Convergence. It is the term now being applied to myriad changes in the security industry. Is it a buzzword or a paradigm shift? Security has evolved into an enterprise concern that affects the way most institutions view their business. Basic access control and surveillance operations that may have seemed mundane prior to 9-11 are now viewed as mission critical. And with advancing technology moving us rapidly from analog to digital and now onto IP-addressable solutions, physical security professionals are being asked to forge new alliances with IT counterparts formerly ignored. This emerging security protocol has led not only to a convergence of technology, physical and logical, but a convergence of security cultures and priorities. For the last two years the editors of ST&D have been leading the way in covering the drivers behind convergence in the security field. This issue we interviewed some of the major security manufacturers and systems integrators in our industry to get their take on what is driving convergence and how it is affecting how we do business.
Steve Lasky, editor-in-chief
ST&D: The number-one convergence impact on our industry has been IP-based products and systems. How has this affected you?
John Moss, president/CEO of S2 Security Corporation: It is our reason for being. Our company was founded to help usher IP-based products into the security industry. Virtually everything we do as a company is IP-based, from the products we make to the Web site we use as our major marketing tool. Our demos are online as well. We definitely eat the IP dog food!
Isac Tabib, CTO of Antar-Com Inc.: IP-based solutions, both for access control and CCTV, are the driving force behind the need to elevate security integrators' level of delivery. That is, we are no longer in the business of installing the card reader, but rather in the integration and delivery of a comprehensive, integrated solution. Since we (at Antar-Com) have a full-time in-house IT department, we feel that we are somewhat ahead of the curve, and as such encountered little or no negative effect. In contrast, we are drawn into, and requested to participate in, large-profile projects, based on our in-house IT capabilities. The convergence needs also put pressure on manufacturers to offer software that is easily integrateable, and that allows easy, yet secure data exchanges. Manufacturers that are slow to react or adapt would be largely affected over time.
Pete Lockhart, VP Technology, Anixter International: IP-based products are just now becoming specified by our customers, primarily as networked devices for remote access or storage. The use of IP-only cameras is increasing exponentially but still represents only a fraction of all cameras being installed. The real convergence impact is in the digital transformation of data, replacing VCRs with DVRs. The next phase is the direct conversion of the analog image through compressors or video servers and sending the images out for viewing by use of virtual video matrix switching software. Once these images are digitized this way, they can be stored, transported and mined just like any other data file. Because it is data, standard IT-based servers are used with all of the possible storage technologies in play from local hard drives, SANs and NAS.
Rob Zivney, VP Marketing, Hirsch Electronics: We had to invest heavily in building competency in our organization and in our distribution channels. We brought IT competence into our Learning Center and our documentation team and into our technical support staff. Yet there has been a significant payoff. Our systems now readily reside on the IT infrastructure the corporate network. This allows us to offer larger systems with greater value to the customer at a reduced total installed cost. We grow and the customer wins.
With the video industry following the access control industry into client/server architectures and PC-based components, the two are becoming more similar architecturally. Our core business was access control. Now it's security management.