From Risk to Reward

How service assurance present new opportunities for integrators

In the professional security market, the model for revenue is changing. Systems integrators are looking for revenue beyond basic sales and maintenance—especially customer-oriented addons to generate recurring monthly revenues (RMR). Integrators need to find new ways to innovate to differentiate themselves from their competition and improve relationships with their customers both before and after installation. Increasingly, organizations are realizing their physical security IoT systems have become attack surfaces, they are subject to increased audit and compliance requirements, and they must be managed at scale. These new requirements are best addressed through providing automated verification and service assurance of physical security systems delivered as an RMR offering by an integrator.

The switch to IP-based security systems has happened and has brought many benefits to security system operators. Networked security systems added capabilities, intelligence, and performance, make it simple to integrate tasks, streamline workflows, and easily audit security procedures in addition to mitigating risk, improving overall data and managing liability. These benefits have enabled security systems to better secure facilities and protect employees and businesses. However, there are risks presented by the growing prevalence of threats aimed at security IoT systems.

As with IoT systems in general, networked security systems are comprised of multiple IP-based devices coordinated together to enable an application (e.g. the surveillance application is to deliver a video stream from the camera device into storage for the required retention period). Data is exchanged between multiple devices, and there are a growing number of security devices and functions being connected together. In today’s world, it is not surprising to see a security system comprised of more than access control and surveillance; the IoT nature of security systems brings IP-connected intercom systems, alarm systems, uninterruptable power supplies, visitor management kiosks, and others into the scope of a network connected security system.

A consequence of more devices, more connections between them, and their mission-critical nature is that organizations can’t leave to chance that everything is always working as it should. That’s where automated verification and service assurance for physical security systems comes into play. By constantly analyzing and verifying the entire video stream path, automation can make sure that the integrator knows about issues immediately and can also assist in automatically diagnosing and defining a fix-it plan for problems.

Relying on self-test health checks at the device level (such as the VMS testing or camera device checking itself when powered on) is insufficient. Such tests miss critical system-level issues that prevent a video stream from recording properly. That is why, based on industry studies when such failures occur they are not found out immediately— it can take days, weeks, or longer to detect. An independent third-party survey in 2016 found that it typically takes five to seven days to detect a failure to record. Unless an automated service assurance solution is being used, there literally is nothing detecting and alerting on that failure.

This is a major gap in the market, and integrators can solve it with an automated service assurance solution while generating significant RMR. The value to the customer is clear—if video is missing, it can have a catastrophic impact on an organization or business. A business’ ability to remain compliant with internal policy, various government or industry requirements, or regulations may be impeded.

Many industries are under significant regulation regarding the deployment of security systems and retention of video. It’s essential for these systems to pass regular audits so that organizations do not incur fines or other impediments from their governing body. As well, missing video could cause a liability issue, or prevent an organization from defending itself from false claims. For these reasons and others, automated service assurance is now critical to security systems.

Mitigating downtime on a security system is vital. For security to protect a business and its employees, it can’t miss a thing and must be operational always. However, getting ahead of problems—proactive service—can be one of the greatest challenges for end users, especially at scale. Providing services that can reliably keep a system operating, lower downtime or alert security operators to possible failures on the system can deliver critical new ROI to end-users, as well as being an RMR generator for systems integrators.

An automated verification and service assurance solution on a monthly subscription service can do more than just generate valuable RMR for integrators—it can deepen their customer relationship by being more “digitally connected” to their customers. Solutions that look at the physical security system as a whole (instead of just at the device level) are critically important for identifying when the system is failing to achieve the business goals of the customer, namely the display, recording, and retention of video. The integrator will have a much deeper understanding of the nature of problems in the security system. An automated solution is also a connection point for the IT department, which has increased security responsibilities for most businesses as security systems go digital and are viewed as IoT systems. A digital, automated system is essential to this new set of users.

Additionally, an automated verification solution is a boon for any physical security system operator facing compliance audits. For internal and external audits, an automated, fully documented solution makes compiling reports simple and accurate. Integrators can run automated solutions remotely, providing them with the resources to instantly detect and diagnose problems, aiding their customers with solutions and even dispatching maintenance from anywhere at any time.

There is a major need to be filled as to providing confidence to end users of security systems in knowing their systems are always working properly and scientific evidence of that. Integrators who fill this niche can expect a product that provides them with increased RMR as well as serving an important function for their customers with a service that increases overall security while simplifying operations.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2018 issue of Security Today.

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