The security week that was: 1/02/09

The Top 10 Security Industry Issues and Trends of 2008

It’s that time when we look back over the previous year and think about what made news and what significantly affected our industry. From a general economic slowdown to a push for video surveillance standards, 2008 was both a glorious year and an economically difficult year. But through it all, the industry chugged on, rolling out new technologies, facing terrible incidents, and generally “doing business”. To sum it all up, I’d like to take this issue of The Security Week That Was and recap 10 of the biggest news events and trends that affected our industry in 2008. But before I do, I also suggest you check out our list of the biggest stories of 2008, garnered from the news headlines than rang out across the SIW homepage each day. While this recap boils it down to 10, our “top 40” gives you an even broader look at what made news in 2008.

10. Mumbai terror attacks: While I am somewhat loathe to mention this terrible series of attacks as a defining story for 2008, it was defining nonetheless. The attacks in Mumbai taught us about critical vulnerabilities to soft targets as much as 9/11 taught us. It taught us about military response to a diverse attack sequence and it taught us of new threat vectors. From challenges with securing one of the world’s busiest cities to collaboration among responders, there are lessons to be learned from Mumbai and many around the world are studying these terrorist attacks as a lesson for overall preparedness. Like 9/11 and similar events around the world from this past decade, the Mumbai attacks of November 2008 are a ghastly reminder of the importance of security and intelligence operations.

9. Pirates: While overall numbers of pirate attacks might not be up noticeably, the targets for pirate attacks, especially in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia, have become more high profile. The taking of a supertanker underscored this, and according to many this trend in piracy isn’t an easy problem to solve, even with multilateral forces patrolling the seas. Piracy became a global security problem for shipping companies and even cruiselines.

8. The election’s effect on DHS: With the election of Barack Obama to serve as president of the United States, it meant major shake-ups in the top of the U.S. government as the Republicans transitioned out and the Democrats readied to transition into power. Closely watched by the security industry was Obama’s pick for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. In Bush’s years, the DHS faced the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Katrina fiasco as well as the issue of border security. Now, with Janet Napolitano, the governor Arizona, picked to run the DHS, many expect to see new ideas on border security, and there are many who believe that Napolitano will be a champion of technology-based solutions for homeland security. Without a doubt, she will hold one of the toughest and most demanding positions of security leadership anywhere, and we wish her success in 2009 and the years ahead.

7. The rise of H.264: The compression method known as H.264 was the darling of consultants, product developers, and the security news media in 2008. It was heralded as the compression standard which would allow higher resolution video, or higher frame rates, to be transmitted across networks without creating as much of an impact on bandwidth (and without the lossy image “artifacts” of other compression protocols). Simultaneously, it was touted as the compression standard that wouldn’t eat up your digital storage solutions as quickly. But there was one caveat: It required more processing power than the formats of MJPEG or MPEG-4. Nonetheless, if Moore’s Law is real and processing power availability continues to increase, then H.264 will be the top choice for system specifiers and component manufactuers. In fact, many security component manufacturers have already rolled out H.264 compression into surveillance cameras, NVRs and video management platforms.

6. A major new event for the industry: The summer of 2008 probably wasn’t the best time to launch a new tradeshow/event for the security industry, but the members of the NBFAA and the CSAA pooled together and did exactly that. Called ESX – the Electronic Security Expo – it was a tradeshow for the security alarm and monitoring industries, a part of the industry that some said had become less represented at the existing industry tradeshows. Hosted in Nashville, Tenn., this past June, it wasn’t the most attended (fuel and travel prices were high), but it did quite well for a first-year show and, above all, the level of education and networking at the show was superb. Our page with news and editorial content from ESX is still up on the site.

5. AMPS Sunset: Analog cellular technology was turned off in February 2008, and if you listen to the consumer media, the hardest hit were the people with older GM vehicles who used OnStar. But it was a big deal to the security industry, which saw the loss of support for older “AMPS” cellular alarm back-up systems. The industry had been proactive in 2007 to tell customers of this coming “sunset”, but despite that, some customers still didn’t get it.

4. Surveillance market entrances: The security industry, especially in the area of video surveillance, still is a good place to be. That’s the summary we can ascertain from continued entrances into the market by companies like Basler (which entered the IP video market this year), Samsung Techwin (which entered the U.S. video surveillance market), iSentry (video analytics), BRS Labs (video analytics), TimeSight Systems (DVR technology) and a number of others who are looking to advance our industry video surveillance technology acumen.

3. Mergers and acquisitions: Last year saw a pile of mergers and acquisitions as business bought others which had obvious synergies inside their own operations. On the integration side of the house, we saw ADT buy FirstService Security, Stanley purchase Sonitrol, and Siemens buy MAC Systems. In the world of product manufacturers, there was March Networks’ acquisition of Cieffe, the plan to merge Hirsch and SCM, Tyco’s purchase of Intellivid, Bosch’s acquisition of Extreme CCTV, NAPCO’s purchase of Marks USA, ASSA ABLOY’s buy of SimonsVoss, HID Global’s merger with the ASSA ABLOY ITG, L-1’s purchase of Bioscrypt, Kentec’s buy of Viking’s fire panel business, Sagem’s purchase of Motorla’s biometric business, and, finally, the formation of a plan for a merger-type alliance between Panasonic and Sanyo at a corporate level well above the security business units. On the flipside, it was also the year that Brink’s Home Security became independent of the company’s cash transport business.

2. IP video standards: 2008 was absolutely defined by IP video, and nothing defined the trend toward networked video surveillance solutions than the cross-competitive pushes to create standards. On the one hand, we saw the work that PSIA did (and their release of an API) and the launch of the ONVIF standards forum that was spearheaded by Axis, Bosch and Sony. All of the companies, consultants and developers involved in these forums should be applauded for trying to reign in this technology trend so that it will not be cumbersome and proprietary. There may be competition between the two groups, but at SIW, we feel that two is far better than none.

1. The economy: In the throes of the summer gas shortage, I paid $5 per gallon, and I also had to wait almost two weeks before the gas station near my home had fuel in its tanks. That shortage and spike in gas prices affected our industry, since security service installation companies and guard patrol companies live on the road 24/7. Perhaps affected by this spike and also by major problems in other sectors like the lending market, the U.S. and the world felt the hits of recession. That recession in turn affected companies in our industry, who were forced to lay off workers. Others saw the flow of security projects through the business pipeline slow down. Through it all, the CCTV market was predicted to continue to grow, despite a slow-down and reforecasts in the IP video submarket. In terms of THE STORIES of 2008, the recession’s on the U.S. and world economies was unequivocably the biggest story of the year. Which is why, before I walk away from 2008, I’d like to propose at toast to 2009. May this year be brighter, busier, safer and more secure!