Embracing the Internet of Things

Embracing the Internet of Things

Opportunities and implications for security and beyond

The machine-to-machine (M2M) movement. The Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Everything (IoE). Each term may have its subtle differences, but at their core, they all involve connected devices that share information to enhance their intelligence, capabilities and operation. However you refer to the phenomenon, the IoT is here to stay. It’s poised to generate far-reaching implications in the security space—from alarm monitoring to advanced, integration projects—while enhancing efficiencies and business intelligence.

The IoT combines operational technology (OT), devices in the field that capture data, with information technology (IT), back-end software systems that can do something with the data, to create actionable business intelligence and management capabilities. OT devices may include alarm sensors, cameras, readers, panels, environmental sensors and more. Such wired and wireless devices share information with one another and with applications in real time. Standards are being developed so that all a device requires is a communication pathway along with the ability to detect something and capture data.

Real-time data collected by OT devices can be vast and includes information related to alarm conditions, vehicle movement, video detection, doors status, environmental conditions and more. The devices can share this data and send it back to a central management location, likely via a cloud-based solution. From these systems, people can aggregate and analyze the data to identify trends, anomalies and deficiencies, so they can verify positive correlations and make real-time corrective actions as needed to improve their operations.

The IoT promises seemingly endless possibilities, and the security industry is ready to welcome a host of new IoT-enabled capabilities that, if managed well, can greatly enhance security and business operations. Let’s review how the IoT is impacting a variety of industries and how those applications are influencing IoT-related opportunities in the security world.

The IoT Everywhere

The potential of the IoT to drive organizational changes begins with data collection and sharing, and relies heavily on the sophisticated analysis of this data. The capturing of data is nothing new. Corporations have been collecting data—Big Data—from consumers, processes and operations for years. However, in the IoT space, organizations can capture a wider array of data from a wider variety of sources. By combining and purposefully manipulating those data points, organizations can discover deeper correlations and arrive at more intelligent conclusions about their operations. Such capabilities are emerging in a number of industries.

In the utilities market, the IoT is enabling more efficient data collection with smart meters that relay readings to cloud-based servers with no need for human involvement. This capability is leaps ahead of traditional house-to-house manual readings. Beyond providing readings for billing purposes, we can envision a day in which a water company can track realtime usage and historic patterns, and notify a property owner of a potential leak.

In the insurance arena, carriers are using IoT-enabled devices to glean information from consumers’ real-life habits to assess risk and promote safe driving. For example, Progressive’s Snapshot device plugs into a consumer’s vehicle and relays information to a cloud server. Tracking data related to miles driven, hard braking instances and time of day helps Progressive determine appropriate coverage rates. Consumers receive discounts for low-risk driving habits and can track their projected savings online.

For manufacturing operations, IoT-enabled devices can track pallets, containers and processes, informing operators where everything stands in real time. Careful analysis of this data can help organizations predict when a process may fail, identify when to perform proactive maintenance and enhance the visibility of processes throughout a plant on a granular level.

And, let’s not forget the consumer space where IoT applications abound, allowing us to track our exercise habits, set our thermostats from our smartphones and turn our lights on automatically when we arrive at home. One day consumers may use the IoT to control fully-automated homes from a single remote device.

The IoT in Security

If the IoT is all about more efficiently capturing data, understanding what that data means and taking actions to improve outcomes based on that data, then it is more than welcomed in the security space. It’s needed.

Security-related data from IoT-enabled devices may come from people scanning access badges, cameras tracking movements, alarms being activated, sensors monitoring temperature, mobile devices, wearables and vehicles. All of the devices capturing this information are now able to communicate with one another, and they’re able to capture granular information. Collecting, aggregating and analyzing this data can lead organizations to actions that help reduce costs, enhance efficiencies, provide new services and even glean business intelligence that extends far beyond security operations to include information technology, human resources, logistics and other business functions.

As an example of enhancing business intelligence, IoT-enabled devices can give retail loss prevention teams more information to detect, prevent and investigate issues. Connected devices also can serve dual purposes to maximize their value, such as surveillance cameras being used to inform marketing tactics by counting people and tracking heat maps to determine the effectiveness of in-store displays, while making real-time adjustments.

As the IoT security space continues to grow, companies are developing ways to enhance the capabilities of connected edge devices by connecting them to new software systems. The key to enabling these new devices is manufacturers, software companies and integrators providing open architecture systems based on application program interfaces (APIs).

APIs enable the expansion of a system’s capabilities by building customized solutions that leverage applications or services in the cloud as well as onsite. Doing so allows end users to create a more enterprise- focused model for their business that enables richer collaboration and more meaningful information gathering and sharing across departments, sites and organizations.

One example of an API-based system is Diebold’s SecureStat centralized Web-based security management system. It includes a Development Zone Portal in which customers and partners can create solutions with APIs to collect service, installation and monitoring history, access video, automate provisioning and manage security devices in the field. The portal includes documentation, sample code, instructions and an inventory of capabilities and services that organizations can use to create their own interfaces.

Brivo Labs and Eagle Eye Video also have embraced the API space. Brivo Labs offers cloud-based access and video solutions that users can tweak to fit their needs, and the company’s API platform allows developers to build apps that can unlock and lock doors, provision credentials and obtain data. Eagle Eye Video allows organizations to develop apps to automate recording, management and playback of video from any connected camera.

What the Future May Hold

Via low-cost and ubiquitous cellular and wireless transmission technology, the IoT is expanding the capabilities and “smartness” of edge devices, making them even more integral tools for enhancing security. Traditionally, edge devices had to communicate directly to an alarm panel, which relayed information to a receiver or monitoring center, often with some sort of human intervention or interpretation. As edge devices get smarter and communicate directly with one another, they can make decisions and take action on their own to drive efficiencies. To enable even more meaningful outcomes, operators can use a centralized dashboard to conduct targeted analyses on the data that edge devices collect to uncover direct, and sometimes hidden, correlations.

Today, we can envision a future in which the alarm panel as we know it has dramatically changed, replaced by intelligent wireless edge devices communicating directly with a cloud-based service. Via a Web-based interface, an organization can track the information edge devices capture and share it in real time, giving an organization more power than ever before to quickly make adjustments to improve operations. Leveraging software-as-a-service capabilities with APIs enables the organization to pick and choose solution sets to fit its needs, without building its own solutions from the ground up.

With the innovative IoT-related security solutions that are available today, this vision may soon become a reality. As such, the IoT is already empowering the next generation of security.

This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Security Today.

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