Convergence Disappearing in IT Domain

At the Global Security Operations 2010 event at RAND Corporation last month, one of the attendees provided a very insightful answer to a question posed earlier by this column.

Q. What bugs you most about convergence?

A. What really bugs me about convergence is that people keep talking about physical security and IT security being separate. They make statements to the effect that physical security and IT don’t get along, how different their cultures are, and so on. There is too much focus on what’s separate, and that goes in the opposite direction of convergence, which is that things come together. I work in IT, but I have a strong background in physical security. I see physical and IT security having a lot in common, but I don’t see people focusing on that. To a certain extent I think the common focus on differences is counter-productive.
— Chuck Hutchings, IT Manager, Dynamic Air Engineering (www.dynamic-air.com)

Chuck’s comments place him about two years ahead of the current state of physical security and IT technology convergence, if the physical security industry follows the path of the IT industry.
Starting in 2003, I began tracking the Google search results for three words: convergence information technology. The graph below shows the trend of Web pages containing those three words, and I have presented this graph annually at a number of security conferences since that time.

When

# Web Pages

April 2003

650,000

June 2004

1,430,000

Sept 2005

24,600,000

July 2006

65,100,000

July 2007

39,900,000

Sept 2008

1,780,000

 

The graph reached its peak in July 2006, with more than 26 million pages containing the three convergence key words. It continued dropping in 2007 and 2008. What does this up and down trend represent? At first in 2007, I mistakenly thought that the peak represented a marketing “hype factor” present in 2006, and that the drop in 2007 represented the disappearance of marketing hype around convergence and a “getting down to business.” A cursory examination of some of the search results tended to indicate this. The further drop in 2008 stood to refute that hypothesis, so a closer examination was in order. I was able to use the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine (at www.archive.org) to look at some of the older pages. (The Internet Archive contains 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.)

Closer analysis revealed the graph did not show a “hype factor” effect, but the result of convergence actually taking place. Convergence in the IT domain is basically voice, data and video being transmitted over the same cable. Variations of that definition, once common on the Web, now appear on very few pages — less than 125,000 as this column is being written. What does this mean?

As convergence was taking place, discussions about convergence were being replaced by discussions about the solutions that resulted: Voice over IP, Power over Ethernet, IP Telephones, Streaming Video and so on. The resulting applications — which use the converged technologies — are more affordable, more convenient and more powerful than previous applications as a result of using common standards, common communications infrastructures and having a very high degree of interoperability. For example, compare the iPhone to any pre-convergence telephone, mobile or wired.

The results of convergence in the IT world provide two important messages for the physical security industry and the security profession that it serves:

• Convergence technical knowledge remains important for those who build and install systems, but will become less and less important for those who operate them.
• Security managers and system operators will need applications knowledge, which is where the value of converged technologies will impact security operations and enable improved risk mitigation. Security applications knowledge will become the primary domain of security technology leadership.

New Question:

 Q. How would you describe the progress that your physical security and IT functions have made with regard to technology convergence?

If you have experience that relates to this question, or have other convergence experience you want to share, e-mail your answer to me at ConvergenceQA@go-rbcs.com or call me at 949-831-6788. I look forward to hearing from you!

Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. Mr. Bernard has also provided pivotal strategic and technical advice in the security and building automation industries for more than 18 years. He is founder and publisher of The Security Minute 60-second newsletter (www.TheSecurityMinute.com). For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to www.go-rbcs.com or call 949-831-6788.

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