Much of our current thinking about networking for physical security systems lags behind the advances of technology. Because advancements come more rapidly every year, it is no longer sufficient to base our thinking on “the latest technology.”
We have to take technology trends into account if we wish to deploy systems that will have useful lives of 5 to 10 years, and which can use and be used by new technology as it arrives in the coming decade.
In the late 1990s, there was much activity in the Internet standards community. The dot-com boom was rolling, use of the Internet was expanding, and commerce-based cryptography and security standards were just being developed. Many network protocols were devised, refined and/or standardized during this time. Among these was IPv6, the solution to IPv4 address limitation as well as a logical evolution of the Internet for many reasons.
Most of today’s discussions about IPv6 are limited to its new addressing scheme and hardly touch on the network landscape into which IPv6 is expected to be deployed. Understanding the nature of this broader network landscape is critical to keep from deploying or expanding obsolete network designs — because no security end-user wants to be stuck with obsolete or out-of-date technology.
More Devices, Data, Connections and Network Services
A little more than a decade ago, the security industry was connecting sensors, controllers and computers to each other via RS232, RS-485 and coax connections, using mostly proprietary methods. These are now considered “legacy device connections,” because the industry has switched to connecting intelligent devices, controllers and computers (what IT calls network “nodes”) to a common network based on independent standards — where some or none of the nodes have legacy device connections. Thus, networking is an increasingly critical component of electronic physical security systems, and a consequence is that industry trends for computer and networking equipment are rapidly changing the capacities and communication capabilities of our security systems.
Computer and networking technology is evolving at an increasingly rapid rate. For an example that’s easy to relate to, see the graphic on page 38, which depicts trends relating to computer hard drive advances. This graph is similar to network technology trends — except that the impact of computer disk drives is more visible to us than network trends. Notice the steep downward curve of the left-hand side of the graph — this is the cost trend. Notice the steep upward curve of the right-hand side of the graph — this is the capacity/capability trend. At the “We are Here Point” of the graph, we find that our current thinking — after decades of dealing with budget constraints and technology limitations — has not caught up with our actual position. Hard drive costs and capacities are no longer a constraint; in fact, they are more than keeping pace with the increasing data outputs of multi-megapixel cameras. The number of network nodes (cameras, intercoms, card readers and so on) continues increasing, and although the network technology itself is advancing, our physical security network deployments are not keeping up with modern network practices.
The network infrastructure we deploy or upgrade today must support requirements of both today and tomorrow. Keeping up with those requirements includes establishing network design standards that take into account anticipated network growth for overall capacity and for specific application requirements, like those of high-megapixel security video. The planning is where IPv6 awareness comes into play.
Why Move to IPv6…and When?
There are many technical reasons to move to IPv6, including improved security and mobile device management that will become more important as the use of Internet communications and Internet-based services increases. Business reasons to move to IPv6 will continue to arise as the use of external information systems and cloud-based services continue to develop. At some point, new networked devices will begin using IPv6 as the dominant mechanism to connect to the network.