Courthouse Project Includes Video Surveillance, Access Control
By Brian Albright, Business Solutions magazine
A security integration platform has helped this integrator secure a place at the table for large government projects.
Video surveillance systems and associated video management systems (VMS) have become a larger part of the security landscape, but they are just one part. In many installations, VMS works in conjunction with access control, perimeter security, and other solutions (like building automation), and end users have sought out ways to better coordinate these various solutions.
Ottawa-based Marcomm Systems Group (MSGI), founded in 1991, specializes in the design, supply, and installation of electronic security and control systems. In addition to offering a wide range of access control, surveillance, video management, and other solutions, the company has developed its own security solution (DYNATROL) that simplifies user operation by integrating the disparate components of security and building management systems via an intuitive GUI, a custom report generator, and dynamic facility maps.
“Security and building systems do not have a common interface protocol,” says MSGI President David Trudel. “We’ve written interfaces to speak to these various systems, so that they can be controlled in a single graphical user interface. The beauty of that is, now those systems can also talk to each other. An intrusion alarm provides input that pops up on a map. That automatically presents associated video to the operator and maybe turns on the lights in that same area without the operator having to do anything.”
MSGI’s ability to commission and install security solutions, combined with DYNATROL’s integration capabilities, have helped it gain a reputation as a reliable contractor for large, complex security installations and for local government projects. Recently, MSGI served as the security system subcontractor on two courthouse projects. Both the Quinte court complex in Quinte, Ontario, and the Thunder Bay court complex were built via publicprivate partnership (P3) arrangements.
MSGI was brought into these projects via Plan Electric (for Quinte) and Univex (at Thunder Bay). Both installations presented a number of complexities from a security standpoint. Because they are public courthouses, there are lots of open areas that are fully accessible. Portions of the judicial department, however, required a different level of security. And the holding cell area, which functions like a miniprison within the facilities, required even more stringent controls.
In Canada, P3 projects are typically led by large, prequalified consortiums. The government agency leases the building from the primary contractor, who agrees to operate the building for 30 years. That saves the government the investment of owning the building.
That also means that the contractors and subcontractors receive recurring revenue for their 30-year agreement to maintain the systems within the building. “In these projects, we commission the system and do all of the training for the final operators,” Trudel says. “We have the responsibility to maintain the system with them. Our firm has a contract to assist in supporting the security system for 30 years; we provide ongoing training, emergency support, and maintenance; and we replace components as requirements change over time.”
MSGI landed its spot on the teams for both of these projects thanks to its performance on previous P3 projects. “We have a reputation of being able to take on these design-build contracts and to meet the schedule,” Trudel says.
Building that reputation hasn’t always been easy, however, since MSGI has to compete with larger national and multinational firms. “The larger companies can offer end-to-end security, building automation, and fire alarm systems, and we don’t provide those latter services,” Trudel says. “But we’ve been breaking into those projects. We recently won a job because our price was 30 percent less than the national firm on the security portion.”
Trudel says that MSGI also has an edge because the company offers security solutions from a wide variety of partners, which provides an advantage on pricing while also helping the company’s margins on these projects. “Because our solution can work with any hardware or software, we can maintain our margins while still picking the best solution for the best price to do the job,” Trudel says. “The big national companies are trying to move their own proprietary systems and hardware. We’re not trying to lock the clients into a particular set of solutions.”
A Single Interface
Each of the courthouse installations includes roughly 400 cameras that send digital video to on-site hard drives that MSGI monitors and maintains. The DYNATROL solution at each location interfaces with a video management solution from Genetec, a long-time MSGI partner. Genetec also provided the card access control systems. The solution is also interfaced with a communication system from Harding Instruments that handles intercom and paging services, as well as audio surveillance — the intercoms act as microphones that are tuned to detect unusual sounds and trigger alerts. DYNATROL is also integrated with a Schneider programmable logic controller (PLC) solution on-site.
The logic provided in the DYNATROL system provides a value-add on top of the functionality of the separate security systems. “We enhance those solutions,” Trudel says. “If there’s an automatic door opener on a door, DYNATROL handles the different rules that may be required for getting a wheelchair through that door versus a cart. If an alarm goes off, DYNATROL can provide camera views from multiple cameras in the area, as well as the last few seconds of video prior to the alarm. We take all of the bells and whistles of a lot of systems and make them sing.”
In addition to installing the complete security solution, MSGI also installed Cisco Layer 3 Networks at each facility. “In Quinte we installed three separate Cisco networks: one for video, one for the alarm and security systems, and one just for the detention area,” Trudel says. “That provides robustness and extra security.”
The biggest challenge, because the projects involve so many vendors, was project coordination. “Scheduling is always a challenge, because the P3 projects have to be finished by a certain date or else fines start being leveled,” Trudel says. “You have to work with the trades to make sure that the cable is in the wall before the drywaller puts up the drywall.”
Both courthouses opened in early 2014. According to Trudel, MSGI plans to offer DYNATROL to outside integrators in the near future, which will help expand the company’s revenue base. “I think we can bring this out as a sellable software solution for other integrators to use,” Trudel says. “We’ve never sold it anywhere else before, so this is new territory.”
In the meantime, the company will leverage the courthouse projects and other recent wins to continue to build its regional customer base. “Having an integration software product enables us to independently select the best subsystems for any application,” Trudel says. “If these systems aren’t integrated together, the end users face having to use a lot of appliances to control a building. We’re addressing a real challenge in the marketplace.”