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System Component Interoperability
System component interoperability is a measure of how well one or more elements of a security system are
able to work with other systems.
Interoperability takes several forms. At the system level, it is primarily a communications issue where
information must be exchanged among system elements. At the system component level, it can be an
equipment interface issue such as circuit board or connector compatibility or software compatibility,
especially when different vendors are involved and different protocols are used. Achieving interoperability
requires well defined interface specifications, vendor commitments, and tight control of system and
component configurations throughout both the design and the implementation processes.
Interoperability includes both internal and external functionality. Internally, airport security depend on a
local area network (LAN) to exchange data between sensors and operator workstations. In most airports,
the LAN is developed and maintained by the IT Department. The IT system will have its own functional
standards and these may now be compatible with security system requirements, e.g., standby power for IT
racked equipment may be a few hours but a security system, to function, cannot lack power. Externally,
the airport security system may require support from or be required to provide support to external
organizations. As a piece of critical infrastructure for a city, state or region, airports are likely part of larger
emergency operation plans. Thus, interoperability with city state and regional systems is an important part
In addition to addressing interoperability with external entities that impact, or are impacted by, the airport;
there is also a need to consider interoperability and integration of third party systems operating at the airport.
The airport should consider systems operated in areas covered by tenant agreements and even exclusive
area agreements, so that emergency access can be accomplished and critical security data (alarms and
camera data for example) can be exchanged with central security systems. Airport operators should also
be aware of systems that may be operated by concessionaires within terminal areas and even contractors
operating at the airport. While an airport may make a determination not to integrate these systems with
airport systems, or decide to make a partial integration, those should be affirmative determinations.
The airport should understand and inventory all the systems operating with the area of the airport. It should
address the question of integration and interoperability directly with tenants, concessionaires, and
contractors, and make a positive or negative determination of requirements. Criteria for integration of these
systems should be identified and then requirements should be included in tenant, concessionaire, contractor
and exclusive area agreements executed by the airport.
In deciding whether to integrate third party systems into a larger airport system, there needs to be an analysis
of the following factors: ConOps and operational need; difficulty of system integration; cost of initial
integration; and the cost of continuing maintenance and integration support. Airport operators should
understand that without continued maintenance, integration support system functionality may be lost. The
difficulty of initial or continued integration may mitigate in favor of maintaining separate independent
Original integration of security elements, such as cameras and card readers, was possible using RS232,
RS485, and other protocols, which linked two components such as an access control unit and an analog
video matrix switch. This elementary integration has been superseded by IP as the ubiquitous method for
system communication, allowing rapid bidirectional communication of any kind of digital data between
any numbers of components over any distance.
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