RIGHT from the get-go, let’s be clear that Gallagher’s Command Centre v7.00 is the latest incarnation of a solution that used to be called CardaxFT. As we all know, this revered product pioneered modern networked access control. After its release, the company’s software engineers undertook more than a decade of digital lapidary to polish the access control industry’s benchmark.
Now – having established the product’s lineage using that name, let it here be known that Gallagher Command Centre v7.00 is the only name by which this great product shall in future be known. As part of a process of unifying its identity, Gallagher has branded a number of its famous electronic security products as – well – as Gallagher. We will all get used to this.
So, we now know this is not a new product but an improvement on something that was a fine solution already. The enhancements made to v7.00 are significant, however, and they focus on making the system easier to use, giving users greater power and flexibility in their operations. It’s these enhancements we will focus on.
For a start, the underlying Gallagher platform resides on a user’s IT network in servers and stores information about cardholders, the site, and system activity. The system automatically executes business policy, enforcing compliance with internal and external regulations. It’s the way in which this underlying solution is managed that concerns us here and that’s because v7.00 is designed to give users what they want where they need it.
As Gallagher’s people neatly sum up, the new client achieves all this by allowing itself to be configured so as to dish up exactly what operators need to see – sized and placed on screen wherever it’s wanted. This capability extends from alarms management, to general monitoring and control, from challenge to cardholder administration.
At the heart of all this is an in-built and intuitive user interface design tool and powerful high resolution multi-monitor workstations. Operators are able to mix and match information from different sources on the fly and then filter the content to provide situational awareness. It’s powerful stuff.
Test driving v7.00
I got a demo of the product from Gallagher’s product manager Trish Thompson at the Gallagher office in Hamilton, NZ. Thompson is enthusiastic about v7.00 and she navigates the system deftly. Not surprisingly, Thompson has a relentless user focus – v7.0 is about control rooms and their ability to manage, monitor and control security simply and intuitively, she says.
Now, this is something you hear a lot when talking management solutions but it’s obvious Gallagher has achieved something special with v7.00. They’ve put system layout into the hands of users – and not just a few shreds of functionality. You can reinvent key parts of the interface every few minutes to meet changing circumstances. To do this, you pull together the functions that best serve an incident and when it’s over you simply dissolve them.
As Thompson explains, the company’s workstation client has been around for more than ten years and has accrued features over time. She doesn’t say it aloud but clearly adding functionality over time adds layers of operational complexity – complexity that v7.00 sweeps completely away. With v7.00, you pick functionality to suit your needs – simple as that.
“A key with v7.00 is that we’ve embraced new architecture and software tools – the .net framework and the WPF – this gives us a lot more control in terms of the capabilities of the user interface. That was one of the big drivers from an IT perspective,” she says.
Thompson explains that while Gallagher is going to be migrating a number of things through to v7.0 over the next few years, the first thing to square away is the controller. This means operators handling day to day security will be familiar with a new and better way of driving their systems and more functionality will be added to this capability later on.
“Thanks to the new tools the big step we’ve made is going away from the little gray windows of traditional software products to a system of configurable tiles,” she says. “And within this big step the key is that operators can now design the screen layout to give them the information they need to handle any event.
“Instead of an interface that may not represent the context of the incident they are working on, operators are now looking at an alarm event and everything they need to know or control in relation to that particular alarm event has appeared on their screen.
According to Thompson, this means operators don’t have to go looking for things, they don’t need to filter or run reports. Instead everything that’s important is front and centre.
“As an example, let me activate an alarm on the demo system,” she says. “Up here we have 3 different alarm viewers – this is the viewer alarm tool bar when you log on and depending on my privileges as an operator I might see one viewer or I might see many of them.
“In this case I have 3 viewers, the north of the country, the south the country and a viewer for duress. What we are showing here is that you can now create a viewer specifically designed to pop to the front and you can then filter the content of that viewer if there’s an incident.”
The viewers can be moved about, too. If there are multiple monitors in a system operators can grab one drag it off and pop it onto another monitor that might display another part of the system. The idea is to distribute viewers in such a way that suits operators.
“As part of this, whenever you are logged on as an operator you always have your own personal summary of all the alarm events that are designated to be visible to you,” Thompson explains. “When you sit down you can click on the list and skip to the first priority alarm – you click that and through you go to a viewer showing all the details of that alarm.
“On a practical note, when you lay out these screens you actually designate what resolution monitor you are using. An alarm viewer for a particular location may not need a big alarm list that gets in the way – so I can dedicate most my screen to the things I really need to know. Things like: where is this alarm? What does the team need to do? All of these tiles you can size on screen yourself.”
During the demo Thompson works quickly away. She positions an alarm list to the left and a panel with chosen tiles to the right. She selects a range of elements in her tiles including site graphics and a card expiry list. Next, she actuates an access denied event using a card and a reader linked to the demo system.
In a powerful demonstration of the nature of the system, when the event is denied, all the information selected for such an event is displayed. This includes information about the person, their photo. Other events related to them. And if there’s integrated video available, you get live video from the door.
Now Thompson dives off into another scenario, in this case the alarm has video integration and the screen is configured to show footage from a door open too long alarm, as well as a filtered event trail. This event trail allows operators to see who left the door open and follow where they have gone. And if there’s a hardware problem with a door or an alarm contact, then this can be diagnosed and a response organised.
“Now see how over here where I’ve tiled all of the other related elements as a film strip?” she asks. “If I click on that I can jump to details, or I can click on the header and go back to my standard layout – you can see it’s really easy to navigate.”
“Instead of an interface that may not represent the context of the incident they are working on, operators are now looking at an alarm event and everything they need to know or control in relation to that particular alarm event has appeared on their screen.”
One of the nice things about the screen configuration is the flexibility operators have with the alarm list. This is not just bunged smack in the middle of the screen, consuming wall-to-wall acreage but displaying nothing that’s relevant. Instead the list can be docked to the top, bottom, right or left – and you can size the alarm list for the sort of information you want to display. There’s no layout restriction imposed on the operator at all.
Can multiple operators have a different layout based on privileges? I ask. Indeed they can, Thompson says. Everybody can have their own layout if they chose to do so.
Something else that’s different in the alarm list in v7.0 is that there used to have a big band of flashing colour that flashed on and off when an alarm was not acknowledged. There are instances in which particular nuisance alarms or expected alarms – faults or door opens for maintenance – need to be ignored. This flashing made for tiring viewing. The red alert is still there but it’s now much smaller.
Monitor site viewers
Next, Thompson runs me through monitor site viewers which she says are the same concept as alarms viewers but which start off with a blank canvas. With monitor site viewers you pull together components into tiles and filter content to give the ‘views’ of the system status you need. You might want to view the status of a building, a floor or a single door and with site viewers you can designate how the relevant information is presented to you.
A key way you use the monitor site viewer is view-only challenge mode. To demonstrate, Thompson badges a card at a ‘door’ in the demo panel configured for view-only challenge.
“See how all the details of the person badging immediately update for that cardholder so the system is showing me the last person through and whether they were granted access or not. Some people use this as a view-only challenge while other operators take control using override and open the door for a cardholder. This can also be integrated with video.”
Thompson explains that the overall configuration of the system may entail 6 main site plans which are always available to operators along with an event trail. If there’s an event, operators can zoom into the plan for more detail about the event and for cardholder detail and with a single click they can reverse back to a standard layout.
“On smaller sites there might just be a site plan with video and a thumbnail you get to size. In this part of the interface operators can also control a camera if they are privileged to do so,” she says.
“The way we envisage a lot of people using this part of the system is creating a panel relating to different areas of the site – say a remote building or a floor or even just a high security door. How you filter these components depends on the views you want but because it’s flexible on the configuration side what you do with it is up to your imagination.
“Here we are looking at the admin building site plan, we have the main items and in this tile I can add items by searching for them – I can look for the lecture block and it will show me everything related to that, it filters for me, I can add things on the fly and then when done get rid of them from the tile.
“And if I want to monitor anything I can head off through the system picking anything that’s relevant to that door or area or cardholder and add it to my tile and then head back to my home site plan. Over there I can use this information in my tile and when an incident is resolved I can just remove it.”
There’s also a status tile that is similar in behaviour but it is preconfigured and there’s a guard tour tile with macros showing operators how to mix and match. If you integrate the tile with CCTV you can bring through live video from compatible systems and DVRs. This system of configurable tiles is really clever and allows operators to condense overall system functionality wherever they need it.
“On the cardholder admin side we have pulled together all the information about a person on a single screen and we let operators configure it – so there’s a lot of information we potentially hold for people,” Thompson explains.
“With admin we also made the search as simple as we could – you just start typing part of the first or second name of the cardholder and on the third letter the system starts querying and suggesting potential matches.
“You can also configure the fields that turn up in the search results, configure the fields you are allowed to search on and select different search options,” she says.
“You can then copy results, pop them into an excel spread sheet and email it – it’s a simple onscreen reporting option where you don’t have to go off to the reporting engine.”
V7.00 also has a filtered event trail.
“Basically when you are looking at a person through an alarm or a cardholder viewer you can see recent events for the person as well as any events that an operator actioned for a person – so if details where updated they could be seen,” Thompson says.
“Prior to this, operators would have to know how to go off to a report and know how to select these particular things which would take a bit of time. So v7.00 has a level of configurability to include and display just what you need to handle admin and everything is much more accessible than before – you click a button and we lead you through whatever you need to do to make the system work best for you.”
The system also has the ability to offer video integration – an ActiveX control can be displayed inside a tile and that tile can be maximised or minimised and the video scaled up and down when viewed. When it comes to DVR integration this brings stored video relating to an alarm event – such video can still be viewed through the alarm viewer, and anywhere throughout the system you can pull in that live video feed if you need it.
“The next thing we are looking to migrate is the reporting engine and we are designing that at the moment and coming up with concepts about how it will fit in with these viewer concepts and the config side,” explains Thompson.
“I think that will be impressive – I’m excited about the plans we have to date. There are a few other things in the pipeline – but nothing I can tell you about at the moment!”
The next thing we are looking to migrate is the reporting engine and we are designing that at the moment and coming up with concepts about how it will fit in with these viewer concepts and the config side. I think that will be impressive.