Unlocking the Benefits

Unlocking the Benefits

Internet of Things solution promises greater connectively and organization insights

The Internet of Things (IoT) promises greater connectivity, which, when properly leveraged, can provide invaluable insight into our organizations and our operational environments. In the security sector, increased connectivity between sensors and systems gives us access to more data than we thought possible even just a few years ago.

We have long been able to connect an access control system (ACS) with a video management system. This integration is used to validate the authenticity of events against associated video. It is what allows security personnel to verify that a forced door event is not a false positive.

Today, we can also connect to a wide and diverse array of systems, including intercom, perimeter intrusion detection, gunshot detection, and automatic license plate recognition (ALPR). In addition to providing greater situational awareness, our increased connectivity also allows us to effectively automate decision-making and help guide personnel in their investigations. And we can do more.

Beyond security, access to more data gives us the opportunity to collaborate and create new ties with other teams, including operations, marketing, and human resources. By tapping into security infrastructure, these teams can use analytic tools to derive valuable insights from a wide variety of data to make improvements that can positively impact a business’s bottom line.

Retailers in brick and mortar stores, for example, now have access to real-time information on their customer’s experience. With this timely information, management and marketing teams are able to see how shoppers move through their environments, determine when and where people linger, which displays generate the most interest, and when check-out lines get too long. Working with this knowledge, they can implement changes in the store’s layout and displays as well as increase or decrease personnel on the floor to ensure that they are providing the best possible service. They can also work together to fine-tune the process and ensure that the right balance between safety, loss prevention, and customer service is being met.

While we continue to discover even more benefits of increased connectivity, it is clear that the IoT comes with its own specific set of challenges. The first is figuring out how to actually connect all our sensors and systems. Then, how do we keep from overwhelming people with too much data? Finally, how do we ensure that, as we add more devices, we don’t increase the vulnerability of our networks?

How to Work Well Together

The first challenge is how to connect systems and sensors over the IoT in a way that works. Making sense of all the data we’re collecting from the ever-increasing variety of sources can be a significant hurdle to unlocking insights. Simply hooking up new sensors or systems to an existing network does not mean that they will be able to communicate nor that the information they’re gathering can be understood in the same way.

To get an idea of what is involved, we can look at one of the most common IoT sensors being installed by DIY home automation enthusiasts: motion sensors. Adding a motion sensor to a network might seem like a simple task, but it requires a compatible hub, which can receive events when motion is detected. This hub must also be able to communicate with the lights that the home owner wishes to automate. Even when that integration is achieved, proper calibration of the sensor’s sensitivity is still required, a process involving extensive trial and error.

Given how time-consuming the process involving the installation of even one sensor can be, it is easy to see how complicated and costly it is to install the vast number of sensors collecting data in a modern corporate campus or building. Organizations at this level have the opportunity to collect data on everything from temperature and presence to lighting and door activity and are eager to do so.

This is why we need to work with open platforms that allow for true integration in order to facilitate data collaboration and achieve greater understanding, but this is easier said than done. Traditionally, we have kept information siloed. Sometimes this was done to prevent unauthorized access, and sometimes it happened simply because the systems collecting and storing data were not developed with interoperability in mind. Regardless of the reason, the result is that, more often than not, we are using different protocols to collect, store, and analyze our data.

When it comes to integration, there is a lot of heavy-lifting required to getting new sensors and devices to communicate and work together. It makes sense then that much of the lead on this is being taken by organizations in the security industry as we already have extensive experience connecting devices and unifying systems.

More Devices Shouldn’t Cause Headaches

The challenge of adding more sensors and devices to our networks goes beyond the integration process. When we add more data collecting devices to our networks, we run the risk of overwhelming security personnel with too many device or system interfaces. After all, we don’t want personnel to be jumping from one platform to another in order to gather all the information they need to respond to an evolving situation. In part, the simple fact of opening and closing applications increases the risk that something gets missed. However, we also add a layer of complexity when each application has its own interface and way of working. In high stress situations, the last thing any of us wants is for security staff to be negotiating with their system instead of focusing on the best way to respond.

Working with a single, unified platform means that personnel no longer have to jump from one interface to another and manage different vendor solutions at every turn. Instead, they can handle tasks in fewer steps in a consistent environment. With consolidated monitoring, reporting, and a map-centric approach to security management, a unified security system, like Security Center from Genetec, helps operators become more efficient, make better decisions, and respond to incidents more rapidly.

Focus on What is Important

When it comes to security, we like to say that there is no such thing as too much information, but this is only as true as our ability to manage it. Today’s security staff monitor thousands of network-connected devices, including video cameras, access control readers, intercom stations, fire alarm panels, intrusion devices, perimeter detection sensors, and analytics. All this information is streaming back to them over the network, and they must quickly decipher what’s happening and respond.

One of the risks we run with adding an ever-increasing number of sensors to our systems is that security personnel can be inundated with minor events, major alarms, and notifications. This in itself can be a security risk. For example, when an operator receives more alarms than they can respond to or a significant number of falsepositive alarms, their reaction can be to either ignore incoming alerts or turn off reporting.

Investing in a collaborative decision management system (CDMS) to automate workflows and guide security personnel through tasks and decisions can alleviate this burden. A CDMS, like Genetec Mission Control, provides security personnel with increased situational intelligence, visualization, and complete incident management capabilities. By ensuring a timely flow of information, it allows them to make better-informed decisions when faced with routine tasks or unanticipated situations.

A CDMS can also help organizations move beyond simple event and alarm management. Working in real-time, a CDMS automatically analyzes the data it collects and qualifies from different security systems as well as thousands of sensors and devices. This enables it to spot the most complex situations and incidents and determine whether or not security personnel should be sent to investigate potential threats. Once decided, the system can then guide security personnel in their responses following pre-defined processes and compliancy requirements.

Network Security is Everyone’s Responsibility

The last, and perhaps most far-reaching, challenge associated with our increased connectivity over the internet is cyber security. In order to leverage all the advantages of the IoT, we are essentially creating incredibly large networks with thousands of connected devices. Given that our systems are only ever as secure as their least secure element, even a single unprotected camera or door controller that still has its factory-set default password can be all the attack surface a cybercriminal needs to gain access to an organization’s network.

There are several ways to mitigate the risks of criminal cyber activity, including advanced encryption, authentication, and authorization. Encrypting data both in transmission and at rest protects private information and enhances the security of communication between client apps and servers. Authentication keeps data from getting into the wrong hands by preventing unauthorized access and authorization allows administrators to restrict the scope of activity within your system by providing access rights to groups or individuals for resources, data, or applications and by defining what users can do with these resources.

Given the substantial rewards for criminal cyber activity, including financial gain, access to valuable data, or system control, cyberattacks will continue to evolve. Organizations must not only protect themselves today, but must also lay the groundwork to continue to mitigate against the risk of future threats. As we continue to discover the myriad insights and advantages to be found in the IoT, protecting ourselves against criminal cyber activity will not only be good for business, it will also help foster a safer global community.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Security Today.

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