contemporary houses of worship.
Inexpensive networked audio devices, for example, now stream live, high-quality audio throughout buildings, using standard network connections as well as to web services for distribution via the Internet. As a result, congregation members can use any PC to access church services in real-time in virtually any location in the world. Wireless networks are also being employed to stream live church services to additional locations, both near and far, using these same networked devices.
New security applications tap into existing network connections in the same manner, which allows numerous security devices and systems to connect and communicate in a standardized way. Access and control become completely web-based. And, in some cases, a single networked device is capable of replacing an entire security set-up.
Visual surveillance systems, which are frequently used to monitor different environments, buildings, and parking lots, clearly demonstrate the differences between IP versus proprietary approaches.
Until recently, closed-circuit television systems (CCTV) were the primary means of security at many facilities. These systems typically required their own dedicated communication link between cameras and the central monitor. These links, as well as all the equipment necessary to install the complete security system, were often prohibitively expensive to purchase, maintain, and repair when necessary.
Today, networked-based (IP) cameras plug directly into any existing standard network. To install a new visual surveillance system, no new or dedicated wiring is necessary in most cases, and dedicated monitors are optional, as real-time digital pictures are transferred, stored and managed via the network on any PC. The necessary amount of dedicated equipment is reduced, as are maintenance and repair costs, while the flexibility of the surveillance system is greatly increased.
Additional IP-based security applications for the house of worship include the following:
Remotely controlled access and safety solutions
Protects church facilities from unauthorized access. Networked devices can control doors, check for access authorization, and activate alarms when required, all through the Intranet or Internet. Ethernet-based controllers can play a major role in providing reliable security solutions and can be connected with card readers, proximity devices, door closing mechanisms, and sensors of any kind, either as a completely autonomous stand-alone solution or online in connection with a server. These devices also transmit frequent status updates to one of the attached servers in regular time intervals.
Synchronized video and audio data surveillance
With networked audio devices, it’s possible to record not only video, but also audio data, synchronized with the concurrent acquisition of video data via web-cameras. Transmission of the video and audio data occurs through the existing network. The integration of door control within the same system can be realized with an inexpensive interface controller, which can interface to the necessary sensors and automatically trigger a video camera when a door is opened, which can then transmit the video data via the network back to the surveillance and control center.
Surveillance of church grounds and parking lots
The surveillance of church grounds, parking lots and remote facilities’ warehouses is possible with networked devices, which can be controlled remotely by a PC and can transmit real-time data as well as other relevant information via email or SMS (Short Message Service) at user defined time intervals. The connected sensors can trigger faults based upon user-defined limits, and the devices can provide real-time alarming indicators locally and send instant alarm messages to a remote server or directly to the user via email or SMS.
IP versus Proprietary
Here are some important facts to remember when comparing IP-enabled versus proprietary security solutions.
The use of conventional wiring and other proprietary communications methods will become largely obsolete in the security industry in the near future. IP-based networks are already the communications standard for numerous devices, and IP has proven to be the easiest, most flexible, and cost-effective standard for integrating and connecting different security products and systems.
The IP network allows the most flexible and cost-effective integration of access control, security systems, and video camera technology. Because end-users tap into existing network connections, no additional wiring is necessary. Even if new wires are needed, the use of standard networks provides numerous benefits from the usability of the connections for multiple applications to easier maintenance due to standard tools, know-how, and IT resources readily available.
Networking will only increase with the availability of reliable wireless networks. Where wiring was too cumbersome and expensive to install in the past, Wi-Fi technology now enables even more devices to use networks as the primary means of communication.
Advances in network technology over the past few years have resulted in cost-effective, secure solutions, urging security professionals to re-think networking. Further, an Ethernet connection is as secure, if not more secure, than a typical RS-485 communications link. With the use of end-to-end encryption technology, the underlying network technology is no longer a concern.
Incorporating security systems into the IP network allows end-users to fully integrate multiple systems and share information in real-time via the Ethernet network. IP communications is the best way for different security systems, software, and platforms to share information, as end-users can access all systems and components through a standard Ethernet network.
Providing simpler, more reliable, and more cost-effective ways for houses of worship to address security concerns, IP-based solutions will continue to grow in popularity throughout 2005.