With public safety, smart city and smart building segments predicted to have an immediate and lasting effect on the North American electronic security market, where are the opportunities for security integrators to move the needle on gross margin?
Here are 10 technologies generally outside the “traditional” electronic security industry that represent new opportunities on the path to greater profits for security integrators in 2019 and beyond.
5G provides unprecedented insights and abilities that will change what we do and how we do it in safe, smart and connected cities. As the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications, it succeeds 4G (LTE/WiMax), 3G (UMTS) and 2G (GSM) systems.
By 2020, 4G LTE as the current leading cellular technology will cover 63 percent of the world’s population; however, 19 million residents in the United States alone still lack broadband access, and 14.5 million of them live in rural areas. With 5G Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), users can gain internet access with wireless mobile network technology instead of fixed lines. FWA is how we can traverse the “last mile” – delivering enterprise, commercial and residential broadband to end-users at a network periphery.
This creates a massive opportunity for systems integrators. Even if the majority of today’s systems integrators skilled in wireless solution deployment were to focus solely on the FWA Enterprise market, there would be continuous “last mile” projects at least for the next five years.
In addition, 5G will rely on “network slicing” – which enables operators to provide portions of their networks for specific customer uses cases, such as the smart home, the Internet of Things (IoT), connected cars, or the smart energy grid. Network slicing effectively replaces VLAN.
When a security integrator needs to guarantee quality of service for both high-payload video and critical communications coexisting on the same network, they would typically virtually or logically separate the LAN (hence a VLAN). Companies like MSI (Motorola parent company) and Ericsson needed a more sophisticated model to support the IoT; thus, the network slicing concept was created and now supports Massive IoT, Critical Communications and enhanced Broadband.
Why does today’s SI need to adopt the network slice framework? Simply put it will help them land more business in the future – making it more likely to secure higher-margin projects. As a business partner of a major carrier, the SI is open to a wider range of a more consistent business, as these infrastructure build-out projects are awarded.
Network slicing will allow SIs and carriers to offer new services and diversify their revenue base. By making network connectivity support different use cases and enterprise processes, new customers are discovered; project margins and recurring revenues are increased. Integrators can leverage network slicing to virtually eliminate time lost in fine tuning network protocols while increasing profit significantly.
As illustrated in the nearby figure, security technologies will have a role in each of these network slices, including city surveillance, acoustic sensors, streaming video and industrial automation.
2. Next-Generation PoE
Power over Ethernet (PoE) emerged in 2003 as the IEEE 802.3af standard and delivered 13W at 350 mA over a distance of 100m. One of the wonderful advantages to PoE is safe compatibility between a PoE switch or midspan (known as a PSE, for power sourcing equipment) and a connected IP camera or other equipment (known as a PD, for powered device). Once a PD passes an identification process, a PSE applies power safely over two Ethernet cable pairs.
The main limiting factor affecting PoE was the amount of available power, which was especially needed for PTZ cameras. In 2009, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), released IEEE802.3at, specifying 30W of power.
Today’s demand for even higher power to support PTZs, connected LED lighting and a variety of other Ethernet-connected technologies has led to the release of the new IEEE 802.3bt standard, which increases the maximum PoE power available mainly by utilizing all four pairs of the structured wiring.
For integrators, 802.3bt infrastructure upgrades are examples of “since you purchased that wireless transceiver, you might consider a PoE++ injector.”
One of the key target markets for 802.3bt is the so-called “smart” building, as it incorporates a significant portion of the devices that can be PoE-powered. It also offers the added benefit of allowing each one to have its own IP address, important in these buildings, which will incorporate hundreds or even thousands of sensors.
Zone cabling – a method of reducing the power consumption of network devices on a daily basis unique to 802.3bt – is also a potential money maker for integrators. The method distributes switches and midspans closer to PDs in horizontal cabling, reducing unused ports in a more traditional architecture where the switches/midspans PSEs are only located in telecommunications (datacomm riser) closets.
As an example, a single CAT-7 cable of good quality, terminated by a skilled SI, can deliver the highest PoE power level, which is, in turn, distributed on multiple cables over shorter distances to end-devices. This is a significant cabling and labor savings for the customer while creating a specialized service delivery for the integrator.
Using Google’s TensorFlow machine-learning system, able to process a massive amount of images for near real-time recognition, two Cupertino students working with Google’s AI Impact Challenge have deployed a working prototype to identify, predict and send early warnings of forest areas at risk for wildfires. To do this, the system processes a massive amount of images and weather data to determine the moisture content of dead forestation (dead branches and leaves) – fuel for a destructive wildfire.
California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has a “game-changing” plan to expand the state's high-tech early warning camera system, and Pacific Gas & Electric has committed significant resources to the early warning system expansion.
Image recognition and natural language recognition represent the most mature AI applications. The Smart Wildfire Sensor Devices rely more on the recognition of high resolution digital images than on video analytic processing from video streams, making deployment easier and lowering equipment costs.
In the bigger picture, a lower reliance on VMS and video analytics means the SI can deploy a more effective solution and not be committed to sometimes endless software licensing and maintenance fees. AI-powered non-complex, higher margin opportunities now have the opportunity to save lives.
4. Airport Security Technology
The growing airport security market – predicted to grow at a 9.3 percent clip annually until 2023 –represents an opportunity for continuous, profitable work for integrators. Of course, the commitment must be significant. Just as each major U.S. airport has an on-site, permanent project manager, often reporting to the CIO, the SI may need to provide continuous, supportive on-site personnel. This is far from bad news, as the on-site SI team can secure and respond effectively to a continuous stream of profitable project opportunities.
If an integrator demonstrates quick response and successfully complete a project or multiple, simultaneous aviation projects, they become a trusted aviation partner – whose security, safety and operations solutions have higher value, and larger gross margins.
Most airports serve mainly passenger traffic; however, air cargo and security screening of cargo is becoming more and more important. Increasing security rules and regulations at airports worldwide, together with increasing investments in airport construction, are driving the market expansion. There are numerous, higher margin opportunities for SIs, leveraging technology not typically included in aviation security. These higher-margin technologies include:
Airport evacuation and notification systems: Fueled by airport expansion, adoption of ICT technologies such as cloud computing and PoE infrastructure have paved the way for adoption of mass notification technologies. In short, the biggest aviation opportunities for SIs are those that improve the passenger experience.
At the center of this expanding market is the delivery of potentially high-margin digital signage projects for the distribution, and playback of relevant information or content on large digital screens and public view monitors. Security screening wait times, flight information, public announcements, airline advertisements, boarding group status and emergency evacuation messages are driving these opportunities. As the use of Bluetooth beacons increases, this messaging will be customized in real time for the needs of the passengers in proximity of the signage.
Screening enhancement: The latest high-value solutions have enhanced the passenger screening process by reducing wait times; thus, systems integrators can sell facilities on upgrades by touting peripheral benefits such as: more shopping time in commercial areas; improved staff allocation and utilization; and decreased need for additional checkpoints and load balancing – to name a few.
One technology opportunity for SIs is Bluetooth beacon deployment for the location of passenger retail and inter-terminal transport, plus comprehensive turn-by-turn navigation to more quickly move passengers in an airport to where they need to be.
The popular stand-alone Bluetooth beacons are stationed at a store or gate to help mobile apps know exactly where the user is located, without storing their location data for privacy assurance. Second, they create a grid system. By leveraging a whole infrastructure, these apps can deliver turn-by-turn directions and understand how the user is moving through the entire space. Beacons and smart airport apps can also help deliver flight delay or gate change information to passengers quickly.
The irony of this widely available technology is that electronic security solution providers are generally ignoring Bluetooth beacon technology. After one year of use, Cincinnati /Northern Kentucky International airport (CVG) recently announced that the data they had gathered using a Bluetooth “Guest Predictability” solution had successfully reduced TSA security line wait times by one third.
“Our future goal is to pair this information with passenger show-up profiles and wait-time inputs to complete a story of how the checkpoint is operating as a whole and help the TSA develop lane open/close plans based on predicted throughputs,” Stephen Saunders, Senior Manager of Terminal Operations at CVG, said in a press release.
Integrators can use sensors and data mining to minimize traffic congestion, overcrowding, streamline operations, maximize revenue, and improve not only the traveler, but smart city resident or sports venue spectator and VIP experience.
Interior and exterior mapping: Over the past two years, every airport management team I have met either has an airport interior mapping project budgeted, in progress or completed. Interior mapping gives airport managers an accurate visualization of turn-by-turn navigation by passengers, airline personnel, airport management, security screeners and retailers; as well as sensors and devices, exits and openings, safety and communications equipment, locations of first responders and more.
Professional interior visualization developers have had to perform two separate steps in the past: 2D data (floor plans) of interiors followed by 3D LiDAR visualizations. Present day solutions perform both 2D collection and 3D LiDAR at walking speeds and are presented in a web interface for rapid visualization and dissemination to the airport ecosystem. Building Information Model (BIM) development directly follows.
Familiarization with LiDAR technology will make the integrator more attractive to an airport – with the added bonus that of working with a technology that can also reduce false alarms in other outdoor perimeter applications (keep reading).
Exit Lane Breach Control systems: Manned passenger exit lanes have been a difficult discussion between airport managers and the TSA. Now, Exit Lane Breach Control (ELBC) systems can combine automated barriers with IP cameras featuring embedded video analytics. Other sensors and functions already familiar to security integrators – such as door position, breach, lockout, unlock and interlock functions – can also enhance the exit lane’s function.
With an ROI at approximately 18 Months or Less, ELBC is a growing, mid-margin opportunity.
5. Facial Recognition
Facial recognition has matured to being fast, scalable and accurate enough to deliver on the promise of real-time matching. Artificial Intelligence and faster hardware – in the form of GPU chips, for example – have enabled companies to release higher performing products. Buyers across multiple industries are now making purchase decisions that they previously delayed, which is a great opportunity for integrators.
Within the security, aviation, sports venue and retail industries, plus specific public-facing programs by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and TSA, there are many initiatives in progress. Many can fit into two simplified use cases of Facial Recognition (FR) Systems:
- Face capture (FC) and entry into a closed, secure system where surveillance cameras and access control systems capture the image and then compare the data to a fixed population to identify VIPs and visitors to a public or private venue, identify registered travelers, find lost children alert on the presence of individuals convicted of violent crimes and improve the retail customer experience.
- The recognition of specific, identifying features of faces processed through algorithms that return close match(es) and self-improve through automation. Some of these systems leverage Deep Learning to simulate a neural network like our own decision-making process, leading to faster Facial Identification in larger populations like social media.
This is a great time for integrators to deploy mature facial recognition solutions in arenas, casinos, retail or aviation simply for a better customer experience. Some of the biggest opportunities involve an enhanced experience for citizens in a smart city, visitors to a smart building, or fans attending sports events.
For an example of crime prevention, violent crime was virtually eliminated at a convenience store suffering from two armed robberies a month when Blue Line Technology’s facial recognition system was deployed for access control. The system rapidly analyzes a customer’s uncovered face, then unlocks the front door when there is no match against known felons.
6. GPS Beacons and Drones
The use of Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) is becoming popular with all types of first responders. As demonstrated during the latest fire devastations in California, the deployment of GPS-enabled rescue beacons can be life-saving devices for land and sea.
Together with outdoor terrain mapping by drones with LiDAR, the two complementary technologies make search-and-rescue operations far easier.
Both GPS beacons and drones for mapping are newer technologies; however, integrators serving the law enforcement and first responder markets will see frequent requests for their deployment.
LiDAR bounces out laser beams, measures how long it takes for the light to hit an object or surface, and calculates the distance to the object to form data points. Millions of those data points are processed as a 3D visualization – rendering accurate object displays without video surveillance cameras.
Unlike radar or sound waves, LiDAR doesn't dissipate as it travels back to its scanner, so not only can a moving object be recognized, the position of the object is visible, indicating its direction. Editor’s Note: For more on radar vs. LiDAR, check out the “Technology Toe-to-Toe” featured in our October issue: www.securityinfowatch.com/12431036.
A typical LiDAR sensor’s street price is currently around $4K and can generally protect an area and recognize objects visualized by two PTZ cameras and three fixed HDTV cameras. LiDAR’s dropping prices are primarily driven by competition in the autonomous vehicle, rail safety, aerial mapping markets.
The low price and deployment specialization make LiDAR solutions a profitable opportunity for integrators; however, they will need to get used to an ecosystem where designers use open-source software, such as UC Davis’ LiDAR Viewer, MeshLab and object libraries at a far lower cost than the security industry’s VMS and video analytics software licenses. LiDAR prices will continue to drop and solution providers from different industries will soon participate in security-related use cases.
8. Traffic and Parking Sensors
Installation and integration of low-cost Long Range Lower Power Wireless Nodes (LoRaWAN) into vehicle parking structures and street parking are a growing industry and necessity to complete smart parking solutions. It is also a new opportunity for SIs.
These unique sensors have attractive features, including simplified installation, low maintenance costs, and long battery life – and its long range supports hundreds of sensor nodes that collect smart parking data to improve efficiency.
9. Solar Power
PhotoVoltaic (PV) solutions are powering infrastructure in North America, where integrators are busy deploying traffic incident sensors that detect abandoned vehicles and accidents while also providing emergency communications stations powered by PV sensors.
The growing PV-based traffic management market includes solar-powered ANPR License Plate camera sensors, LiDAR, acoustic sensors, weather stations and in the near future, roadways with integrated PV surfaces. Additionally, cities are already powering streetlights and bus stop services with solar panels, providing SIs with new installation or retrofit opportunities.
Building-integrated PhotoVoltaics (BiPV) also represent a rapidly growing global use case for solar and a higher profit opportunity for integrators. BiPV structures –including solar roof tiles, skylights, facades, windows, display signage and communications – primarily act as a part of a building’s structure while also acting as a power generation source. Do not confuse BiPV with the now common practice of attaching solar panels to street signs, parking meters and roofs of buildings – also significant opportunities.
A solar panel’s typical lifespan is approximately 25 years – significantly longer than its “energy payback time” (EPBT), or the time it takes for a PV to produce enough electricity to “pay back” the energy that was used in manufacturing and installation. Many are concerned that, like the early failure of some LED lighting arrays sourced from China at a lower initial product cost, some brands of lower cost solar panels may not achieve their EPBT.
Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region end-users are actively deploying BiPV in car parks, bus stations, stadiums and even homes. All of these categories are opportunities for North American integrators, especially in smart cities with high solar coverage like Las Vegas and San Diego.
10. People Tracking Systems in Healthcare
Tracking systems are gaining significant traction among the infant, pediatric and elderly care industries.
The latest infant protection technologies work with Wi-Fi networks to provide hospital-wide, real-time information on an infant’s location and status, while connecting to platforms and smartphones that already exist within staff and patient processes. An interface uniting Infant Abduction Prevention Tags, Receivers and Door Lockdowns are one of many opportunities for integrators specializing in the healthcare market.
Additionally, pediatric patients at risk for custody issues, abduction and flight risk have tag protection similar to the infant version; however, the tag is not only tamper-resistant, but kids can play with it without causing nuisance alarms.
Finally, similar technology can be adapted for Wander Management Solutions for the elderly. These solutions often also leverage Bluetooth beacons.
Steve Surfaro is Chairman of the Public Safety Working Group for the Security Industry Association (SIA) and has more than 30 years of security industry experience. He is a subject matter expert in smart cities and buildings, cybersecurity, forensic video, data science, command center design and first responder technologies. Follow him on Twitter, @stevesurf.