SAAB doesn’t makes access control management systems, video management systems or alarm management solutions. In fact, Saab doesn’t make any electronic security systems at all. Instead the company brings the electronic security industry its expertise in integrating multiple mission critical systems into a coherent upper management layer with no vendor lock-in.
As we all know, there are a large number of management systems on the market that claim to be able to manage multifarious security subsystems and we equally know that all too often application of these systems is fraught with compromise.
It is possible for proprietary management systems to integrate the subsystems of other manufacturers but this can often involve loss of functionality, additional expense and complexity, and lead to frustration or the replacement of perfectly capable solutions that have a functional disparity with the dominant management or hardware solution.
Saab solves all these issues through the application of a management layer that sits over the top of all subsystems without requiring any alteration to their function. A Saab management solution can cheerfully integrate a range of access control solutions on a single site, while at the same time integrating a range of CCTV subsystems from different suppliers.
Just to put this into necessary perspective, the capability of Saab’s OneView doesn’t end there. It can integrate BMS, perimeter detection, HR databases, public address, fire control, intercom, lighting, locking, HVAC – pretty much whatever you need to manage your site can be woven into the fabric of OneView and made available at a single workstation.
If this sounds like me-too from Saab, think again. We’ve written up dozens of major installations around Australia and the world and most are siloed with integration amounting to nothing more than 4 or 5 different systems running on adjacent monitors in huge Winstead workspaces that look like the cockpits of space shuttles.
Operationally and technically what Saab is doing is special and cannot be compared to any proprietary integration platform we’ve seen before. But there’s more. The OneView system might have been built by Saab but it’s been built using a common platform that can be serviced and upgraded by any accredited software tech. To facilitate this, Saabis currently in the process of establishing 4-5 accredited partners in major cities and these partners will work on OneView and handle service and maintenance, providing customers with choice and competition.
So – what is Saab doing in the electronic security industry and how did the company get involved? In fact, Saab’s involvement makes a lot of sense. Thanks to its core business of integrating complex real-time defence systems, Saab has a profound expertise at making disparate systems available to operators in real time with extreme reliability.
The company’s Australian business began with the integration of systems on the ANZAC class of frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. Saab’s combat management system integrates sensors, weapons and communications systems providing the core of a ship’s defence. This integration capability is supported by over 300 software engineers in Australia and provides serious local torque when it comes to R&D. Worth noting is the fact it was this team that built OneView.
As the security industry’s requirements have become more complex it makes sense that Saab’s expertise would become highly desirable – starting with the most secure facilities – including correctional centres and utility precincts. These sites combine so many different subsystems that managing them is a procedural nightmare requiring training on a dozen dedicated platforms.
According to Saab Australia’s Brett Bertram simplifying this complexity is exactly how the company made its entry into the electronic security industry – by delivering homogenous management solutions.
“The idea is that an operator responding to alarms and events can do everything they need to do using a mouse or a touch screen from a single workstation,” he explains.
“The system is extremely simple to operate, and therefore easy to train and learn, and more importantly to operate under stressful situations that security system operators find themselves under.
“To use a common user interface to acknowledge, reset and process alarms for each subsystem integrated on the site, and to allow an operator to focus on one screen to be able to take in the whole situation, is something I am sure system operators will take great comfort from.
“The integration of alarm, events and recorded video enables an operator to simply click on an alarm in the audit trail, and bring up the associated video to support rapid auditing and analysis of historic events.”
According to Bertram, everybody says they have an open architecture IP system that can integrate with all subsystems but he says only Saab’s system actually meets the description and is specifically designed for this purpose.
“Saab built OneView using a platform that’s commonly available in the process control and robotics market,” he says. “We took that high performance, proven engine and delivered our engineered security solution on top of it.”
“A lot of what we have done has leveraged off decades of building high reliability Defence systems and it was these major projects that gave Saab the R&D horsepower to be able to develop this type of open solution for the commercial market.”
Bertram says the open architecture of the Saab SMS is based on industry standards and provides a layered approach that facilitates re-use between projects as well as customisation. The layered approach enables different customers to implement ‘business logic’ to meet operational needs.
So, OneView is not a proprietary access control system, extended to provide integration with other subsystems such as CCTV, intruder detection and intercoms, etc. Instead Saab OneView is an open system that enables vendor neutral selection of the required security subsystems. OneView operates on standard server technology and Microsoft operating systems, requires no proprietary hardware and employs high or low level integration.
When you’re talking about a solution like OneView that can be massaged to deliver virtually any applicable subsystem functionality a site requires using existing subsystems, you find you’re discussing a feature set that is vast and nebulous.
Essentially, OneView has no limit on the number of subsystems, the type of subsystems, the number of monitored points, it can support. The system takes the shape the user requires it to take and morphs to meet the installation of new subsystems or subsystem upgrades.
“When we integrate subsystems to OneView they can be the subsystems the customer likes, or if they have no preference, then they can be the subsystems that are best suited to the application,” explains Bertram.
“You don’t get a situation where we say: “We are open – we can interface to anything” – and a customer says – “we’d like to interface to a specific subsystem” – and the response is – “well, we can do that but if you use our proprietary system you’ll get a much tighter integration with more functionality because we control the R&D path” – OneView is not like this.
“Instead what we are saying is that we can provide customers with every bit of functionality that a subsystem can give you and we don’t care where the subsystem comes from. We can come to a site that has spent X dollars putting an access control system in and they have decided that moving forward they want to use an alternate system. We can run both systems side by side in the same integration layer.
“Nor is there a limit – you can have multiple CCTV products if you happen to have a large site. We can integrate them all and they will appear to the operator in exactly the same uniform way in OneView – the operator will not know what brand of subsystem their management solution is talking to. There are no constraints and the system can incorporate future technology and upgrades.”
According to Bertram, with traditional integrations one of the subsystems takes pre-eminence and the other subsystems interface into it at low or high level.
“It might be the access control system – though in some projects it might be the CCTV system – but what you end up with is different things plugging into each other and an attempt to make a coherent single interface,” he explains.
In these installations users normally end up however having to view 2–3 different screens to process simple things such as an alarm associated with a camera and intercom point. Not with OneView.
“The Saab method is different. Basically there’s one integration layer and everything flows into it first. This means you can communicate between any of these systems via the integration layer,” Bertram says.
“Once a system is installed, upgrades are easy. In your integration layer you have 4 main components (Equipment Icons, Graphics/Maps, Business Rules & Drivers). Say you want to plug a new camera into the system, basically we supply a driver for the camera and that’s added in. The business rules determine how the information appears up on the screen and what, as the end user, you want to be able to do with that information.
“If you want to change something or add something, you want to put another intercom in, or two access control systems, 3 perimeter fences, etc, you change the driver. Likewise you can change your icons to represent the new products.
There’s no rebuilding the integration layer over and over again. This is particularly useful in mid-life system upgrades where replacements of subsystems are often considered by customers as new technologies are introduced into the market place, replacing 10-year-old-plus systems.”
Bertram says Saab actively encourages end users to write specs that focus on what they want to achieve on their sites. And he correctly points out that in a traditional solution all the subsystems have their own head end and this makes them hardware heavy and increases expense.
“But we take those head ends and virtualise them on our own servers so there’s no need for 4, 5 or more PCs, especially if you want redundancy for all subsystems. Instead you only need 2 servers to manage the system – that makes a difference. This reduces the footprint in the server room and operator room, reduces power and air-conditioning requirements and more importantly reduces through life costs”.
This virtualisation also delivers a system with high levels of fault tolerance, with seamless failover achieved in milliseconds without operator intervention he says.
A system like OneView makes the most sense when you strap yourself into the pilot’s seat and take a flight. The site GUI I’m viewing has a dark background with layers of functionality built onto it and comprehensive but simple mapping. I’ve described the system as offering operators a bird’s eye view of a site and it’s this Google Earth-style that really makes OneView distinctive.
In the configuration I see there are 2 screens that make up a workstation, left and a right screen. As Bertram explains, the left side is configured for health/overview status, the right side for detailed site map and functional pages such as alarm summary, reporting and audit trails.
The left shows OneView’s status in real time allowing an operator to have complete situational awareness of the site. The right screen utilises the Google Earth functionality to provide a comprehensive site map with dynamic colour and icon updates that enable the fast and effective management of alarms and events for operational efficiency.
“With traditional systems, as an operator you’d be on a main page and you’d skip from one page to the next as you drilled down into the system layers of function,” Bertram explains.
“With OneView you mouse wheel in and out of the system just as you would in Google Earth, zooming from a full screen to an area, a room, a device, so you see exactly what you want to see. Icons become visible at different levels of zoom to avoid cluttering the map display and each icon has an associated context sensitive pop-up menu that displays status and provides the relevant controls.
“All the subsystems are connected and can be viewed/checked in the same way. You can select an icon and the related status information pops up with its associated controls. You can configure hot buttons to go to designated areas of the site, eg. the gatehouse, a specific building or wherever. You can also use a mini-map to move around the site making operations very intuitive.”
Importantly, at the bottom of the GUI there’s an alarm bar that shows which alarms have been activated around the site and you can process the alarms directly from here, with the system automatically navigating the operator to the relevant point on the map. At this point Bertram takes control of the system to show the way OneView handles alarm events – in this case it’s an alarm activation of a zone in a perimeter fence.
“What happens when the alarm is activated is that CCTV pops up live on the SMS screen. To view the alarm you take the mouse in the right screen and click on the alarm bar and that takes you directly to the site location of the alarm – the pop-up control menu is automatically displayed, and you click the tag to replay pre and post alarm video right there. You can see what happened while live video is still playing. The alarm can be acknowledged and reset when you’ve checked the alarm event.”
Next we look at an intercom call. When the call connects out in the field an alarm pops up in OneView and the operator clicks on the alarm, the map zooms directly to the point and the pop-up control menu and associated CCTV camera are automatically displayed so the operator can unlock the door/gate. If you want to look at pre and post video they are right there in front of you and the same goes for alarm event handling and response, fire alarms, environmental alarms, they are all in front of you all the time. Even the Intercom’s volume control is available to be adjusted via the mouse.
For PA calls you can select buildings to broadcast PA messages to or select all buildings or a single area of the site. An operator can turn on lights on and off in a single room. There’s a lot of endlessly customisable information at your fingertips and this comes with full hierarchical control so different levels of control rooms and officer stations can be enabled with the associated restrictions on visibility and control of equipment. The access to information and control of equipment can alter depending on which operator, supervisor or manager is logged on.
“Operationally, the main thing about OneView is that in three or four mouse clicks you can do everything at one workstation – you don’t have to alt tab to anything – there’s no searching for video in subsystems – you just get everything delivered right to the screen in front of you,” explains Bertram.
It’s clear that Saab is not endeavouring to compete directly in the access control or CCTV security space – instead the OneView management solution sits on top of existing systems.
“We are not trying to sell a specific security product – we are trying to take multiple security products and present them in a way that offers the best useability in a common platform, simple operation, with speed and efficiency,” says Bertram.
“We say, let the subsystems do what they do well, while we offer a common homogenous interface so the entire system is all there on a single workstation. And because we are not from the security products industry, we are not trying to push a proprietary product or secure a maintenance contract.
“We work with integration partners providing choice for local technicians and maintenance support on this security platform.”
According to Bertram, OneView’s flexibility means if you don’t like a subsystem in a couple of years’ time you can put another one alongside it or replace it.
“There’s no lock-in to vendor or product and we’ll make the system present to you in the way you want it to present depending on your business rules. For instance, when an alarm goes off what do you need to do and what information do you need available?
“Security suppliers have been quick to embrace us. They realise we are an ally, not a competitor. We have access to very big systems integrations and we don’t make security electronic products – the future holds plenty of opportunities.”
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