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Electronic Security Systems
The subtitle of this book is A Manager's Guide to Evaluating and Selecting System Solutions, and I tried to keep that very much in mind as I went through it. It is not a how-to text, a hands-on guide for the technician on the ground who is making the system happen; it is an overview of the areas, rather than components, that make the security system come together.
It gets right in there in the first chapter on electronic access control, a fundamental issue with all security systems: who do you allow into an area and how do you make sure that it really is the right person, especially controlling transient visitors like contractors? It doesn't go beyond the level of badge entry, but that is surely sufficient for most commercial operations.
How to make the badges secure is the detail of the next chapter, and is reasonably detailed in regard to the technologies available. Having, myself, been issued thousands of visitor badges over the years, I would agree with the theory but disagree with the implementations: security staff get so used to what they expect to see, that they don't immediately recognize what might be "different."
The next chapter covers biometrics and discusses fingerprint, hand geometry and signature systems -- wildly wide of the real biometric technologies that we are going to see in the next few years in the likes of passports and ID cards with picture images, eye scanning systems and, potentially, instantaneous DNA recognition -- some of these techniques are already in place at government establishments.
Electronic alarm systems are covered next -- again, purely from a management perspective; we are not given insight into varying normally-open and normally-closed alarms throughout a system, for example. This is followed by the all-important discussion on fire systems with coverage on both the delivery and sensor approaches.
Then the author moves on to internal and external sensors -- in rather dry terms, I have to say -- and then to closed-circuit television systems in a whole twenty pages; a topic that can (and will, in our next review) be the topic of a complete book. The coverage of wireless systems in the next chapter (mobil? [sic]) is also sparse in an area where major jumps are being taken in security -- to avoid the easy alternative of the bad guy in just cutting a fixed telephone wire.
The author then moves on to intercoms and controls; the former is obviously a critical function in a security system but then he puts far too much emphasis on RFID -- which is about as secure as a fusebox. The generics of a security control center are then discussed, with no real substance as to what absolutely has to be there and what the human elements need to be trained in.
The remainder of the text goes into database management, system configuration control, process automation, building automation, integration, consolidation, maintenance and testing, the security design process, special compliance (especially to UL codes), and trends. The author fills out the book with Appendices on the pros and cons of a consolidated database, security audits, integration tips, technical security job grades (why would you offer twelve grades when an organization like the Catholic Church can get away with six -- including the CEO?), and interviewing techniques.
Electronic Security Systems is a book that is very definitely for the hands-off manager who is also not going to specify particular equipment (or we hope he isn't). It is written in the style of someone who is accustomed to addressing trade press length of articles, rather than being comfortable with a book style: the twenty chapters offered could probably have been more cohesive as eight. The lack of illustrations is also frustrating and, honestly, makes the book more boring.
That being said, however, there is enough in this publication for a security manager who is trying to grasp the enormity of the task that he has to tackle to get ideas about where to start looking for the follow-up detail that he will need to make real decisions. I would have supported the publisher's go-ahead to publish just on that basis. At the same time, if the author went into more detail about the parts of a system, the Manager's reference in the subtitle could be ditched and the resulting new audience would be huge. Yes, the book would end up with 600+ pages, in that case, but it would sell like crazy.