There have been plenty of changes since we last took a look at the S2 web-based access control, intrusion, automation and video surveillance solution – key enhancements include the upgrades to the web interface, the release and enhancement of Magic Monitor and the release of monitoring and admin tool, Cumulus.
STEERING me through the upgrades on BGWT’s new demo application is BGWT branch manager NSW/ACT, Graham Clark, who has been supporting S2 for many years and has a strong handle on the system’s applicability. Just looking at the monitors in the demo room is instructive – this solution has matured over the years – it’s not simply more polished but it leans heavily towards situational awareness. Driving the system is also much more intuitive.
Before we look at the software, it’s important to get a sense of the underlying nature of the hardware, which supports access control, alarms, automation and video surveillance. It’s modular, plug and play, and is designed to function locally, regionally and globally. S2 controllers have embedded servers running Linux and you browse into them securely via any browser – there are no layers of on-site software, databases and server hardware required.
Blades in an S2 controller
This modular web-based design makes an S2 solution endlessly expandable vertically and laterally from a local application to a global application linking multiple systems from anywhere. The scalability and online nature of the product allows you to manage the security system from a mobile device you pull out of your pocket.
“One of the great advantages of S2 over traditional access control solutions is that it can adapt to many different types of installations and can be deployed easily,” Clark explains. “With traditional access systems there is controllers, door panels, software, databases and server hardware required – if the system needs to include surveillance, then an NVR will be installed to support them also. What S2 does is integrated security, so on small sites with 4 doors and 4 cameras, the cameras are integrated into the same box as the access control so there is only one box on a wall and no complex integrations – it’s great for small sites.”
“For instance, the S2 Quatro handles access, alarms and CCTV–up to 8 cameras and 8 doors. Once you go above that you get into the NetBoxVR, which brings access control management up to 32 portals and provides camera recording for 16ch in a single box. For sites larger than 32 portals, you move to the extreme or enterprise range of controllers which are available as a physical box or a virtual image that can be hosted in a network room or data centre – The largest systems can also be catered for with S2 Global, in this situation you can have multiple controllers in regional locations connected back to a centralised Global controller –This allows you to minimise hardware at the remote sites while managing users, alarms and sites centrally.
“Managing a system in this way has administrative and security related benefits– if you need to remove an employee from the database you just log into a single site and remove them, and they are removed across all sites quickly.”
There are also a range of third party products that are compatible with the S2 system –These range from Mercury hardware support, VMS integration such as Milestone, and also integration and Allegion’s wireless locks which are configured by Bluetooth and report to S2 via an IP hub.
Magic Monitor and Cumulus
According to Clark a lot of development has gone into Magic Monitor, which is now in its 6th revision and there’s a key new management tool released, a cloud management tool called Cumulus. Magic Monitor is designed to facilitate dynamic display of key security and safety information anywhere in an enterprise. With each Magic Monitor instance being individually controlled, Magic Monitor can support a single display or combine multiple instances into a video wall that not only displays cameras but access and 3rd party information.
As well as a video client, you can also use Magic Monitor to support multiple channels of digital content delivering situational awareness. This may include images from key cameras, signage, RSS and twitter feeds, TV and video presentations. There are standard widgets for time zone clocks, traffic, weather and news feeds that are built in. It’s possible to share Magic Monitor content with other Magic Monitors in real time also, whether on command or when triggered by S2 NetBox events and alarms.
“Magic Monitor is much more than a security tool and can be used in many applications” Clark explains. “From traditional security monitoring where the operator manages access control and CCTV, through to dynamic signage and event notification in public areas. An interesting fact about Magic Monitor is that it is used differently by every end user.”
“Such applications include forward facing foyers, with video or signage displays – all Magic Monitors are addressable, so you can display content relevant to the location, and then in the event of an emergency have all the monitors react to the event and show evacuation or lock down notices” he explains. “Further control of the system can be achieved by leveraging S2’s Threat Level app.
“For instance, if you have a situation that requires you to change the behaviour of the system, you can activate the threat level via an app on their phone which will in turn change the way the system behaves. It may be a simple outcome – a VIP might arrive, and the magic monitor welcomes them. Or it might be more serious. In the event of a fire or security event, the manager can change the threat level, the system then removes contractor access or lock down areas of vulnerability. Anything in the system you can configure can be controlled using the Threat Level app in a pre-configured way.
“Threat levels may not necessarily be security related – they may be an extreme weather event. In any case, it’s very powerful and allows you to pre-program the system to react to these events so they align with your operating procedures.”
Another key release from S2 is Cumulus, a cloud-based tool that allows integrators to monitor and administer S2 access control and CCTV systems from a single management dashboard. The way Cumulus works is that all S2 systems are assigned to the managing integrator’s portal and displays their real-time status. Important, too, Cumulus monitors the S2 system’s health by checking system performance data and applying configurable analytic rules to alert you of problems by text message or email.
“Cumulus is a portal which gives an overview of an integrators connected systems,” Clark says. “In this case, we have our Magic Monitors and our branch demo systems connected. As well as keeping you informed of system status and health, all the available upgrades can be seen and integrators can download new software releases, check licenses etc to keep their customers up to date, you can also use categories to make the sites easier to manage.
“Because S2 develops all of the products and add ons, it’s incredibly easy to integrate and in some cases automated.” explains Clark. “The systems flexibility is the true strength of S2 and it scales enormously if you need it to. It starts locally, grows regionally, and then grows globally.”
S2 is a pioneering manufacturer – it was arguably the first to take access control into networked environments, to leverage existing infrastructure – and that pioneering spirit persists in the company’s software solutions. They have a strong operational focus and are designed not only to be used by security teams to manage systems but to be customised in real time.
For instance, you build Magic Monitor on the go, adding a camera here, an input there, a dynamic map at the top, or a video output over there. The flexibility of Magic Monitor in to manage and monitor multiple locations makes it a solution that’s as much at home in a public surveillance application as it is in a health care facility, a shopping centre or sports stadium. The fact existing S2 customers can download it as a software application for free makes it irresistable.
Cumulous, too, is an operations tool, supporting the integrator’s ability to support a customer’s integrated security solution in real time. Its ability to monitor and report access control and CCTV system health in real time to workstations or mobile devices using an app makes for an excellent toolbox.
The key strength of these solutions is really the strength of S2 – a capacity to deliver situational awareness and system management across multiple solutions locally, or globally. How big and how powerful the integrated application becomes is entirely up to you. And as LANs and WANs become increasingly more secure, reliable and pervasive, S2’s capacity to leverage them becomes ever greater.