Innovation or Confusion?

Exclusive preview of ASIS roundtable session

1. The introduction of something new.
2. A new idea, method, or device.

1. A disturbance in mind or purpose.
2. Failure to differentiate from an often similar or related other.

Technology is meant to enhance safety, security and operations. That is, when used properly. With innovation happening so fast -- especially with products derived from the consumer and IT worlds -- it can cause a disconnect between the end users, integrators, industry consultants and manufacturers.

In essence: What new technologies should we use and which ones should we lose?

This million dollar question led to our upcoming ASIS 2011 education session called, “Innovation or Confusion? How Will High-Tech Industries Impact Electronic Security Solutions?” (Session 3304, Tues. 9/20, 4:30-5:30, Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.) While preparing for our panel debate, Benjamin Butchko of Butchko Security Solutions, Charlie Pierce of LeapFrog Training & Consulting, and I had an interesting (and passionate) discussion that we thought would be a nice preview into what to expect in Orlando.

Fredrik Nilsson:
As consultants who work daily with integrators, security practitioners and manufacturers, what do you think is the top security innovation that we’ve seen in the last year or two?

Charlie Pierce:
I think cloud technology is the most innovative – and exciting. It’s driven our market forward with new enthusiasm and opportunities for the small guys and the efficiency required by the big guys. Still, it is extremely misunderstood and misrepresented about how safe and reliable it is. I equate it to leaving your kids alone for three hours with a babysitter you’ve never met. Not much can happen in three hours, right? You need to know and trust all partners in a cloud venture.

Benjamin Butchko:
On top of hosted and managed services, there are many other technology subsets worth noting. We have advancements in audio with IP peer-to-peer intercoms for small systems and audio analytics within intercom platforms. There are technologies bred in the government world that are relatively new to the commercial industry, like ultra wide field-of-view, color and thermal camera systems that incorporate advanced analytics. Then of course we have the rise of mobile platforms -- and there’s an app for that.

That list of new technologies is enough to cause confusion. But are there other factors that contribute to confusion?

The foremost might be too many manufacturers presenting tainted products with the claim that theirs is the latest, greatest and the only one that really works. It’s then sold as truth and fact, which can quickly turn into broken promises.

Let’s not forget about the different landscape we’ve created when IP-based surveillance became the norm for large systems. Yes, you can create a better, more secure, and more efficient system than analog can deliver, but if the technology itself has surpassed the knowledge of the people deploying and using it, a lot of mistakes will be made.

We really need an end user-only online forum that’s strictly managed to avoid marketing spin. People would have to register and fit a specific category to be involved. Security Director A can ask Facility Manager B, “Hey, have you done this type of thing?” Various experts could be available for comment when requested.

Yes, experienced security practitioners -- the ones on the front lines each and every day -- provide great insight into what really works. Learn from their mistakes and build upon their success.

Can you give an example of an innovation that might fall into this (failure) category due to lack of knowledge or because it was ahead of its time?

Well of course there’s the story of video analytics. While it’s not a downright failure, there was certainly a significant miss of expectations post 9/11. Users were oversold and integration wasn’t done properly. This widened the failure gap.

I agree with Ben completely. Even with people out there doing their homework and designing successful systems, video analytics definitely got a black eye. A lot of it came down to one of the biggest problems I have with the industry: the mislabeling of names. It’s actually happening now with the cloud. Why do we call it ‘the cloud’? It’s the Internet!

That brings up a good question. When new products are announced, do buzzwords like ‘the cloud’ cause more problems for your customers?

Absolutely, and it’s already happening with the cloud. For instance, the term ‘hosted video’ itself is confusing for people. There needs to be a definitive comment and distinction between offsite monitoring and off-site surveillance. Monitoring is nothing more than providing access to the cameras. Off-site surveillance means that someone is literally watching your property. Marketing folks invent catchy phrases and someone repeats it three times and the spell is in place. Fluffernutter.

Setting unrealistic expectations is most often the downfall of new technologies -- just like with analytics. Right now I’m afraid that this might be happening with NFC (near field communication) credentialing. This could be quite beneficial for security, but establishing unrealistic expectations for performance, product incorporation, and solution management poses a risk to success.

Something like NFC credentialing could be a topic that requires much more extensive research. What educational resources out there do you typically recommend for our colleagues to stay on top of innovation while avoiding confusion?

All our major industry associations -- ASIS, PSA, SIA -- provide good quality training. Pick your topic. I tell everyone to get involved. Many manufacturers also offer good in-house and outside training on technology and how to use it.

But there’s one area that’s neglected. That’s a lack of application design training. There are all sorts of training options for how to build networks, spec product, calculate storage, et cetera – but integrators and end users need to search out training for why they should use a specific product or solution. Answering the ‘why’ question is the only way to design a true system.

Charlie’s absolutely right about that ‘why’ question, which is why I recommend training from the Army Corps of Engineers and Society of American Military Engineers. They offer real-world training scenarios, and that can’t be beat. The downside is that access is limited for people in non-government related industries.

Manufacturers offset many costs for product training and have good courses on system installation and feature sets, but limited generic design and layout training. Still, the continued growth of manufacturer certifications can be valuable in a general sense if the trainee is able to separate technology and problem solving from product specifics.

Don’t forget good old fashion books either.

I guess all that’s left then are educational sessions at tradeshows -- hopefully we can do our job and sort out some confusion at our ASIS 2011 debate.

Visit to learn more about this and 200+ educational sessions.

About the Authors

Fredrik Nilsson is the VP, Americas, for Axis Communications, Inc. He has more than 15 years of experience with IP video systems and is the author of “Intelligent Network Video: Understanding Modern Video Surveillance Systems” published by CRC Press and now available in its second edition.

Benjamin Butchko is president and CEO of Butchko Security Solutions.

Charlie Pierce is president of LeapFrog Training & Consulting.


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