Convergence Q&A

ISC West Surprises

ISC West 2010 provided evidence of three key shifts emerging in the security industry. All three are breaks from legacy-driven approaches and traditional product thinking.

Q: Did you see anything noteworthy at the ISC West 2010 exhibits and demonstrations?

A: More a dozen companies have broken away from legacy product thinking to make moves that increase the value that will be provided to customers.

Three Key Shifts

The three key industry surprises that break from the past are:

  • Emergence of product hardening — built-in computer and network security;
  • Appearance of new technology approaches — this constitutes a 180-degree shift from the embracing and extending of legacy products and approaches; and
  • Real standards progress — not just meetings and press releases.

What is interesting to notice is that several of the companies I’m mentioning fit into two of the categories above, which means to me that they really have their “customer value” thinking caps on.

Product Hardening 

Over the past few years a number of companies have engineered security aspects into some of their products. Dedicated Micros has hardened network connectivity from server to field devices for its Closed IPTV system, while still providing an option to incorporate non-DM equipment and analog cameras. I have previously written about the application security measures taken by both Brivo and PlaSec. I mentioned Videx in last month’s column, which engineered a hardened version of its electronic lock cylinder replacement core that can withstand a Taser attack.

New Technology Approaches

Several companies stand out for breaking with industry history in their technology thinking. It is great to have rich functionality in a product, but, historically in this industry, the greater the functionality, the greater the complexity and difficulty of use. Next Level Security Systems has deliberately broken from that industry history by ensuring that product user interaction parallels the typical workflow of security personnel. I was told, “Any security officer competent enough to use a smart phone should be able to use system without any training.” And that’s exactly what I saw. This is intentionally good design based on the needs of the user.

Typically, when security industry companies acquire products, product development halts or slows down, accompanied by a big push in sales and marketing efforts. UTC Fire & Security has grown through acquisition and thus has a number of products, operating environments and design environments across multiple product lines, and could be expected to follow the typical industry path; however, UTC has changed direction. It is embarking on the creation of a set of common “tool kits” from which to design and build multiple products. For example, ordinarily if UTC wanted to integrate a new IP camera into all of the UTC video products, it would mean integrating that camera handler multiple times. The new objective is to integrate that camera handler into a single video toolkit and have it instantly apply to all products built from that toolkit.

The intention is to free resources to concentrate on customer-focused innovation instead of duplicate internal development efforts.

PlaSec breaks from one aspect of the industry’s herd-mentality — using SQL type databases. All of PlaSec’s dedicated or virtual access control appliances are directory-based, enabling an optimized integration with enterprise identity management (IM) systems because such IT systems are also built with native directory database structures. There is no need for the typically-required costly integration work.

Although these advances constitute a small trend, it is an increasing trend towards common sense orientation around lower product/deployment costs and higher customer value.

Real Standards Progress

Standards development work is actively under way, by which I mean there real work happening beyond just meetings and press releases. Both ONVIF and PSIA had suites in which participating companies provided technology demonstrations at ISC West.

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