The security week that was: 12/12/08

Converging access control

The big news of this week, by far, was a story of convergence with the announcement that Hirsch is merging with SCM Microsystems. Now I hear sometimes that people are tired of talk about convergence, but the fact of the matter is that convergence is going to happen at an identification level, just as what we're seeing with the interoperable HSPD-12/FIPS 201 government employee identification project. It's also going to happen at a network level, as more and more solutions converge on the network.

In regards to network convergence, Pelco's Rob Morello summed it up nicely when he said: "Customers that have bought network infrastructure are going to look at applications that deliver an ROI on that investment. If you think of physical security as an application which can be added, it drives a significant amount of value onto that infrastructure."

Morello was talking about news at his own firm (more on that below), but his point is well taken as part of any discussion of convergence.

And in regards to the planned merger of Hirsch into SCM Microsystems, it's clear that companies are putting the dollars out to match their goals of convergence. In a nutshell, Hirsch is known for access control solutions primarily used in physical security/building access. They've been able to expand deeper into the government space, including the HSPD-12 market with new technology as well. SCM Microsystems, on the other hand, has been more heavily involved in the logical access space (including HSPD-12) as well as general citizen ID systems (such as used for passports and government healthcare cards). SCM also has had a bit of a play in the world of devices for physical access control -- including one system which, like Hirsch, was designed for the government marketplace.

I mentioned that one area of convergence was identification. In a recent discussion with Mark Cohn of Unisys, one of our topics was about ensuring identity across multiple systems. While our discussion was about biometrics, the relevance toward this SCM Microsystems and Hirsch Electronics deal is that once you establish and validate identity, you have a lot more value if you can take it beyond a single system. That may mean an identity established for physical access can be used in logical access and vice versa. The analogy isn't the best, but in some ways, today's separation of physical and logical network identity systems is like having one credit card you can only use at restaurants, and if you are buying something at a retailer, you'd have to use a different card identity altogether. Just as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and others allow your financial identity to be used at multiple locations across different platforms, what deals like the SCM/Hirsch merger do is allow the same potential in the world of access control.

As a side note, while SCM's business which we are most familiar with is PC security and access, the company is also placed well in the area of flash media storage -- those cards which are used now for digital cameras, cell phones and MP3 players.

Pelco opens up
Company joins Cisco Technology Developer Program

I mentioned above a convergence theory from Rob Morello, who is the senior product marketing manager for digital systems at Pelco, and that quote is part of a bigger story. Pelco announced yesterday a technology development and partnership tie-in with Cisco. Though it's only 160 miles from Clovis, Calif., to San Jose, Calif., some in our industry had perceived them as miles apart in philosophy.

Pelco, frankly, had a bit of a reputation as being a closed-architecture CCTV provider, while Cisco was part of the open-network movement out of Silicon Valley. But Morello says that changed when the company was acquired by Schneider Electric. Since that acquisition, we have seen Pelco's cameras, especially their new IP technology, becoming increasingly available on other video management systems. You also saw them do a tie-in with video content analysis firm ObjectVideo. Now, the company has joined the Cisco Technology Developer Program to ensure that Pelco video capture and storage devices play nicely with Cisco-built network infrastructure. The first part of the equation was interoperability testing between some Pelco IP cameras and a series of Cisco wireless access points.

In other news:
Biometric trends, Tyco corporate move?, Durham's police cams, more

Looking for a good summary of what the trends are in biometrics? Check out our interview with Unisys regarding their Unisys Security Index. ... Corey Ranslem of Secure Waters LLC offers his take on the piracy situation, especially off the coast of Somalia. ... Venture capital is harder to find, but continues to come in for some companies; Intellio was one of them. ... Tyco, parent company of Sensormatic and ADT Security Services, is considering moving its corporate headquarters from Bermuda to Switzerland.

Durham, N.C. is struggling with its police camera system. In a blog post and the following comments section, I review some of the tactics that work and don't work in municipal surveillance, and former integrator-turned-analyst/consultant/video guru John Honovich adds his own as well. Feel free to add your own thoughts in our comments, too.

Panasonic and mobiDEOS are out with a remote home surveillance solution. ... A member of our forums is looking for wide-area intrusion detection products to introduce in Spain; join the forums and give him your tips on what's hot. ... And finally, though it's not purely security, the feds released excerpts of recording from wiretaps they placed around Illinois Governor Blagojevich. If ever there was the perfect reason to use a wiretap, this guy was it. Call the garbage man; this piece of trash from Illinois is starting to stink.

Finally, we close as always with a look at the most read stories of this week: