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The Art of Security

An Open Options and Worcester Art Museum Success Story

Located just an hour west of Boston, the Worcester Art Museum is world-renowned for its 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculptures, photographic prints, drawings, new media, and more. Spanning more than 5,000 years of art culture, the permanent collection includes paintings by some of the most well-known names in the world of art: Monet, Gauguin, Cassatt, and Whistler. From pieces that span the ancient, like the city of Antioch, to cutting-edge contemporary art, you can find almost every genre represented. And because the collections housed in the Worcester Art Museum are priceless and irreplaceable, utilizing a comprehensive security solution is essential.

The Challenge

With more than 250 employees with varying levels of access, the Worcester Art Museum needed an easy-to-use access control solution that provided the strictest security and integrated with their existing video surveillance software management system. 

“The institution’s most valuable assets are hung on the walls in public spaces,” said Worcester Art Museum Security and Safety Manager, Michael Warren. “This presents especially difficult challenges in protecting the assets from being touched, vandalized, or stolen. Technology can assist in protecting these assets but the bulk of our effort is spent developing people that respond to customer needs as well as the security needs of the collection.”

Warren said the previous security system wasn’t cohesive and included six separate vendors to provide access control, video, and alarm coverage. The alarm system in particular experienced many problems, including multiple false alarms.  Enter Open Options.

The Solution 

At the recommendation of their trusted system integrators, the Worcester Art Museum chose Open Options’ DNA Fusion as the access control management software provider. DNA Fusion provides a unified security platform including access control, video integration, and photo ID management in an open platform and best-of-breed approach by partnering with leading systems manufacturers. With DNA Fusion, the large museum can be easily managed via a standard thick client, a web browser, or Apple and Android smartphones. “DNA Fusion is quicker and more intuitive as if it were designed by a user. The ability to customize toolbars, for example, and to have granular control over user accounts has proved to be very valuable in our operation,” said Worcester Art Museum Director of Operations Fran Pedone. 

The Worcester Art Museum security team has embraced DNA Fusion and this seamless integration with their existing video and intrusion systems. The staff reports ease-of-use as one of the key benefits of DNA Fusion, which Pedone described as very important when training new employees. “Navigating the system proved to be clear, efficient, and useful. Most controls and settings are apparent without the use of the included documentation, which itself is detailed and well-written.” A high priority for the museum was to cover the entire perimeter of the facility with multiple layers of protection including video analytics, door contacts, and motion sensor technologies," said Warren.

“Open Options has allowed our museum to integrate all three technologies, creating a user-friendly interface for monitoring and controlling the various systems.” The museum uses several security workstations distributed throughout the facility which are operated by security guards and managers.

The use of DNA Fusion will grow as the museum continues to refine its Emergency Preparation and Response Plan. The museum has a multi-year plan for expansion of access control throughout the facility and they intend to expand the system every year as more funds become available. Warren said he is confident based on their experience with Open Options and DNA Fusion that they have invested in a solid security provider.

Open Options Partners with Invixium Biometrics

Open Options is proud to announce a strategic partnership with Invixium that will allow DNA Fusion customers to access Invixium’s biometric solutions.

The foundation of this partnership is the integration of Invixium products with DNA Fusion through Invixium’s software platform, IXM WEB. What makes this integration possible is IXM Link, allowing automatic synchronization of cardholder data between the two software databases. Synchronization of cardholder data grants Open Options customers streamlined installation, setup, and use of Invixium solutions.

In 2020, Invixium pivoted from their core fingerprint technology to focus on touchless biometric solutions aimed at healthy access, prompting their desire to partner with Open Options. The touchless Invixium solution enables organizations to follow evolving health guidelines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond without compromising speed, accuracy, or security.

“Organizations are aggressively moving toward the idea of the consolidated, secure enterprise to reduce vulnerabilities and ensure safety, and part of this effort is integrating with emerging technologies that can advance security postures,” said Chuck O’Leary, Vice President, Americas Access Control, ACRE. “Open Options integration with Invixium is designed to offer significant value to these entities, allowing them to manage their access control requirements in an integrated fashion that’s easy to manage and is proven to reduce costs.”

Our flagship product, DNA Fusion is intended to revolutionize the access control industry by removing many of the limitations to enterprise deployment inherent in common access control applications. An open architecture platform, DNA Fusion alleviates these issues by making it more intuitive to manage personnel, set use limits, control access privileges, and more. DNA Fusion additionally empowers stakeholders to monitor several systems, including audio and IP video recording, through a common interface, giving users access to the data they need when they need it.

“Our integration with Open Options marks our thirteenth ACM integration,” said Shiraz Kapadia, CEO & President at Invixium. “Extending our ecosystem allows us to offer healthy access to a wider range of businesses. We are proud to partner with organizations with common synergies and shared values such as our mutual commitment to quality and innovation.”

The integration between IXM WEB and DNA Fusion is available for IXM WEB 2.2.65.0 or later and DNA Fusion 8.1.

The Benefits of Open Platform Access Control in Educational Environments

Article First Featured on ISC News

As we return to a post-COVID society, the need for stronger, more streamlined security solutions in educational facilities has never been greater. Open platform access control solutions have numerous benefits, including monitoring several systems through a common interface, and integration with other systems.  In addition to access control, it's important to note that video management is a crucial aspect of security, especially in an educational setting. Therefore, equipping schools with a robust, highly flexible access control solution that allows for extensive integration will significantly strengthen the facilities' infrastructure. 

In 2021, more than 90% of public schools are already using some type of access control and video surveillance systems. While access control typically serves as the primary component of a security system, coupling it with other technologies such as video management, wireless locks, visitor management, and more, allows for a well-rounded solution covering multiple aspects of school security. 

Curious as to how one school leveraged open platform access control solutions in educational facilities, and how each security infrastructure was upgraded to become more robust, more streamlined, and easier to manage? Read below how this growing and evolving school district puts a focus on security while opening the door to future capabilities and integrations.

Big enough to serve you; small enough to know you

This is the mantra of the Littleton Public School District – or more commonly known as LPS – is located just 10 miles outside Denver's bustling downtown and serves several communities within the southern Denver metropolitan area. LPS is the fifteenth largest school district in Colorado, operating three high schools, four middle schools, 13 elementary schools, a preschool, two charter schools, and several alternative programs that span over 29 miles. The district is responsible for more than 15,000 students day-to-day and employs over 2,500 faculty and staff. 

Managing security and access for this amount of people can be a challenge, especially given all other security factors campuses face. Still, the LPS campuses are also open for use within the Littleton community.

"Schools are often not only educational facilities, but also centerpieces of the community," said Guy Grace, Director of Security and Emergency Planning, LPS. "For 15 hours a day, a significant part of our community is in our schools for learning, extracurricular activities, or community use, so we must get the security right. In the past, there were significant challenges that arose when the school district deployed security technology. Often, the older technology did not evolve with new threats, and as a result, became obsolete." 

LPS' former access control provider was proprietary and was not PoE (Power over Ethernet) compatible. PoE describes the cabling that passes electrical power and data, allowing a single cable to provide both the data connection and electrical power to devices such as door controllers and IP security cameras. PoE infrastructure results in lower cost, greater flexibility with installation, and overall more functionality than traditional wiring. As a result, the school district can adapt to and minimize new weaknesses. 

Grace and his staff were adamant about implementing technology to provide an integrated approach to a safer school by utilizing PoE to ultimately achieve a full-edged Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) system. PSIM is a category of software designed to integrate multiple, unconnected security applications and devices and control them through one comprehensive user interface. 

"In wanting to bring this big vision to the school district, we looked at procedures and technologies that would enhance school security and improve the learning environment," said Grace. "One of the most important tiers we wanted to meet was a complete installation of a PoE cabling infrastructure district-wide that would allow us to use non-proprietary systems, which helps us bring the best technology into the district."

As Grace began the vendor selection process for the upgrade, he looked at consistently evolving suppliers. This would allow the district to grow alongside its service providers as new features and technologies became available. "Our overall security goal is pretty simple," said Grace. "We must have quality technology delivering quality results because we cannot have a successful educational experience without safety and security being well taken care of."

Grace and his team sought an access control provider that could integrate with their chosen technology providers and a user-friendly interface that allowed multiple operators to utilize the system. 

The Open Options' cloud-hosted access control platform, DNA Fusion, integrates with other systems and has mobile and web applications. Because of this, LPS also utilizes other elements of the platform to enhance its overall security. "The web and mobile components of the software ensure we can access and manage security from almost anywhere – we receive alerts of open doors, forced entries, etc., straight to our mobile devices or remote desktops.

Grace and his team found the flexibility of programming time schedules and access levels highly beneficial in daily operations across the district. Security differs from campus to campus; for instance, there are time schedules in place for specific doors operated by security officers at the high school campuses, but the elementary and middle schools remain locked throughout the day except for student arrival and dismissal times. Access levels vary by employee, with some having 24/7 access to all buildings while others only have access specific to the building they work in. 

"We do provide access cards to area law enforcement," said Grace. "In a lockdown situation, only police and certain security personnel have access for immediate entry.

LPS believes that a security system must be deployed in a customizable manner for the school and its daily operations that enhance the abilities of teachers to teach and students to learn. In addition, a security system must ultimately have the ability to be deployed and work efficiently around the clock for many different needs. With this in mind, LPS currently has 29 sites utilizing the DNA Fusion platform with plans to have over 150 operators district-wide. 

"We expect the system to evolve for the needs of the district for years to come," said Grace. "Security is never static, so the system must be proactive like the people that use it."

Open for the Future

Access control is a critical security solution for schools and other educational facilities that are focused on protecting the lives of their students and staff. Open platform access control solutions that provide highly flexible integration with other security systems, such as video surveillance and management, are ideal, as these are the two main methods used in educational settings. Ultimately, utilizing a flexible access control solution provides a robust and safe way for students and staff to safely enter the campus, travel between classes, and exit the premises while being given the peace of mind that they are being protected from any harmful influences.

Quick Turnaround with Open Options Professional Services

An integrator asked the Professional Services team at Open Options to assist on a project with a quick turnaround time.

The project was to commission and program four PIM400-1500s and 24 AD400 wireless locks within DNA Fusion. Accustomed to accelerating service delivery, Professional Services was able to do the essential tasks in rapid succession.

Day One consisted of bringing the 4 PIM’s online and documenting their IP, MAC Address, location, and login information for the end-user.

Day Two was spent troubleshooting the doors that either was not linking to the PIM or wanting to communicate with DNA Fusion.

In summary the professional services team:
  • Professional Services personnel uncovered that the end-user was using an existing version of DNA Fusion that needed configuration changes and updating. This was necessary in order for the server to be accessed from the site where the new devices were being installed.
  • They had to change the IP address of the server as well as the existing PIM.  Once the version of DNA Fusion was updated, a whole suite of new features was provided to the end-user.
  • They equipped the end-user with practical information about the upgrade and answered questions to help the end-user be able to fully understand what had been resolved and what had been unlocked in the capabilities of DNA Fusion, adding value.

During the training, the new features were demonstrated, including the Info Ready reports.

“There were other items that were shown just in case it wasn't used like the drag and drop ability to filter the Event grid to a controller, a door and even a specific person,” said Michael Digby, Professional Services representative at Open Options.

“We informed the end-user that OpenDX would be a good item to investigate as it would assist with adding as much information into DNA Fusion automatically without having to enter it manually, along with the knowledge of cards being disabled when their Active Directory account is disabled,” added Digby. “Once the training was wrapped up, the final doors were tested and operating as expected. A quick check of all the doors was done, and a write-up was provided to the end-user.”

Michael Digby, Professional Services Representative at Open Options.

Case closed. This quick turnaround built trust with both the end-user and the integrator. 

New Training Certification Program Helps Canadian Dealers “Cross the Border” Virtually

As the pandemic continues to limit people’s ability to travel, the Training department within Open Options has taken its training programs online to benefit dealers and system users.

Recently, Open Options offered its first ConnectEd iLearn Essentials Certification program as a digital experience, accommodating the urgent need of a Canadian dealer who has several DNA Fusion installations coming up. The online training from our U.S. operation allowed the dealer to virtually “cross the border” to acquire the knowledge necessary to get new sites up and running.

“This new certification format provides the same hands-on, personalized training that Open Options is known for conducting,” said Sherinda Barrow, Director, Education Services  at Open Options. “One of the students commented that the training was the best webinar they had attended during this strange time of the pandemic and how he really enjoyed the interactive portion of the training.”

The online class is a mixture of lecture and hands-on lab exercises that build on each student’s system knowledge as the class progresses. Each student is placed into a VM lab session to configure their systems and get some practical experience. This gives the students the ability to attain the knowledge of the DNA Fusion product from the safety of their own environment.

With the success of the first iLearn Essentials class, Open Options is scheduling additional ConnectEd iLearn sessions on the Training calendar. The next iLearn Essentials session will take place on October 13th–15th. Class size is limited to four students and requires the students to have two (2) monitors to view the instructor’s computer and configure in their individual DNA Fusion system.

Please contact the Open Options training department to register for the iLearn Essentials class.

Tech Support Dives Deep into Logs to Identify Problem with Wireless Locks

An integrator was upgrading the ASSA ABLOY DSR integration at a senior living facility when he started to get “Access Denied” on all of their wireless locks for all cardholders. Although it was after normal business hours, the integrator was able to get Jose Charco, Support Technician at Open Options on the phone immediately. As a cornerstone of Open Options’ Connect Care program, Tech Support kicked into gear.

Jose gathered the logs and version information on all the software. When the DSR was upgraded from version 7 to version 8, the issue surfaced. The hunt for the cause was on. From the start, it was clear to Jose that the issue had to be something deeper than just a setting. He also realized that the involvement of the ASSA ABLOY support team and Open Options’ Development team was also needed to get to a resolution. Tech Support provided the leadership needed to gather the team resources available to address the issue.

With the backing of his colleagues, the Open Options technician checked that everything had been upgraded correctly, but he went a step further. Relying on his extensive experience in the security industry, he conducted a deep analysis of the logs. He discovered that the firmware version on the locks was the cause of the issue. This was the hidden detail that had been alluding others up to this point. 

“Once our Tech Support team member (Jose) uncovered the issue, it was just a matter of getting the firmware update pushed to all the locks,” said Nicholas Robran, Vice President of Customer Support at Open Options. “After the firmware had been updated, the issue was resolved. The integrator confirmed that everything was running fine. Everyone had access again, and the end-user customer was happy.”

To go from “Access Denied” to “All Systems Go” in as short a time as possible is a testament to the commitment and expertise of Open Options’ Tech Support to dive deeper into an issue for the fastest, most effective resolution. A seemingly “small detail” of a firmware update made a big difference. No detail is too small for Open Options when Tech Support is on the hunt.