Adapting to Change

Adapting to Change

Perhaps the most common challenge and opportunity facing any industry in today’s world is creating solutions that can accommodate the transitions that come with the rapid advancement of technology. From product development all the way to the end user, rapidly evolving technology requires companies to adapt quickly and move nimbly.

The security industry is not immune to this trend. Technological advancements have had a trickle-down effect that has impacted every corner of the industry.

As we look to 2012 and beyond, the greatest challenges and opportunities will be found in advancements in video surveillance, open protocol standards and systems integration. Adapting to these advancements while simplifying the application for both installers and users will be the keys to success.

Video Surveillance

Having a key role in the security industry, video surveillance is what protects and monitors the safety of the consumer. In today’s industry, video is not just transmitted to a fixed screen or display that is monitored by a security guard; video is now transmitted over networks to many different devices and players.

This means that security companies need to ensure their technology can be accessed through many means. If security companies don’t adapt and determine ways for video surveillance to be accessed via networks—wired or wireless—and/ or through mobile applications, they will not succeed.

The networking and IP-based systems provide an opportunity for users to get one unified security network, driven by open standards and the integration of systems from different products and manufacturers. A good example of this is the IP network video camera. This camera has shifted away from standalone proprietary video systems. The IP network video camera operates on a networked security environment. Users want to be able to be plug their cameras into the network and have it automatically connect to their system so they can view, command and control the cameras without having to worry if they are using a combination of multiple manufacturers or technologies, such as high-definition, PTZ and thermal.

This is the kind of integration that customers are now demanding. With today’s technology, consumers should not have to worry about a complex integration system. They should be able to access, stream and play video surveillance on any device. Those companies that leverage leading-edge technologies into their products and then make them user-friendly and easy to install and service are those that will win in today’s environment.

Moving Video to the Cloud

Cloud-based computing is becoming a new model of efficiency in the IT industry, from business applications such as salesforce.com to Apple providing cloud services with its mobile devices. The move toward cloud computing has its own valuable opportunities—scalability, ease of access and distribution—and holds great promise for the security industry as it relates to video.

Now, with cloud computing and server virtualization, video storage can be centralized by the cloud and managed as ubiquitous storage. Managing independent devices with individual storage capacities will be a thing of the past. Video in the cloud can also allow for reduced installation and expansion costs. Imagine a video installation where an IP-based camera installation is put on the network, is automatically discovered, and starts to stream relevant video to centralized cloud storage. Users can then access data from different devices no matter where they are in the world.

The key to migration toward cloud-based security offerings starts with building a scalable and open architecture that can support the demands of these systems. A service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a key enabler for mobile applications and cloud-based computing. SOA maximizes server management, infrastructure availability and maintenance costs for IT efficiencies.

Commercial applications, such as Google Maps, are developed as SOA and delivered as a Web service that can be accessed through an open type of interface and then connected to other applications. The idea behind SOA is that if security industry manufacturers can design their products based on this architecture, then they can create many different services that are totally uncoupled, monolithic applications and allow for access from many platforms.

Opening Up

The movement to create open systems that was pioneered by Lenel back in 1995 continues to be a growing trend in our industry with users demanding even greater levels of openness and systems integration. The success of an open architecture design is based on the manufacturer’s ability to provide tools in the product that allow the system integrators, third-party solution providers and even end users the ability to make connections to other systems without complexity. Advancements in technology have provided unique tools to aid in this.

Ironically, when Lenel first came out with the industry-leading OnGuard software product, many observers said that an open platform would never be a viable solution in the security industry. Now, everyone speaks of open systems architecture and design and its necessity in the industry. “Open” as a mantra seems to be everywhere these days, across every product on the tradeshow floors.

What are the next levels of integration, interoperability and openness that we can look forward to? Traditionally, in access control systems, the most proprietary area resides at the embedded system level, such as panels, peripherals (IO), readers and cards.

A key driver for bringing open standards to the embedded system level for access control solutions is being driven by the government. This is being led by homeland security efforts with Personal Identity Verification credentials, which are an important development not just for government but also for the security industry in general. Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) established a mandatory governmentwide standard for secure and reliable forms of ID issued by the federal government to its employees and employees of federal contractors for access to federally controlled facilities.

While the short-term focus is on creating secure credentials from trusted sources for federal employees and contractors, the bigger picture shows a future state where government smart cards can work across different manufacturers’ readers, have readers work across different panels, and have panels work across different software so they are no longer locked into a proprietary model.

The problem for the government, like commercial customers, is that in the past end users needed to buy cards and readers from the same company to ensure proper integration. It also was necessary to buy panels and peripherals from the same company to achieve interoperability. However, as readers become IP-based and are decoupled from the panels, that openness will be required to move from the cards all the way up to the panel level.

As a company, Lenel is moving in a similar direction. In partnership with others, we have begun an initiative called open supervised device protocol (OSDP) to promote peripheral compatibility and connectivity to panels. In addition, we are evaluating how to deliver open interfaces and development environments for our panels and embedded systems. This will allow third parties to drive integration into these systems in a similar manner to Google with its Android operating systems.

Tying the Data Together

As greater systems integration has occurred within security, organizations have wrestled with the challenges of having all the different sensors and systems work together, from readers to cameras to motion detectors to thermostats and heating and air conditioning controls. These represent different pieces of data coming into a centralized system that must be managed by fragmented security infrastructures.

Presenting this enterprise-wide information in one central location adds a degree of value for customers. However, there are bigger opportunities available. Companies can enjoy multiple operational and cost efficiencies if the solutions remove complexity and leverage analytics to provide correlations between all of the different pieces of information available.

In the early 2000s, Lenel introduced the concept of “Total Security Knowledge Management.” In essence, the goal was to provide connectivity to the various security systems in a facility, offering users a seamless user interface with the ability to minimize training and drive operating efficiencies into the system operating center (SOC). Today, the new buzzword in the industry is called Physical Security Information Management (PSIM).

With today’s PSIM systems, users still have to leave all of their other systems intact. So, if someone has access control systems from three different vendors, two video systems and five intrusion systems, they don’t replace anything or minimize the amount of system head-ends. All they are doing with PSIM is creating a super overlay that aggregates data. This often comes with a cost of development to tie it all together. No doubt there’s value in aggregating systems, but only if the end customer benefit is added value, with reduced overall expense and system complexity.

How are overall expenses reduced? By pushing integration to lower levels within the system. The ability to remove redundant head-end systems, consolidate databases and allow for a seamless user experience will drive efficiencies for the end user.

Bringing It All Together

The next generation of integrated systems will not only encapsulate security systems but also building controls. Operational efficiency is an important aspect of building controls and security. Today, a new goal is the emphasis on energy savings. Understanding that information requires a holistic approach to system integration that pulls together building information, provides the analytics for the reports and measurements, and is able to optimally configure and use facilities to realize energy savings.

All of these different actions can occur from the different pieces of data that can be aggregated by an access control system. Analytics and the ability to understand what the events mean, and the correlations, are critical to the future advancement of intelligent systems.

There are many technology changes occurring today. We are continually looking to take these advances and bring them to the market to provide ever-increasing value to our customers. In today’s world, the security industry can be sure of two things: technology will advance, and the end user will demand ease of use because of it.

Whether it’s video surveillance, open architecture and integration, or physical access control, there will be change. With that change, opportunity will be presented. Those who are nimble and adapt quickly will win.

This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue of Security Today.

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