Security On The Fly
Mobile community shatters attendance records at worldwide security conference
- By Chris Ryan
- May 01, 2012
How significant is the mobile application market around the world
today? You just need to look at some of the numbers to understand
how widespread mobile apps have become, even in the
physical security market, and how adoption of mobile phones,
tablets and other smart devices that are used with these apps has
gone from leading-edge to commonplace.
At this year’s Mobile World Congress—the international trade event for people
in the mobile communications industry—attendance records were shattered. More
than 67,000 visitors from 205 countries attended the four-day event in Barcelona,
Spain. Among those visitors, 3,500 were CEOs, and more than half of the attendees
were C-level staff, attesting to the importance of the mobile-apps industry.
Some other numbers that support the growth and prominence of the app market
come from current app download leader Apple, whose iPhone and iPad concepts
helped spur the growth of the app market. The company has more than
500,000 apps available in the iTunes app store, and by the time you read this, the
company will have achieved its 25-billionth download.
The road to mobile apps
So how did all of this happen? There are three major driving forces that brought us
to where we are today, starting with the availability of advanced mobile networks.
When talking about advancements, industry experts speak in terms of first,
second, third and now fourth generations of mobile telecommunications, or 1G
through 4G. The first generation of standards was introduced in the 1980s. The
radio signals that 1G networks used were analog, and they offered voice and very
limited data services. In 1983, the first cellular phone was introduced—a clunky,
boxy model called the Motorola DynaTac 8000x that sold for $3,995. The radio
signals of second-generation standards were no longer analog but instead were
digitally encrypted. Going all-digital opened the door for digital data services such
as email and SMS text messages.
Since then, we’ve rapidly moved to 3G and 4G—the former bringing on broadband
data and the latter providing high-speed broadband that enables streaming
video and other capabilities that have transformed cellphones from portable devices
to fully functioning communications, productivity and entertainment platforms.
Coupled with the advancements and availability of mobile networks was the user
interface revolution that transitioned us from text in the 1980s to graphical user
interfaces in the 1990s to today’s ability to incorporate touchscreens, voice activation,
GPS capability, built-in megapixel cameras and more.
Of course, none of this would matter if the adoption rate didn’t keep pace with
the technological developments. Just last year, smartphone users surpassed users
of other calling options. By 2015, it’s predicted that 84 percent of people will be
smartphone owners and operators.
Analytics firm Flurry announced in June 2011 that the average person spends
81 minutes a day using his or her apps versus 74 minutes of traditional Web browsing
on a desktop or laptop computer. Just a year earlier, the breakdown was 64
minutes on the Web versus just 44 minutes on apps.
Looking at how that mobile-app time is spent, the majority is still focused on
gaming and social networking; but, as businesses develop more apps to extend the
reach and efficacy of their products, the numbers could change.
Security Gets on Board
Mobile technology is so prolific that even the security industry, notorious for its
slowness to adopt new technology, has gotten on board.
And how are we seeing this come about? Within the physical security market,
mobile apps can take security professionals into the field so they can make the
best decisions possible based on real-time intelligence. This is a means to provide
security on the go because mobile apps and the devices they are used on create an
always-on, connected environment.
No longer tied solely to the command center and the computer screen, mobile
apps allow for remote monitoring and forensic investigation at the site or hundreds
of miles away.
Consider this real-life example: Casually working around the house, a man is
surprised when he receives an alert on his iPhone showing him live video of someone
breaking into his downtown office. Integrated with his DVR, he had installed
the mobile app for his customer demos, never really thinking he would have a reallife
opportunity to put it to the ultimate test.
But there it was: video showing a man breaking through the front door of his
office and stealing valuable equipment. He opened up the remote streaming video
and provided the 911 dispatch play-by-play information on where and what the
thief was up to, including when he walked out of the building and the make, model
and color of the vehicle. His account was so accurate that by the time he was drivingto
the office, he passed the police on the side of the road where they had pulled
over the suspect.
With the truck full of stolen equipment and the video footage, the police certainly
had ample evidence to prosecute and convict the thief.
Leaders within the security industry have begun to develop apps such as this
that extend the capabilities of existing security products, whether it is video management
software or access control systems. Through the use of an app, security
officers or business owners can remotely monitor video; control PTZ cameras with
standard pinch-and-zoom gestures; display multiple, simultaneous video streams;
search for and play back video; and even email a snapshot from a video and send
it to someone else—all while on the go.
On the intrusion side, there are now apps that allow homeowners to receive,
view and acknowledge alarms; check on door status; unlock doors; and put lights
and locks on a schedule.
With home automation systems, there is the capability, via mobile apps, to arm and disarm security systems, control
HVAC systems, view live and recorded
video and automate the arming schedule
for access control.
In developing apps for the security
industry, the goal is not to replicate the
standard desktop experience or to replace
it. Rather, it’s about making sure
the interface and user experience will
have added value.
The traditional command center
isn’t at risk; but, because of budget
constraints and advancements in technology,
the ability to do more with less
is enhanced as security officers are able
to head into the field armed with devices
and apps that can broaden their
capabilities. Mobile devices, even with
their expanded bandwidth and processing
power, wouldn’t be able to do
everything that a complex, PC-based
security system can do. Rather, end users
are seeking apps that can take key
functionality into the field.
As mobile devices and apps proliferate,
there is some concern about how to
best protect information. After all, while
having security capabilities on a phone
provides convenience and 24/7 access, it
also brings the risk of having this information
fall into the wrong hands. End
users want to be safe about the transmission
of data and what could be shared
via a mobile device. Not being sure of
the security of the information can be a
roadblock to implementation.
Developers of these mobile apps are
making sure secure credentials are in place
and users can access the information only
through authentication processes such as
secure user names and passwords.
Those concerned about their personal
privacy as they download apps for
business or personal use can be assured
that the greater global community of developers,
device makers, OS companies,
mobile operators and others have developed
guidelines to ensure their privacy.
These app guidelines were announced at
the recent Mobile World Congress.
In examining the trends related to apps
and security, another key one is the
ability to use security-oriented apps for
non-security purposes. A retailer, for
example, that already has surveillance
cameras in place can now use a mobile
app that allows security officers to monitor
those cameras and access the video.
In addition, the same cameras and
video, accessed via the app, can be used
to monitor in real time business operations
and employee behavior, including
watching for instances of internal theft.
A mobile app can provide a live view of a
stockroom, warehouse or shipping dock
to keep track of inventory or to confirm
a shipment or order received. If there is
a false alarm, security or someone else
within the company has the ability to respond
instantly and react appropriately.
This retailer also can evaluate staffing
needs by viewing checkout or drive-thru
lanes to determine how full the parking
lot is and the flow of customers in and
out of the store.
In the transportation sector, security
officers using mobile apps tied to
video management systems can view
checkpoint closures and terminal
evacuations and can monitor terminals,
stations and roadways for suspicious persons and activities.
Manufacturers may want to use
these security-developed apps so they
can better monitor product creation
and movement on conveyor systems, or
when products are being transported
within a warehouse.
Everything from attendance management
to workflows can be monitored
via these apps that were developed
first for security purposes. This
type of crossover usage is becoming
more common, as noted in a Frost &
Sullivan report that points out that 25
percent of users deploy security systems
in a non-security setting.
What the Future Holds
So what are the next steps in the mobileapp
world? Certainly one of the leading
challenges for companies wanting to
create apps for their customers is seeing
what operating system will emerge
as the leader. Although the Apple iOS
has gotten out of the gate quickly in the
apps market because of the popularity
of iPhones and iPads, it is predicted
that by 2015 Android will have 49 percent
of the market share and that it will
continue to grow.
For developers, the challenge is to
create apps on platforms that hit their
customer base. And there is the realization
that this could be a moving target.
Developers will continue to monitor
the situation and develop apps that suit
their needs and those of their end users.
Currently, the focus is on Apple iOS
and Android rather than the antiquated
Another area that will impact future
apps includes near-field communication—
a standard whereby
smartphones in close proximity to or
touching each other can carry out a
transaction or exchange data. Mobile
devices in general will continue to
build on their functionality with improved
video and GPS capabilities.
The ability to read QR codes via a
smartphone may not directly enhance
security capabilities, but it can provide
information to end users that will be
helpful in the setup and maintenance
of equipment by allowing them to access
data sheets or installation manuals
through a QR app.
Even advancements in multi-core
mobile processors are allowing for longer
battery life, reduced power usage
and faster multitasking.
Finally, developers are continuing
to explore the means whereby a single
app can be used to bring multiple, independent
systems into a single platform,
such as connecting video monitoring,
event management, access control and
the like. This combination of functionalities
will provide a great value-add for
the end user.
And adding value is what apps
are all about, especially now as they
continue to roll out into the marketplace.
The capabilities they provide are
meant to enhance existing products,
not replace them, and to open up users
to a new world of
This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Security Today.