A lot has changed in the electronic security industry over the last few years. The 9-11 tragedy, the consolidation of security manufacturers and the growing convergence of physical and IT security functions have impacted not only the relative importance of security, but also the drivers of new security technologies.
More than ever before, new security products are coming from new avenues—smaller security technology companies, IT-related firms and the government—rather than large, multi-national security corporations. At the root of this trend may be the consolidation of the security industry occurring over the last several years. As large corporations have purchased many of the small security equipment manufacturers, the industry seems to be seeing less, rather than more, product innovation.
While some of the corporate giants continue to selectively introduce new technologies, many appear to be playing it safe by letting the smaller companies take the risk. The attraction of this strategy is obvious. If the small companies prove successful with a new cutting-edge product, the large corporations have the financial means to buy the smaller organizations—a situation often seen in the computer software industry.
IT companies’ interest in security technology stems from the growing convergence of physical security functions with IT security functions. As physical security functions, such as access control and video surveillance, begin running on IT networks, the industry will likely see more security innovations, particularly those related to networking, arising from the IT industry.
Additionally, the role of government today in driving new security product innovation cannot be overstated. Fueled by the terrorist attack of 9-11, the federal government is spending billions to beef up the nation’s security in areas ranging from air transportation to biodefense. The demand for heightened security, with the government pushing for the best products, will undoubtedly drive innovation and perhaps even lead to participation from industries not typically involved in security, such as defense contractors and consumer electronics firms.
But what are the technology trends? Where is attention being focused? And what is the latest and greatest?
Cameras Take Center Stage
Surveillance cameras have begun to take center stage over access control in security system design. Access control will of course continue to exist as a vital component of security, but cameras are more often becoming the focus of the system. Several factors are likely contributing to this trend.
The emergence of digital video systems, which offer many advantages over analog VCR tape monitoring, is playing a key role. Digital video offers clearer images, easier information retrieval and better storage capabilities, making camera use more appealing overall. The ability to access digital images over the Internet, which enables remote video monitoring, also significantly broadens its appeal. In addition to the attraction of digital video, camera prices and sizes are decreasing. Smaller, faster and cheaper is the order of the day. Many cameras today look more like small, unobtrusive light fixtures than video cameras. Cameras also offer better low-light capabilities, enabling improved picture quality for nighttime and low-light surveillance activities. Another recent addition is 360-degree imaging, which allows a broader, more comprehensive camera view.
The increased use of surveillance cameras, and the vast amount of video created, has also led to the creation of security/storage outsource companies. These services allow end users to upload their video for storage on the company’s servers. This frees up space on the end user’s system and protects the video for later retrieval.