Embracing the Internet of Things
Opportunities and implications for security and beyond
- By Jeremy Brecher
- Dec 01, 2014
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
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
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
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
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
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Security Today.