There’s no doubt that the face of the security industry is changing. I sensed a distinctly different vibe from both established and new companies in the industry than I have in previous years, when walking the floor at recent industry trade shows. The manner in which companies are positioning their products and services and the very nature of new system product introductions have changed dramatically over a very short time span.

The reason: systems technologies are shifting towards a more software-centric solution.

One of the factors driving this shift is that users are looking for a much higher level of integration between the various security systems deployed in their facilities. This is a primary design consideration at the high end of the market, but as with any new technology trend, market makers cater to top-tier users with a trickle-down effect for the masses.

The security industry is no exception. Homeland defense, the gaming industry, Fortune 1000 companies and a handful of other market categories are steering security system suppliers onto a new course for systems product development whether they like it or not – with the focus shifting away from “box” solutions to integrated software-driven solutions.

Despite the hoopla regarding systems integration on virtually every cover of every magazine, the fact remains that true systems integration is now just coming to fruition. The race to integrate is an evolving storyline. Although systems have been interfaced to perform some sequential operations, today’s digitally driven systems allow a much more sophisticated level of integration whereby they sperform complex operations simultaneously and automatically – almost to the degree of artificial intelligence. However, the level of integration varies depending on the specific software-driven function that crosses platforms, enabling a much broader range of applications.

The ability of integrated digital and network-based technologies to tie together previously unrelated systems has been a catalyst for advanced enterprise-level solutions. There are even software-based solutions available today that provide remote monitoring and system control capabilities on an open platform.

This is all new – and quite significant.

By allowing various software-driven applications to operate on a single platform with integrated program commands, security systems can operate as a single entity, making the management of electronic data extremely efficient.

Another benefit of the trend of software-driven enterprise integration is the ability to organize and retrieve captured and archived data and images from a centralized database. This function instantaneously matches live or recorded video to the data associated with specific events. This is a highly sought attribute of newer software-driven network-based technologies because systems can be programmed to react to specific scenarios.

One of the initial applications for this level of integration making its way into the mainstream is the integration of POS devices with video surveillance systems. If an event occurs matching any predefined scenarios, the control platform will archive transaction data along with the multiple video feeds of the event. Then all pertinent information can be simultaneously sent to security personnel for action.

But even as this software revolution takes hold, the need for hardware still exists. For example, the emergence of virtual matrix switching systems promises to provide enhanced levels of functionality, but still does not offer the proven performance and capabilities of today’s leading switching systems. How these systems are connected and interfaced with other security systems is another issue, with software at the core of the solution.

The fact is, the security industry has just started to really concentrate on the implementation and upgrades to the new software-centric, server-based, enterprise-level system solutions. I’m not saying you should throw away your boxes just yet. Instead, you should get up to speed on new server/software developments if you have not started already.