After the fall ASIS conference each year, I usually take a column or two to write about the technology that I have seen that impacts convergence in one way or another. This time, the conference has prompted a different response — not about technology products or features, but about technology value.
Q: What did you see in the ASIS exhibit hall of value?
This is the question that I am invariably asked each year. Before addressing what’s new and valuable in technology, it is worth considering exactly how the word “value” should be applied.
What prompts me to give thought to this is that three manufacturers made statements in writing or verbally during the show to the effect that “it is all about partnerships” — referring to their partnerships with other companies.
In some cases, the partnerships are with competitors, and I give the companies involved great credit for embracing “coopetition,” a term coined in the 1980s by Novell’s founder Ray Noorda. The essence of “coopetition” is that you cooperate with others to increase the size of the market, and then compete with those same others for your share of the expanded market. The idea is that everyone will fare better by having a larger market to divide up. (See Security Technology & Design of October 2005, “Coopetition Arrives”, available online at http://www.securityinfowatch.com/Cover+Focus/coopetition-arrives).
Markets can be expanded in a number of ways, but one of them is to offer something that’s of greater value to customers. That is the general trend for mobile phones, to the extent that in December 2008, Discorvery News reported that one in six homes only use cell phones.
Coopetition and Open Standards
In the case of the security industry, one means to offer greater value is open standards. By increasing the interoperability among products and systems, customers can select products and systems (or various parts of them) that are the best fit for their needs — creating an overall system that has more value to the customer than a single brand’s offering. In particular, this solves a problem relating to video management system (VMS) software and cameras: the proprietary interfaces required for each camera brand have made it extremely burdensome on VMS development to support a wide variety of camera brands. Money that could otherwise go into features of value to the customer has gone to supporting interfaces to cameras. And as cameras continue to advance, the development work burden never stops. This has limited the value provided to customers each year.
Thus, I was heartened by the recent demonstrations from the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) and the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) for two reasons. First, the demonstrations worked; second, because the member companies kept to their previously announced development schedules. This shows that the companies are truly taking their commitments seriously.
The Value of Technology
The value of any security technology lies in how it enables security practitioners to do one or more of the following:
• Increase security effectiveness (reduce risk)
• Increase security efficiency (reduce costs and/or increase productivity)
• Add value to the business (such as how video cameras and video analytics can be used for non-security business purposes)
For one product to be “better” than another product requires more than having a longer feature list or bigger numbers on a data sheet. The issue is decided by whether or not the product’s features, numbers and cost provide more value according to the three criteria listed above. Thus, value is relative to the customer, to the customer’s existing and future technology deployments, to the potential improvements to the risk picture, and to the potential business value to the customer’s organization. The world’s most impressive PTZ camera is of no value if there are no security operations personnel who will operate it. Value is relative to each customer’s situation, with many customers in the same business sector, such as retail stores, having some needs and requirements in common.
The general principle is somewhat obvious, but can still get lost in all the marketing language about “channels,” “distribution,” “partnerships” and so on. During the show, I heard the word “customer” much less frequently than I did the other terms.
Ultimately, it’s all about the customer and the value that the customer can provide to his or her organization by utilizing the products and services being offered. Even customers can sometimes lose sight of that that in the quest to identify the “best technology.” The best product in any technology category is the one that will do the best job for you in increasing security effectiveness, operations efficiency, and adding value to the business.