How to Build a Future-Proof IoT Physical Security Platform

June 11, 2024
The IoT revolution unearths opportunities for physical security OEMs to continuously upgrade products

The adoption of IoT in the physical security industry encompasses everything from cloud to edge computing. At the same time, advancements in AI, ML, deep learning, and computer vision analytics continue to drive significant transformation. New and constantly evolving technologies are revolutionizing how organizations protect employees and customers, manage assets, detect threats, and prevent potential risks.

The IoT revolution has opened up numerous avenues for OEMs in the physical security industry to continually enhance their products, streamline operations, and introduce innovative solutions to the market. This technological shift also enables organizations to create new business models and generate fresh revenue streams based on the latest technology.

Why Does Physical Security Require an IoT Platform?

Traditionally, the physical security industry was represented by static, high capital expenditure (CAPEX) analog hardware, such as video surveillance systems and scanners. However, the transition to more intelligent, software-defined, and cloud-driven solutions represents a massive transformation for the industry. This shift empowers OEMs and their customers, enhancing flexibility, growth, and capabilities, and paving the way for a more secure and efficient future.

Realizing the potential of smart IoT products requires OEMs to shift their mindset and strategy to embrace the software-centric nature of IoT solutions. This shift is not just a choice but a necessity. Solutions centered around software demand a standardized technology framework, a stark contrast to the static, analog products of the past. This standardization is crucial for the industry's future.

While software-centric solutions require continuous maintenance, OEMs can rest assured that they are not alone in this journey. A standardized, robust infrastructure is in place to support the evolving nature of these solutions. This includes continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) software development cycle support, over-the-air (OTA) updates, and remote troubleshooting. This commitment to support ensures the longevity and reliability of your products.

Adopting an IoT platform enables OEMs to manage their IoT products once deployed at scale. Rather than adopting an infrastructure solution per product or product line, one platform creates economies of scale across the organization. A single platform saves resources in terms of cost and internal expertise. OEMs can also leverage internal skills, expertise, and components across the organization – such as a single infrastructure, to deploy new updates across multiple product types.

A single IoT platform also allows OEMs to embrace further a software-centric strategy, such as facilitating a third-party developer ecosystem via APIs and data. Creating a marketplace around its products can create additional or new revenue streams and enhance the value and experience delivered to customers.

What Are the Common Pitfalls for IoT Platforms to Avoid?

While a single, standardized IoT platform poses numerous benefits for OEMs, implementing a solution is challenging. Introducing an IoT platform is a multi-faceted endeavor that is both time-consuming and complex. Common pitfalls in selecting and implementing an IoT platform include:

  • Delayed time to market: With a broad range of product lines to support and the integration of devices, platforms, and protocols, developing a functional IoT platform can take a great deal of time, leading to delayed product releases.
  • Insufficient skill sets: Most organizations need more skilled staff to fully understand the cloud, API development, and other software infrastructure requirements. For example, to save network costs and payload sizes, the OTA update solution should support delta updates, requiring only new or changed software to be downloaded and installed.
  • Security: In today’s connected world, an IoT platform must be secure by design, embedding security best practices throughout the device lifecycle from design to decommissioning. For foundational services like device lifecycle management and OTA updates, cybersecurity expertise is vital to avoid compromises that could result in brand damage.
  • High maintenance costs: The long-tail engineering costs involved with developing and maintaining a complete IoT platform often divert resources that would otherwise be focused on the core product lines and differentiation. In addition to resource consumption, OEMs incur an opportunity cost across their business.
  • Technology fragmentation: To avoid fragmentation, it’s essential to architect a platform-agnostic system. Products across lines must integrate seamlessly with other devices and your organization’s entire infrastructure.
  • Inability to scale: What works for tens of devices might not work for hundreds. Investments in scalable infrastructure are vital to ensure that networks, systems, and operational processes can handle increasing volumes of connected devices and data.

Why Does an Open Architecture Ensure a Future-Proof IoT Platform?

Organizations should adopt a vendor-agnostic approach to successfully transition to software-based products and compete in today’s market. An open architecture enterprise-wide IoT platform is critical to future-proofing a crucial infrastructure decision and strategy, including:

  • Flexibility: An open architecture is highly flexible by definition. An open strategy allows organizations greater choice regarding software, hardware, or services. OEMs can choose best-of-breed solutions without vendor lock-in or compatibility issues. It guarantees that OEMs can change their technology to match developing business needs over time.
  • Compatibility: An open architecture that offers standardized and stable APIs. In doing so, OEMs can seamlessly integrate into existing (or future) infrastructure and business processes. It also creates the foundation to grow and maintain a third-party developer ecosystem. Hardware and software agnostic future-proofs the supply chain.
  • Standardized analytics: In a world dominated by data, an open architecture creates the framework to standardize data across products, business lines, and the organization. An environment may consist of hundreds or even thousands of edge devices. The only way to make sense of the influx of data is to invest in an open architecture platform that can standardize and analyze data at volume.
  • Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): An open, unified system can reduce your TCO, streamline operations, and free up valuable resources.

How Can Physical Security OEMs Start Their IoT Journey?

The future of physical security is IoT—connected, smart edge devices matched with technical advancements to deliver a more competitive, secure offering. To realize this future, OEMs must adopt an IoT platform to manage new solutions today and prepare for a limitless future.

Whether to use an off-the-shelf IoT platform, build a homegrown version, or adopt a hybrid approach depends on various factors, including an organization’s strategic goals, resources, expertise, and the nature of the product lines. Organizations should evaluate the risks associated with each option, such as technical challenges, vendor reliability, security vulnerabilities, and regulatory compliance.

OEMs embracing a modular open architecture can design an IoT platform that allows the seamless interchange of components or services from different vendors without disrupting the overall system. Organizations can effectively leverage a multiple-vendor ecosystem with less time and lower risk to harness collective expertise and resources. In turn, an open strategy can accelerate the development of your IoT platform while mitigating risks associated with building and deploying complex IoT solutions independently. In the physical security market, the OEMs choosing this strategy will win.

To successfully apply an open architecture strategy, OEMs must consider the underlying device lifecycle management (DLM) and over-the-air (OTA) software update infrastructure. DLM and OTA infrastructure are foundational to data, analytics, security, and regulatory compliance.

Leveraging a software-based DLM mindset enables OEMs to embrace a continuous way of thinking and operating, managing products in tandem with software. Software-based DLM is a secure, cost-effective strategy for managing devices from design and manufacturing to deployment, maintenance, and eventual retirement.

The corresponding OTA software update infrastructure ensures OEMs can manage devices and deploy updates in a complementary secure, and robust manner. In tandem with an open architecture strategy, OEMs will be poised to succeed in an ever-evolving market – managing devices remotely, minimizing risk, increasing efficiency, and enhancing security and uptime.


About the Author

Eystein Stenberg | CTO of Northern Tech

Eystein Stenberg is the CTO of NorthernTech, is a leader in device lifecycle management, and the creator of Mender, the market-leading solution for robust, secure, and customizable over-the-air (OTA) software updates.