Tech Trends: One Pane at a Time

Feb. 14, 2024
The “Single Pane of Glass” concept has been a buzzword in the industry for a while, even though it might be flawed

This article originally appeared in the February 2024 issue of Security Business magazine. Don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter if you share it.

Have you ever been to a street fair or a craft show? Did you see the tent with the person selling windows? I mean, that’s an impulse buy right? The tent seems to always be placed near the food tent with the turkey legs, blooming onions, and sweet tea (if you are from the South). Let me take a bite of fried food, and throw in some windows for the house.

If you have not seen this, look for them at your next outdoor festival or concert… or the next security industry show…?

Security industry shows probably won’t have an actual window company there (although it's possible). What is almost guaranteed are the technology companies that are offering a “Single Pane of Glass” interface.

The “Single Pane of Glass” buzzword got its stride with the Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) concept. Yes, THAT acronym. PSIMs are both loved and hated by most in the security industry, no need to go into the reasons here. The “Single Pane of Glass” tech trend is being driven by customer use-cases or, for some, a serious case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

Sometimes, ‘single pane of glass’ is more like a frame of molten glass. I refer to this as the ‘AI hot mess’ – as many rely on both API integrations and AI models to do whatever the technology is supposed to do..

Whatever the reason, the “Single Pane of Glass” concept has become commonplace; however, not all are alike. There are three types of “Single Pane of Glass” technologies that I typically come across. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

The Molten Glass

Several technologies come to mind that their “Single Pane of Glass” is more like a frame of molten glass. I would refer to this as the “AI hot mess” – as many of these rely on both API integrations and AI models to do whatever the technology is supposed to do.

These typically have a lot of great features and options, but it is obvious that they are too early for the market. The glass needs to be tempered. Tempered glass offers strength, flexibility, and safety; all things that most early-to-market “Single Pane of Glass” technologies are missing.

The Visualization Pane

Most of the security market falls into this category, where the “Single Pane of Glass” is designed to “see” other disparate systems. This is taking what worked with PSIMs, and avoiding the most problematic pieces.

Visualization Panes have become a safe tool. Many of them are cloud-hosted and web-based, so it is easier to provide access to other business stakeholders. The data that is ingested by these platforms is typically a mixture of security and other data, and it is used to create or bolster business intelligence.

Visualization Panes work for the masses who do not need to manipulate the data.

The Interactive Pane

There are a few companies – including traditional PSIMs and a few new technology providers – who fall into this category. The Interactive Pane is where the user can control or manipulate data from the disparate systems that have been connected.

The harsh reality here is that as more complexities and integrations that are added, the more chance of breakage – much like the PSIM of old faced.

There are a few companies that have interactive panes, that do not try to control the underlying systems; rather, they ingest the data and then control and manipulate the data only within their platform. Instead of a Command and Control, these technologies would be “Command and Report,” with a very specific set of outcomes.

Nowhere Near the Finish Line

The problems with “Single Pane of Glass” are no different than the theory published by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson in the March 1982 issue of Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Broken Windows”. Many of us have heard of the broken windows theory, which states simply: “Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.”

The correlation – if the “Single Pane of Glass” breaks, it will create distrust and open the door for more system failure(s).

Most window manufacturers today steer away from single-pane windows because they break easily and are much less efficient. Single-pane windows pass heat and cold as well as noise, while double and triple-pane windows insulate better. Single-pane windows are cheaper, but long-term costs tend to lead buyers to invest in better windows.

Let’s be honest, “Single Pane of Glass” is a great concept, if done well, and it is a start. The future of functionality will be the window made up of “X” number of panes of glass; replacing the hands-on use of many systems used disparately today.

Jon Polly is the Chief Solutions Officer for ProTecht Solutions Partners, a security technology consulting firm that works with smart cities and corporations to bring business intelligence and public safety through security IoT applications. • (704) 759-6837