For some systems integrators and security dealers, innovations and new technology coming over the horizon may seem like a threatening gang to avoid.
Yet, back in the 1960s when America was dreaming of going to the moon as well as fighting the Communist gangs, John F. Kennedy saw another way to overcome challenges when he observed that “the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.”
What follows and compiled by the author for BNP Media’s security publications â€” SDM magazine and Security magazine â€” is a security-centric intelligence report aimed at security systems integrators and dealers. The intelligence report spotlights innovations and technologies emerging or on-the-horizon. While not claiming to be a complete compilation, the material comes from research firms, search efforts and input from end users, integrators, consultants, dealers and manufacturers. Ideas also arose from insightful virtual visits to research and development operations at big and little computer, communications and security technology firms.
Analytics. Biometrics. Cloud computing’s software as a service. Next-generation global positioning systems. Virtualization. Surface computing. 3-D imaging sensors. Myriad new cell phone applications for commercial and residential security. Lights that carry messages. Bluetooth for people tracking.
Keep your sharpest eye on what the technologists call “game changers”: RFID for retail money handling. Protecting America’s smart grid. An applications store for small business clients. Taking biometrics beyond security. Shifting car radar into niche enterprise markets.
Far from the traditional, such innovations are opportunities into sometimes unexplored vertical markets with their new revenue streams.
Still, all the new tools and gadgets, all the new types of organizations to be served should not deflect security businesses away from their customer needs. In fact, a solid growth plan goes in just the opposite direction. “We look at new technology squarely in terms of closely understanding and meeting the needs of our customers, whether current or new. You also have to play well with new solutions,” says Diebold’s Jeremy Brecher, vice president of operations and information technology, who sees virtualization as one of those game changers. “It’s the perfect way to squeeze more with a lot less hardware.”
Jason Oakley, the CEO at North American Video (NAV), Brick, N.J., shares Brecher’s opinion. “In a practical sense, one of the most important developments has been the virtualization of video management systems. This allows users to run multiple ‘virtual machines’ on the same physical server. This not only reduces the hardware cost associated with an IP upgrade but also has favorable productivity and environmental impacts related to reduced footprint, lower power draw and reduced air conditioning requirements. Many companies and government organizations have green initiatives and this technology fits in well with those plans.”
Jack F. Dowling, president and principal at JD Security Consultants, Downingtown, Pa., has some solid steps integrators should take to better prepare their businesses for new technology, especially when it comes to the often alien territory of the computer, communications and homeland security technologies. “You’ve got to study and research the market, surely if it involves a new vertical. Talk to manufacturers including those outside of the traditional security industry profile. Attend and have appropriate staff participate in education, certification and training programs as well as technology and vertical market trade shows and exhibitions outside the usual ones. Talk to end-users with the aim of discovering the different ways to sell new technologies to them.”
Still, “our role as integrators,” points out Oakley, “is not to sell the latest technology. Our role is to design, deliver and service sustainable security systems that fit with the client strategy and deliver return on investment. Integrators must be able to demonstrate the practical applications of technology to address customer needs.”
He continues, “A good integrator can help their end-users quantify and evaluate the cost-benefit analysis of an investment. For example, smart cards have been slow to be accepted by the market because of the higher acquisition costs compared with other cards. However, in many cases when the long term costs of re-badging an entire population are taken into account, the long-run costs are a much closer comparison.”
Kevin Engelhardt, Diebold’s vice president and general manager of enterprise security and fire services, warns that it is easy for cutting edge to turn into “bleeding edge.”
“Don’t jump into quick fixes,” he warns. “Security businesses can future proof by identifying what value they bring to the new technology and innovations equations.”
Dowling agrees. The biggest danger to avoid when evaluating new technologies is to listen to and believe the product hype and not do your own research, study and analysis of the technology, he cautions integrators.
Familiarity and meeting sometimes reduced expectations are two keys to better handling new technology and innovations.
“We can expect security technologies to become more user-friendly and intuitive, often driven by developments in consumer technologies, notably video gaming and smart phones,” observes Gadi Piran, president and CTO at OnSSI, Pearl River, N.Y. “One reason the consumer market will impact security systems is that a key to making new technologies usable is to make them familiar. People are more certainly adaptable to the technology advances. Just look at the current generation of people who are perfectly comfortable typing messages on tiny PDA and cell phone keyboards with their thumbs. Once we have adapted to a technology and find it familiar, we can easily transfer that knowledge and comfort level to another environment.”
Concerning the hard task of meeting new technology expectations, Jim Henry of systems integrator Henry Brothers, Fair Lawn, N.J., ticks off his “laws.”
“There will always be new technologies coming out to address the problems that end-users face. That’s the first law.
“The second law is that their capabilities will always be overstated by vendors and over-anticipated by end-users â€” expectation gaps. It has been that way; it always will be that way. The third lawâ€” and I guess this is the insurance policy for systems integratorsâ€”is that there never will be a single technology that is a panacea over all solutions.”
Thanks to new technology and innovations, it makes business sense to mine new territory. Piran observes, “System integrators and dealers need to embrace new technologies across the professional and consumer markets as they continue to overlap and fuel each other.”
Security author Fredrik Nilsson, general manager of Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., sees opportunities even for the largest integrators in smaller retailers and smaller sites. “There is also the possibility of recurring revenue from hosted service â€” above all, hosted video. The technology is there. Bandwidth and compression. Bandwidth with wireless. Cable modems. A variety of clustered, server, virtual and cloud storage is becoming fairly inexpensive.”
Diebold has already committed to security outsourcing services, for example. An end-user’s investment in upgrading his or her command center may prove more costly than outsourcing, which can naturally expand to more outsourced security, life safety, building and environmental services, according to Engelhardt.
When it comes to new technology and diverse innovations, Sean Ahrens, project manager, Security Consulting and Design Services at Schirmer Engineering, Glenview, Ill., believes in making new friends. “Don’t let existing relationships get in front of your evaluation, specification and purchasing process. Remain unbiased through the process at all times. Favoritism towards one vendor or a product manufacturer representative will take your eyes off your new growth goals and cloud your judgment and needs.”
Of course, integrators and dealers exploring new technology to weave into their business strategies realize there are natural and man-made obstacles that must be overcome. These include training in new disciplines, earning different types of certifications, refining marketing and sales programs as well as better understanding new-age costs and pricing.
Then there is the deeper involvement of the end-users’ information technology (IT) staff in the total process, from listening to specifications to installation. “Many new security systems are now IP-based, so be prepared to involve IT as an important stakeholder in the process. If at all possible, test (demo) the technology in the client’s network environment. There is no better way to identify if the product will work as promised at the manufacturer’s expense,” Ahrens adds.
That partnership process is, luckily, moving along quickly if not perfectly, according to IMS Research.
For example, IT management is involved in almost 60 percent of decisions to purchase IP-based physical security products. The IMS report, based on a comprehensive survey of North American integrators and installers of IP-based security products, also found that over three-fourths of the companies surveyed dealt with IT managers more now than they did just one year ago. Another key finding: almost three in five systems installers surveyed thought that vendors do not provide adequate support for their IP-based security products. There are more details on the study in a related article on the previous page.
IT and others within enterprises are helping push open systems, too. According to Oakley, “Manufacturers are beginning to embrace the idea of open systems, incorporating software development kits with their products that facilitate integration at the integrator or in some cases, the end-user level.”
IP-based physical security products, specifically video, have accelerated development of new analytics approaches. Engelhardt contends that “everyone’s perception has changed over the last few years. It’s catching on now because of the ‘at-the-edge” designs and the appeal to return on investment.”
Robert Hile, former vice president of business development at Adesta, Omaha, Neb., who, since the time of this writing joined Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo, Grove, Ill., as director of Integrated Security Solutions, continues Engelhardt’s point. “On the technology side, obviously video surveillance systems are expanding almost on a daily basis. The good news for integrators is that video analytics is finally to the point where it’s ready for prime time. It’s providing enhanced security to critical infrastructure areas by object left behind, virtual trip wire, wrong-way travel, loitering, just to name a few – and these can be deployed on most of existing systems.”
Overall, there is no doubt that Internet protocol has proven its own game-changing ability with security video, access control, communications and Power over Ethernet. Another game changer, still mostly untouched by integrators, is the concept of the application store, fine-tuned by Apple and its iPhone. Thousands of sometimes competitive, almost always inexpensive applications are for sale on the Web to extend uses of the iPhone, but also to help Apple dominate the smart phone arena. It’s a known formula with the applications as razor blades to iPhone’s handle; only the financials have been flipped with the handle much more expensive than those individual application “razor blades.”
That iPhone concept may be security’s future: systems integrators and dealers with their own Web-based application stores.
Beyond the big picture, there can also be delights in new tech details. For example, “a three-dimensional image sensor that works in full ambient light will soon be used in conjunction with access control systems to determine whether there is one or multiple individuals passing through a door,” reports John Centofanti of Panasonic System Solutions Company, Secaucus, N.J. Such 3D image sensors will also find uses for people counting, as an elevator sensor, to trigger automatic doors and even to detect body presence for interactive user interface with digital signage.
In addition, today’s dicey economy has positive as well as negative leverage when it comes to emerging technology, as well as sweet and sour impact upon end-user budgets.
In an age of corporate downsizing and budget tightening, it is much less likely that a security client, whether existing or new, will be able to keep up with technology innovation. Therefore, they will be depending more than ever on the dealer and integrator community to educate them on the new technologies and how they can be integrated into a business solution. Adds Centofanti, “The customer relationship needs to evolve beyond that of buyer and seller to a higher level of trust and cooperation. By necessity, users will look to integrators for technology information, and smart integrators will provide it in a way to add value in a crowded marketplace.”
Points out Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer, surface turns an ordinary tabletop into “a vibrant, dynamic surface that provides effortless interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. People can interact with content and information on their own or collaboratively. Surface is a 30-inch display in a table-like form factor that small groups can use at the same time. Surface also features the ability to recognize physical objects that have identification tags similar to barcodes.
Surface computing features four key attributes:
• Direct interaction. Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
• Multi-touch. Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen, but up to dozens of items at once.
• Multi-user. The horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative experience.
• Object recognition. Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.
There are other innovative surface computing applications, one of which is from the MIT Media Lab where students are developing wearable computing systems that can be used on almost any surface. Also, when using two networked tabletop systems, security executives, law enforcement and homeland security officials can – at diverse locations – manage incidents, disasters and threats using objects that can be positioned and moved among all the individual systems.
In addition to surface computing, “the future of user interfaces could also include a wider variety of graphical, textual and tactile activities. Systems will likely become more intelligent and able to deduce what the user needs, bordering on development of so-called zero-input interfaces that provide information to the user based on sensors rather than direct interaction. User interfaces of the future will more likely take into account human psychology and physiology. In fact, ‘direct neural interfaces,’ in which messages from the brain are translated to a computer, are already being used in real-life medical applications,” relates Gadi Piran, president and CTO with OnSSI.
Impact: If it catches on, and that’s a big if, surface computing could easily become a welcome specialty tool of enterprise security executives who will see value in better managing certain situations involving objects such as buildings, floors, vehicles, cameras, doors, security officers on patrol and emergency responders. In the long run, the development may lend itself to a next-generation alarm monitoring interactive, object-oriented display.
Impact: Systems integrators need to keep up-to-date on Bluetooth, the open wireless protocol for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks. It was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS232 data cables.
In slightly more technical terms, virtualization essentially decouples users and applications from the specific hardware characteristics of the systems they use to perform tasks. This technology promises to usher in an entirely new wave of hardware and software innovation. For example, and among other benefits, virtualization is designed to simplify system upgrades (and in some cases may eliminate the need for such upgrades), by allowing users to capture the state of a virtual machine, and then transport that state in its entirety from an old to a new host system.
In real-life, a virtual local area network or VLAN may handle an enterprise’s IP security video system. There also are “green” advantages in virtualization.
“In a practical sense one of the most important developments has been the virtualization of video management systems. This allows users to run multiple ‘virtual machines’ on the same physical server,” says Jason Oakley, CEO at North American Video (NAV).
Impact: For systems integrators, more can be up and running without adding too much to the computer infrastructure. Security end-users can more easily accommodate legacy systems as well as IP upgrades.
Key future capabilities embedded within this so-called advanced control segment include high availability of military accuracy in a jammed environment, increased time transfer accuracy, increased position accuracy, higher system integrity, backward compatibility, survivability, bandwidth/signals common with Galileo (the European Union’s answer to U.S. GPS satellites, operational by 2013), and interoperability with the global information grid. The grid is an all-encompassing communications project of the U.S. Department of Defense.
In a commercial example, a university in Saudi Arabia, looking for a way to provide 24-hour video surveillance of the perimeter with automatic intrusion detection, now uses outdoor security video that also provides long-range, GPS-based alarms and target data for security command center display.
Impact: Global positioning systems will explode in use and importance for chief security officers as well as become a key tech player in security systems and physical security information management. Smart systems integrators will add GPS to their security and life-safety applications store both for nonresidential and consumer/home users.
There are numerous standards-setting bodies: the Security Industry Association, Open Network Video Interface Forum, Physical Security Interoperability Alliance, American National Standards Institute, and the IEEE, to name a few. All can make a difference.
Overall, standards can also “backward affect” the playing field. “Not so much new technology as the refinement and standardization of existing technologies. With regards to IP cameras, the day will come when manufacturers will all meet a similar criterion and interoperability much like NTSC did for the analog CCTV world,” says Sean Ahrens, project manager, Security Consulting and Design Services at Schirmer Engineering.
Impact: Well-crafted standards, with involvement by manufacturers, integrators and end-users, can encourage new technology advances as well as more comfort in the specification and purchase of products, systems and services.
Market analyst, Niall Jenkins, comments, “IT managers are increasingly getting involved in making and influencing the decision to buy IP-based security products. These products often use existing networks and IT managers are working much closer with security managers to facilitate this integration.”
Another key finding from the research was that almost 60 percent of the systems installers surveyed thought that vendors do not provide adequate support for their IP-based security products. More than 40 percent of systems integrators also agreed that vendors were not meeting their needs. Top of the list of requested support was additional training, demonstration materials, telephone and Web-based support and better software and SDKs.
IMS Research’s report, “IP Trends in Security: A Survey of Systems Integrators and Installers – 2009 Edition,” is published in two regional volumes, Europe and North America.
Giant search engine Google offers enterprises e-mail in the cloud and, if industry gossip proves valid, it is developing business video storage, retrieval and management in the cloud soon.
For Brivo CEO Steve Van Till and Shayne Bates, executive vice president for global strategy, their model of Web-hosted security access control services, integrated video storage and retrieval with optional client on-site access data storage makes even more business sense in today’s economic environment.
Van Till feels there will be more software as a service in the security sector. “It will be a continued shift from a lot of expensive labor for poorly integrated products that are hard to use.”
Impact: Systems integrators will specify, install and maintain the hardware and components while a firm provides in-the-cloud software as a service â€” and that could be the integrator itself.
Using multiple cameras and specialty software, the system will record the exact speed and location of the ball and every player on the field. In San Francisco, four high-resolution cameras sit on light towers 162 feet up, capturing everything that happens on the field in three dimensions and sending images to an in-park control room. Software decides which movements are the ball, fielders and runners. Sportvision contends that more than two million meaningful location points are recorded per game.
Impact: Ports, transportation hubs, distribution centers, mall parking lots all lend themselves to this on-the-horizon technology. Security end-users working with their business colleagues will be able to provide protection while creating new types of useful productivity metrics. Systems integrators can sell across the enterprise.
This tech sector seems to change faster than the algorithms they depend upon. What’s over-the-horizon today may be on the integrators’ table tomorrow. Here are some varied views from analytics’ research and development trenches.
Dave Fowler of VidSys, with offices in Vienna, Va., and Marlborough, Mass., sees the trends and helps define the new ones. “Trend wise, in the future, there will be even more intelligence associated with the collection of information further into the network with more intelligence in a diversity of devices and less total communications but more actionable exceptions to a central point.” Fowler also sees some technology “getting cheaper. For instance, high-definition cameras allow the viewing of things that are farther away. You won’t need as many cameras and the wiring that goes with them. There also will be more peer-to-peer communications among devices.”
Video analytics is an embedded force multiplier, according to Nik Gagvani, CTO at Cernium, Reston. Va. “Video should not only detect the presence of things but also the activities of what is happening. Self-adaptive technologyâ€”that is where we are headed.” Beyond commercial and government markets, Gagvani’s firm sees a residential opportunity through mobile video intelligence solutions for small business owners and homeowners.
Scott Schnell and Doug Marman of VideoIQ, Bedford, Mass., see a business advantage for integrators in bundling security video and analytics concepts into more understandable and comfortable “remote guarding” solutions. These combine automated event detection, built-in DVRs and integrated video management. Smart video analyzers act as a digital guard, transforming video surveillance into a dynamic, real-time system for early warning.
Schnell says, “Intelligence has moved from the backroom to the edge. The future will also bring more storage at the edge, too.” Marman adds that smart security video will be multi-functional. “The technology will solve problems, do investigations and also other things on the business side.”
When it comes to emerging technologies, “integrators should not get stuck in a rut. Those that are willing to learn and focused on growth will be the winners,” advises Paul Bodell of IQinVision, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., who believes that, in the future, high-definition and megapixel cameras will be everywhere.
That’s the goal of the Center for Ubiquitous Communication by Light (UC-Light). “PDAs, HDTV, information kiosks, computers and laptops all can be interconnected wirelessly through visible light,” says Zhengyuan Xu, a professor of electrical engineering at the Bourns College of Engineering, the principal investigator and director of the new research center. He will work with researchers with expertise in communication, navigation, transportation, networking, and circuit integration to take advantage of the communication properties of LED lights.
Xu says the potential impacts of the research are huge. “With a proper data interface to a wired data network such as Ethernet, they make it possible to build very low-cost communication and navigation systems on existing lighting infrastructure.”
The research results will likely have implications for current broadband wireless communication, HDTV signals, traffic navigation and directions, retrieving information via cell phones from electronic billboards, or allowing the refrigerator light to transmit information about what is needed on the next trip to the grocery store. Results will be especially important in areas where radio frequencies are limited, such as hospitals and airplanes.
Impact: Because LEDs can cycle on and off millions of times per second, they can, in effect, become wireless routers for data transport. For systems integrators shedding coax, LED lighting as a means of communications may be added to their menu of products and services.
For home and commercial use, micropower impulse radar, low-power ultra-wideband radar developed by the folks at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, also is emerging into security and commercial applications. It’s used for sensing and measuring distances to objects in proximity to each other.
This type of radar is used in vehicles but also can reside in home intrusion motion sensors and perimeter surveillance systems as well as in search-and-rescue incidents in which micropower impulse radar can detect the beating of a human heart or respiration from long distances.
On the physical security side, one recent introduction is MachineTalker, which creates an “electromagnetic bubble” to totally surround an area. The range of the bubble is about 50 feet in diameter. Alarming is at the edge of the bubble; people can walk inside or outside the bubble without triggering the alarm.
Impact: It may pay for systems integrators to catch the micropower impulse radar wave. Applications for such emerging technology include container security, perimeter security (buildings, airport, military installations, border fences, etc.) and interior detection of motion in rooms, halls and closets. Battery powered and portable, the devices can be used in temporary installations.
Based on an informal survey of integrators by research firm Maddry & Associates, many presentations and pitches focus on technical specifications. There is a gap that’s most pronounced when it comes to solutions based on emerging innovations and technology. The specs mean absolutely nothing to the vast majority of end-user buyers who just want to know what it does for them.
So how do you sell a whole new kind of technology? Simply show what happens when people really use it. Ideally, the examples should be real-life and easily identified by mission and type of business of the potential buyer.
• Position the new against existing and legacy technologies.
• Secure a variety of beta sites in different verticals.
• Demonstrate return on investment.
• Give clear details on total cost of ownership.
• Ensure a smooth marketing sales handoff.
• Create a winning sales toolkit for the new tech.
• Create a repeatable and productive sales process.
• Up sell existing accounts.
• Train in-field sales professionals on the advantages of new technologies and innovations.
And wireless mesh, especially in the 900 MHz spectrum, has emerged as a viable alternative to cellular and other types of communications for the smart grid, according to Ksenia Coffman of Firetide, Los Gatos, Calif. The term “mesh network” refers to multipoint-to-multipoint topology, where information travels between interconnected “nodes” over multiple hops until it reaches final destination. Wireless mesh works well, because it provides multiple paths to ensure reliability and integrity of data, which is essential for the always-on needs of smart grid applications.
The 900 MHz license-free band is a workable spectrum for street-level connectivity – the hotbed of smart grid deployments, where buildings and foliage often present a challenge. Such new 900 MHz mesh can mitigate the effects of interference that typically brings down wireless throughput and reliability in this band. For example, noise-aware data path and noise filtering algorithms enable mesh to better handle interference from other 900 MHz devices, as well as from adjacent frequency bands taken up by cellular and 3G traffic. Non-line-of-site mesh also meets utilities’ needs for reliable, high-bandwidth communications in remote and rugged terrains where it can increase the backhaul capacity of supervisory control and data acquisition monitoring networks and also be used for security and surveillance.
Impact: Whether for smart grid applications, commercial/government multi-functional communications or mobile setups, wireless mesh is a technology advance that’s attractive to both security end-users and systems integrators. For the latter, there is an easy-to-overcome learning curve specific to placement of nodes and the combining of security video, life safety alarming, access controls, VoIP and others.
Millimeter wave technology uses non-ionizing electromagnetic waves to generate an image based on the energy reflected from the body. Images generated through millimeter wave are lower resolution than that of x-ray backscatter, but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is deploying both “passive” and “active” millimeter wave at pilot sites. And it plans to partner with the U.S Coast Guard and a major city ferry to use tripod-mounted passive millimeter-wave sensor systems, which are designed to detect explosives, including improvised explosive devices, concealed on individuals.
One example: Millivision’s passive millimeter wave imaging technology includes cameras that produce a detailed 10 frames-per-second moving image of the subject, with resolution sufficient to reveal objects smaller than 2 inches on a side.
Impact: The advanced sensor technologies already are affecting transportation security, especially in airports. Still, mobile, small-footprint, tripod-mounted sensor systems may find a home in corporate and commercial security operations.