v2.0 and Counting
Mobile security devices becoming part of security buffet
- By Chris Ryan
- Jan 01, 2013
Just as typewriters and paper gave way to
personal computers and floppy disks, tablets,
smartphones and the mobile apps that can be
used on these devices are becoming the technology
of choice for business and personal
use, including the physical security industry.
At the Gartner Symposium in October
2012, analysts for the information research
and advisory company say that over the next
five years, 65 percent of all enterprises will
adopt a mobile device management solution
for corporate users. It is further predicted
that by 2017, 90 percent of enterprises will
have two or more mobile operating systems
Whether the company uses Apple’s iOS or
the new Microsoft 8, the trend will continue.
Tablets are proliferating and those who provide
services to these companies, such as
security technology firms, need to provide
apps for tablets and smartphones as part of
the equation with their new product releases.
Even if company staff doesn’t follow through
with using the app related to the product
launch, the purchasing decision is often predicated
on whether that mobile app exists.
When the Analysts Speak
Gartner analysts say that even though tablet
users are currently limiting themselves to
primarily personal functions, such as reading
email, the push is on to make more applications
available that can be supported
on the tablet.
“The era of the PC has ended,” said Phil
Redman, vice president of research at Gartner,
told the symposium attendees. “The convenience
and productivity gains that mobile
devices bring are too tempting for most companies
and their employees.”
Furthermore, Gartner analysts have predicted
that by 2016, more than 1.6 billion
smart mobile devices will be purchased
worldwide. Forty percent of the workforce
will be mobile, and of that 40 percent, twothirds
will own a smartphone.
Within the security industry, demand for
apps is high, even though implementation
is still relatively low. Integrators can lose a
job if the products they offer don’t have a related
app, and asking for an app has become
second nature. In response, companies are
developing apps to complement the products
they sell, making the systems—whether for
surveillance, access control or home security—
more interactive and the information
provided by them more useful.
Where companies are seeing the greatest
level of app adoption is in settings where the
number of cameras is still relatively small,
and coordination with the IT department is
minimal, if required at all.
The challenge often comes with large
sites that need to comply with IT department
policies and coordination. This can limit the
opportunity to use mobile apps because it involves
providing access to ports. Conversely,
sites with low camera counts and less staff
are more likely to take advantage of mobile
app capabilities, allowing them to do multiple
tasks and check in from remote locations.
The Apps of Today
Today, the use of apps in the security industry
still has low penetration numbers. Those who
use apps sparingly still recognize them as
good sales tools, but don’t see them as integral
to the functionality of their VMS system.
Or, users deploy an app to handle an after-hour incident vs. daily functions.
Still in its infancy, app usage is expected
to become more widespread, as the overall
use of apps and the functionality they provide
continues to evolve.
So what are some of the key features that
the latest round of security apps, version 2.0
if you will, are providing to integrators and
their customers, and how have apps evolved?
One major progression is that apps are no
longer being developed as replacements for
the overall functionality of the desktop system.
An app isn’t meant to be a substitute for
a complete access control or video surveillance
system. It is designed to tackle unique
applications that can enhance the overall
system, taking advantage of the technology
provided by the smartphone or tablet format.
Using a phone for monitoring is different than
sitting at a bank of monitors, thus the application
should reflect that difference.
With that in mind, what the industry is seeing
in the surveillance arena is a demand for
apps that can allow security officers to view
live video from any camera within the system,
or recorded video from an NVR or DVR. Security
officers no longer need to sit in a control
room scanning screens for a particular incident.
Through a mobile app, the officer can
view recorded video from any location, managing
the playback by selecting the date and
time they want to evaluate.
Increasingly, police departments are requiring
verification of certain events, such as
the triggering of a home or business alarm,
before they respond. The police department
in San Jose, Calif., instituted such a verification
policy in January 2012, requiring a verified
audio, video or eyewitness account of a
crime that was occurring or had occurred.
Through a mobile app, homeowners can view
their residence and business owners can do
the same at their corporate address, and verify
that it is not a false alarm. If needed, the
video could be shared with police.
Video that can be viewed live or recorded via
an app is helping to increase general productivity
and profitability when applied to nonsecurity
situations. A business owner, for instance,
can call up a live feed to check on the
status of inventory, or determine if additional
employees are needed to service customers.
However, with increased reliance on video
comes the issue of managing bandwidth. The
advent of 3G and 4G networks has made it
easier to view video on a mobile device while
on the go. Nevertheless, the fastest growing
trend in security—high-resolution, megapixel
cameras—requires more bandwidth than
a typical mobile network can support. Mobile
app users need to think about ways to manage
bandwidth, such as deploying additional
hardware, that allow them to dynamically reduce
the resolution or change the frame rate
of a video stream to get the video across the
Access control is another area where
mobile apps are being created to make the
system remotely operable. One significant
capability of access control apps is the ability
to lock and unlock doors.
Consider this scenario: A corporate executive
is on the golf course but needs to stop
by his office on the way home and pick up
his laptop. He’s forgotten his access card and
because it’s the weekend, there is no security
officer on site. By using a mobile app on his
smartphone, he can simply unlock the front
door with a touch of a button.
Mobile apps also can be used to carry out
the credentialing process outside of the usual security office setting. With a smartphone or tablet and the right app, a system administrator
can take a photo with his phone and create the credential where employees, students or visitors
Report generation is another service enhanced by the mobile app, in combination with the
access control system. Through an app, a security officer can tap into the access system and
create a time and attendance report, or gather information based on a specific event, such as
the triggering of a door alarm.
Apps are now being created for access control within the home. The home monitoring system,
with its camera, door and window sensors, can be tied to apps allowing homeowners the
ability to lock and unlock doors, view their children as they come home from school, receive
video clips on a regular basis and even provide access to repair technicians to view them as
they do their work and then lock up after they leave.
Apps also have been created so homeowners can manage the environmental issues within
the home, such as adjusting thermostats, managing lights and monitoring for unexpected
events by sending real-time alerts on events like basement floods or a carbon monoxide monitor
alarm. These apps provide reports so homeowners can see when and where issues have
occurred, such as power failures, alarms and motion activity.
Where Apps are Headed
While these are the apps of the present, the future holds even
more opportunities to improve and deepen the scope of security
systems. Within the video realm, companies are working
on apps that will allow streaming video to be pushed from the
smartphone, directly to the video management system.
The continued development of near field communication
will mean that the mobile device will replace the access card
as the tool for all of those functions, and will serve as a repository
for all of the information currently stored on the card.
A user will simply hold their smartphone to the reader and
Finally, security companies will continue to refine their
physical security products to meet the demands of the mobile
device end user. Issues such as bandwidth management will
be addressed as the camera or encoder is designed, rather
than creating a product and then expecting the user to adapt
to its limitations.
While Apple and Android continue to gain leadership in the
app market, the bottom line for those with security apps is
that the feature sets are transferrable among platforms, with
little or no loss of functionality. So pick
your platform and
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.