Canadian Consulting Engineer

Eyes on the Future

August 1, 2004
By Bronwen Parsons

Travel in any large city these days, and you become acutely conscious that security is on everyone's mind. Entering an airport, boarding a train, browsing in a shopping mall, you'll be watched by the silent eye of a mounted surveillance camera. Ba...

Travel in any large city these days, and you become acutely conscious that security is on everyone’s mind. Entering an airport, boarding a train, browsing in a shopping mall, you’ll be watched by the silent eye of a mounted surveillance camera. Bags are checked, bodies are scanned at every transition zone and crossing every threshold. You might even hear the disembodied voice of a security monitor as you try to enter some forbidden area. The entire world these days seems to be on high alert.

Not surprisingly, then, at an international trade press conference held in London, U.K. in June, Siemens Building Technologies forecast that security systems are the most promising sector for growth in the construction industry.

At the conference, Dr. Heinrich Hiesinger, group president of Siemens Building Technologies Group, outlined the broad trends facing the building systems market worldwide. He said that although they see low growth in building controls and fire protection, they forecast a growth of between 6%-8% in the electronic security market.

Anti-terrorism measures are a major factor driving the need for security systems, but they are not all. Vandalism is another huge problem in Europe, such that even a railway maintenance yard run and operated by Siemens has to be CCTV-guarded day and night against graffiti “taggers.” Another factor is a growing trend for corporations to adopt risk management business methods, which call for more security monitoring equipment and processes.

Other developments Hiesinger outlined are a trend to more integration of building automation systems, and harmonization with IT web-based technologies including Ethernet/IP. Siemens has also decided to aggressively promote open systems and is backing ASHRAE’s BACNet protocol as an open communication standard in Europe.

Consulting firms should note that Siemens and other engineering conglomerates are also being much more aggressive on the consulting and project management side. As manufacturers of engineering products, they have the advantage of being able to offer a complete package — design, equipment supply, financing and sometimes long-term ownership and operation. Like other companies, Siemens is also offering performance energy contracts. They first audit a building’s performance, design a new system, supply the equipment and enjoy the payback from the energy savings over several years. There is an environmental advantage to this one-shop approach in that the equipment supply company has to look at the lifecycle costs rather than trying to make a quick profit at the front end of the project. Siemens is also specializing in vertical markets i.e. drawing from across several of its divisions to service certain business sectors including pharmaceutical plants, airports and hospitals.

Jens Wegmann, head of Security Systems for Siemens Building Technologies Group, also spoke to the trade press forum in London. Wegmann described how the security sector has evolved, from an emphasis in the late 1990s on physical intrusion detection using guards and access control, to a selective integration of electronic security systems with building automation systems in 2000. Today, he noted, security has become a critical factor for the success or survival of corporations.

Canadian Consulting Engineer’s editor interviewed Wegmann on board a Southwest train travelling between London and Southampton. (Siemens Transportation supplies and maintains a fleet of 665 new trains for the Southwest line, along with other contracts it has won in the privatized U.K. railway market.) Wegmann is based in Maennedorf, Switzerland.




Q. At the press conference there has been a lot of talk about integrating building systems. Can you elaborate? What would be the advantage of combining, say, the HVAC system with the security or fire-safety systems?

JW. The advantage of a common management station for environmental comfort, fire and security is that you have all their information in one system, in one room and you can control them from one station.

In addition, you can use the same operator and can easily billet exchange personnel. It means the system is user-friendly and multifunctional. One screen, one platform — the same basic philosophy for alarm handling and alarm verification. Of particular importance are the activities geared around intervention services, which can be monitored and supported effectively. Let’s say we have a building and there is a fire. If you have a system with a common platform from an access control and fire safety point of view, it can tell you who is where in the building. So that helps the firefighters make sure that everyone is outside. All these factors start to play together.

You can combine the systems with a call centre. In the U.S., we have our central monitoring station in Dallas with a redundant back-up system in Washington D.C..

Q. What kind of buildings is Siemens monitoring? Are they large buildings?

JW. One example is a contract we have with a national chain of convenience stores throughout the United States. We supply the security systems and all the alarm handling goes into our central monitoring station in Dallas. The entire network is supervised from there. So from a technology perspective it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big building or a small building, high-rise building or campus structure.

Q. In terms of technology and equipment, what’s on the horizon?

JW. It’s a question of focusing the existing biometric means in a very sophisticated manner. We have being doing R & D for over 10 years in biometrics. We are mainly focusing on fingerprints, but of course we also offer manual face comparison and automated facial recognition based on video image processing. Both technologies are favoured by the ICAO (International Cival Aviation Organization) guidelines. Right now the face is automatically validated with a database (1:1 verification) with personal data stored on a card. The next step is to focus on a face and to identify the individual by comparing it with a list of faces (1:N).

At the moment, systems mainly involve a human scan. Of course they are supported by databases for a comparison print. When someone goes through a building security checkpoint, the computer screen pumps up the name and a picture. The person at the desk can compare the image with the individual who’s coming by. Everyone is working on trying to eliminate this human interface and to make the recognition basically automated.

Q. There must be a huge need to store data.

JW. Yes. That’s another step. You need a digital video storage system that can compress a lot of data and still have fast interfaces and high-speed communication networks. And there is a clear trend for convergence of electronics and IT security. This enables Siemens to combine video applications with highly sophisticated identification, access control and people-flow management systems, operating on our own high-speed networks.

An example of merging IT and electronic security, is to take the known access control system where you verify, say, badge information with a visual check, and link it to a human resources system where personalized data is stored.

Many companies are adopting an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system and incorporating it with information from their human resources department. Today we have to have separate databases for access control, for human resources data, and for data from the building automation system that might contain personalized data on individual preferences for climate control, lighting and other personal comforts.

So the question now is how do we combine all this in one database? And who owns this data in terms of keeping the information up to date? This is not so much a technical question of combining databases but, rather, a matter of rules and regulations. We could describe it as different chapters in a book, where security rules, and employee time records, work order
s, etc. are sorted accordingly.

Q. That’s content, but what about new technologies?

JW. We are now talking about smart cards. A smart card is your own personal chip that has embedded all kinds of data, including biometric data, that allows you to do certain things. It provides you with defined rights, such as physical access, access to IT networks, electronic purchases, etc. You might use it to for electronic ticketing at a sports event and it might grant you access to do shopping in designated areas of the stadium. Smart card technology is also linked with all other kinds of systems that have interfaces, networks and storage areas. It gives you access to the internet and to certain sections in the corporation network. Yesterday in my presentation I showed the four industrialized biometric measures we have today — the hand, the finger, the iris, and face recognition. You take the person’s biometric data and compare that to the data on the chip. If someone steals your chip and uses it to buy a ticket, the data won’t match and the thief could be apprehended when entering the stadium. The other advantage is that your personal data are on the chip and not on a central database.

Q. It all seems pretty futuristic, doesn’t it?

JW. I would say the future is very close. There are other video applications — in tunnels, for instance, for safety and intelligent traffic control. In a tunnel we take a digital video and with algorithms we can determine whether cars are moving or whether they are coming to a stop, which would cause an emergency situation. We also provide smoke detection based on video image processing. The software within the system can detect a certain pattern on the camera spot. As the picture is being analyzed, the pattern indicates that there is smoke and it sets off an alarm to alert operators of the central monitoring station. That’s a very new and very efficient technology because now we can combine with one video system smoke detection and traffic movement to make tunnels safer.

At Siemens Corporate Research in the U.S., we are working on beach border control with video systems. If you look at a beach you see certain behaviour patterns of the waves, of the water coming in. That’s all normal. But then we try to determine and anticipate behaviour that is so abnormal, it sets off alarms.

Q. What about the question of video surveillance versus personal privacy?

JW. There are various discussions on privacy and data protection laws. If you use video surveillance in stadiums, for instance, you are only allowed to use it within the stadium. The moment the camera’s eye moves outside the stadium, the cameras signal is automatically turned off and the monitor is black. That’s by law. Such systems were installed for example, in the stadiums being used by the European Soccer Championship in Portugal.

Regarding personal data, it is not a technology issue; it’s more a political issue of how companies make data available. It depends on individual laws in different countries. The ICAO recommendations concerning data protection rights of individuals are a big issue in Europe and especially in Germany.

At Siemens we ensure that we can provide the technology for connectivity, and then of course we must work with the customer’s environment in terms of what actually can be applied.

Q. Which business areas and vertical markets do you see as the most promising for the security business?

JW. Siemens has set its priorities in the pharmaceutical industries, food and beverage, healthcare, airports, and now ports of entry.

For food and beverage industries, security is crucial. We have worked with one of the larger companies in the world that has a concern about the contamination of its juices and water. Most of the time the biggest threat comes from within the company, so they want to be sure that each step of their process chain is monitored.

We are also focusing a lot of activity around ports. We have put a task force together consisting of experts from all the port countries within Europe and from the U.S. to address the needs coming up now. It’s all about track and trace. It’s about the contents of the containers, about how we can work together with logistics companies. Siemens has experts in logistics and we in security work closely with them to come up with concepts in this area.

Also in terms of track and trace, our central monitoring stations can track cars and truck fleets. This is useful for the manufacturers of high-end cars, which are frequently stolen. It’s a big issue in Europe. A GPS [global positioning system] is built into the car. And in Europe often a driver will take a truck home over the weekend to do the neighbour a favour and so on. With tracking systems the fleet companies have a lot less mileage on their trucks. They know where the vehicles are, and they make sure that the drivers go where they are supposed to.

Q. Do you see Siemens as competitors to consulting engineers? Siemens will go in and advise building owners, but consulting engineers might think it’s their job.

JW. Certainly in some projects on the systems and services side we would rather be competitors. That’s quite natural. A consultant might do the risk, the threat analysis and out of that look for a partner who can supply the solution.

But also, from a systems and service point of view, we are interested in providing our engineering and project management expertise, which can be perfectly aligned with the interests and needs of the consultant.

Q. What about SBT’s recent announcement about adopting BACNet open systems to help integrate their products with those of other manufacturers?

JW. Particularly in security we are going for an open architecture, open standards. BACNet is the interface we use at the automation network level. Where we combine building automation, fire and security under one management platform, BACNet is the interface at the high level that integrates the various controls.

We are trying to have as much commonality as possible. The SIPASS access control system is our first truly global access control system. We developed it in Australia, so it’s already working in the Asian market. We also introduced it in Europe and recently completed our first North America installation at the Siemens Dematic Postal Automation headquarters in Dallas.

We’re not trying to close ourselves in our own Siemens environment, but certainly we try to inject core technologies where we can differentiate ourselves in the market. In North America we are continuing to ally ourselves with partners and work with third-party suppliers

Q. And in Canada?

JW. In Canada we have a very successful security business operation. Our Canadian headquarters are in Brampton, Ontario.

We are very active in the market and besides our daily customer focus around security, fire and comfort, we are already starting to evaluate security concepts for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.


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