The Role of Standards in the Security Industry

Feb. 10, 2023
A Security Industry Association online panel examines the progress of interoperability standards, the role of standards creators, and what the future holds.

In a recent joint webinar hosted by ONVIF and the Security Industry Association (SIA), two executives discussed how interoperability standards have accelerated the growth of the security industry, and current and future potential directions, impacts and areas of growth.

Offering their perspectives in this webinar were Leo Levit, chairman of the ONVIF Steering Committee and director of systems integration at Axis Communications, and Peter Boriskin, chair of the SIA Standards Committee and chief technology officer at ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Americas.

SIA’s associate director of standards and technology, Cameron Walker-Miller, moderated the discussion. Here’s what they had to say:

Q: Standards have been growing in significance and prevalence in the physical security space for nearly 15 years. What have been some of the specific effects on the market in terms of the impact that standards have had on technology development and business models, benefits to different stakeholders or overall marketing influence?

Levit: With the growth of the market, the need for a more standardized way of communication between device and the system emerges. By providing a standardized way of communication between different parts of the system, the market could grow. So standards, in a way, accelerated the security industry by allowing system integrators to pick and choose from different vendors. It allowed VMS manufacturers, or system developers, to focus more on their unique pitches rather than driving development of drivers for the specific camera or additional devices to be added into the system. And end-users were not locked into a specific vendor or brand and could be open for future investments. Standards really accelerated the growth of security industry and helped a lot of players to reach the market and enhance the reach of the market.

Boriskin: Stabilization allowed us to accelerate after the dust settled a little bit and there was a period of strong growth; but within the last few years, with the proliferation of new technologies and explosion of IoT devices into our industry – and all the different ways that we’re looking at leveraging data and connectivity – I think it has pushed us to see there’s another plateau to get to. We need to be prepared for that next leap.

Q: Can you paint a picture of the spectrum or ecosystem of standards that we use today?

Boriskin: Security used to be a very single-threaded application. We had the few key areas that we focused on: fire, intrusion, security, video, mass notification – that was our lane. But now the security infrastructure is being used as a mechanism to provide data, such as to building management systems, or to property technology and property tech-type systems. We have IoT devices playing a role in sensing. Because we have to interoperate so much more with devices that aren’t strictly speaking security, we are seeing many new standards that play a role and that we have to interoperate with.

Levit: The maturity of standards that have come from the IoT world – the web, consumer electronics, and the mobile industry – all of that have a massive impact on the security industry. It is natural that adoption of that technology is going into our industry, and that is something we’ll need to investigate as an industry to make it easier for our industry to adopt. 

Q: Would you say standards and security have been a success? If so, what have we done right? What lessons have we learned?

Levit: It is always a matter of trials and the failures and successes. The success of a standard is in the collaboration between companies that want to solve that very specific problem. Collaborating across companies and different parts of the industry is key.

Boriskin: When you have a period of growth and a very complex and fragmented market, it is not necessarily the right time for standards. Once you have that period of interoperability and consolidation, that’s where stabilization can make a lot of sense, Over the last 6-8 years, there has been a tremendous number of proposed standards, none of which have really caught on; however, stabilization is going to play a role soon. What does that mean for the security industry? Let’s look at cars. With the Car Connectivity Consortium, what might stabilization look like when they're intelligent edge devices that need to talk to one another? I think there's a lot of opportunity to think beyond the lanes that we’ve played in the past.

Q: What do you foresee as the future of standards and how will the needs of stakeholders change? And as a result, how will the path of standards be impacted? Will standards always provide the same benefit to users?

Boriskin: It is about looking about looking at security in a slightly different light. We are getting a lot of questions about information we have: The video information we store, and the personnel and access control information that exists in our systems. How can we use that lake of data we’re creating to provide information to other systems? Interoperability of those systems [will be important].

When I first was part of this industry, it was about adding devices. Now that we have done a good job of providing those sensing technologies and situational awareness, we are facing the opposite problem – there’s so much information that separating the signal from the noise is the challenge. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and their role to create meaning out of that sea of data will play a big role. We will need new technology and standards-based ways of providing those solutions.

Q: How do we get there? What does the industry need to do?

Levit: I wouldn’t say the role of stabilization needs to change – it is the new technology enablers that are evolving, such as the cloud. Some standards been developed outside security industry, and for us as industry leaders and industry players, it is important to collaborate with players outside security that develop standards.

Boriskin: Maybe one role we can accentuate is education. Standards bodies aren’t going to change, but we have an opportunity to provide education both within our industry and then across industries. In consumer electronics, it seems like some of the [security issues] they are tackling are problems that we tackled as an industry 20 or 30 years ago. There’s an opportunity for us to provide education and information to them.  It is difficult to keep up on all the changes in technology within our industry, and in all the possible adjacent industries. We, as standards bodies, can play that role to some extent.