Convergence Q&A

July 14, 2011
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.

This year many cameras and systems were demonstrated to be “talking ONVIF.” I expect next year’s suite to include demonstrations of how simple and easy it is to deploy the products, and to replace one product brand with another as a demonstration of true interoperability.

The PSIA suite contained companies that formerly would not be expected to work together: Honeywell, UTC Fire & Security and Tyco. Along with Hikvision, Arecont Vision, IQinVision and ObjectVideo, the demonstrations achieved interaction between access control, intrusion detection, cameras and video systems all using the same communications driver. The individual demonstrations were significant because the product interactions provided advanced functionality that formerly would have required extensive (and expensive) integration work across brands.

Next year we should see demonstration stations providing a low-level technical view into the “single driver” approach. This is needed to provide the kind of technical insight that designers, specifiers, support personnel and integrators require to be confident about the inner workings.

Look for more evidence of these trends at the September ASIS 2011 annual conference in Orlando.

Write to Ray about this column at [email protected]. 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 24 years. He is founder and publisher of The Security Minute 60-second newsletter ( For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to www.go-rbcs.comor call 949-831-6788. Mr. Bernard is also a member of the Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (