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Unification Theory

The magazine that chronicled the rise of the Internet Age in the 1990s chose to call itself Wired to signify that in the future we would all be connected. Advances in connectivity—sometimes wired and sometimes wireless—continue to play a strong role in every business sector. They are now becoming an integral part of security operations as well. That is just one of the ongoing trends with which security professionals will have to contend in 2005. Here’s a look at the market forces and advances in technology that evolved throughout 2004 and that will help to shape the year ahead.

Market forces. Long before 9-11, the security field was invaded by tiny marauding hordes—of computer chips—which continue to work their way into every imaginable security device. The computerization of security has done more than revolutionize the products; it has changed how physical and IT security departments must interact in organizations. It has also changed the field on the provider side, bringing in more tech-savvy players.

That effect is being amplified in the post-9-11 environment, say experts, because nonsecurity companies in both IT and telecommunications see that the security market is hot, while their own markets are lagging. System installers and integrators who typically work with telecommunications or IT now see security as a new opportunity, says Fredrik Nilsson of Axis Communications.

Guy Apple of Network Video Technologies concurs. “There are 10 times as many of these guys,” he says. That means “it’s going to become more competitive.”

While that could mean better prices for end users, it may also mean that some new providers entering the business won’t be as knowledgeable about security industry needs as they are about the technology.

Another continuing trend is the entrance of large IT companies like IBM and Cisco into the security industry. The entrance of a $20 billion company like Cisco could have a huge impact on the $5 billion CCTV market, says Nilsson.

“The benefit for the customer is new technology with improved features and lower cost because of the increased competition,” he says. It is also changing the dynamics in terms of how corporations purchase these systems because these new entrants may be more likely to sell solutions to “the IT manager or the CSO responsible for both IT security as well as physical security,” Nilsson adds.

Core strengths. Security companies are adapting to the increased competitiveness by specializing in vertical markets and focusing on their own core strengths while looking for partners who can provide the rest.

“I’d rather be the best in one or two verticals than average in all of them,” says Douglas Karp, general manager of Checkpoint Systems’ Access Control Products Group.

Product Manager Andy Lowen adds, “We don’t care if we are the centerpiece or if we are behind somebody else’s application.”

Partnering has definitely taken hold as a new paradigm, suppliers agree. Fargo has the Fargo Technology Alliance, which now includes 34 companies, says Director of Marketing Joe Wright.

Lenel Systems International partners with companies to get different technologies into its system. “We’ve got 10 full-fledged partners integrating our systems to theirs—some direct competitors,” says Lenel spokesman Kevin Wine.

These alliances help to create for end users who buy these products something approximating an integrated solution. For example, at LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc., “Our vision going forward is to build key-player relationships to bring plug-and-play modality between our devices and their devices,” says David B. Johnston, vice president/marketing, Iris Technology Division. “We’ve worked with companies like HID so that right out of the box, it’s integrated,” he says. And in October HID unveiled its own Alliances and Partners Program. 

Stopware has eight partners that integrate its visitor-management system into their access control systems. And the system software has an application-programming interface (API) so that it “can integrate pretty much with anybody,” says Stopware co-founder Paul Terschuren.

Of course, some companies are still approaching the issue the old-fashioned way—getting to where they want to be through acquisitions, rather than partnerships. One year ago, for example, Schneider Electric, an energy-management company, purchased TAC, which had IT and building-management expertise. Then, in August, it acquired Andover Controls for building-automation capabilities and Integral Technologies for its DVR and software technology.

“Since we acquired all these companies, we are now integrating the technology through I/Net,” the company’s security system software product, says Director of Marketing Lonnie Laue. “We will put one user interface above all the applications.”

Product trends. Now that more private-sector companies, especially those in critical infrastructure, see a need for the highest levels of security, more systems that once were for government use only are migrating over.

“Everything is starting to move out of the military to the commercial sector, especially in transportation,” says Craig Chambers, president and COO of Pyramid Vision, which makes intelligent video surveillance systems that provide “situational awareness.” These systems have until recently been limited to military and other government applications.

This type of high-end system does not come cheap, however. For an airport, it could cost $500,000 to $1 million to cover just the terminal, says Chambers.

Also coming from the military is the unabashedly low-tech fabricated steel barrier called the metalith, from Corrugated Metals. “We’ve been in the military for a decade, in the commercial market for only three months,” says Kenneth Carlton, vice president of business development.

“Petrochemical plants are looking at it not for the entire perimeter but as a strong inner barrier around tanks,” Carlton says. That type of focused inner layer of extra security is also a growing trend.

Video analysis. Intelligent video analysis is the cutting-edge advancement that, after debuting a year or two ago, seems to have come of age this year. Jerry Blanchard, Jr., CPP, vice president of systems for Risk Management Systems, a consulting and design firm, says that there’s no doubt this is “the way of the future...assessing the scene of video versus just looking at it.” His company is in the process of evaluating competing technologies.

The suppliers offer variations on the theme of helping companies to automate the process of detecting noteworthy activity, such as tailgating, loitering, leaving a suspicious object, or jumping a fence. Some companies, such as Vidient, are developing a library of “detectable behavior” modules that can be loaded into the system.

The capability to detect any one of those behaviors could then be assigned to designated cameras at a cost of about $1,000 to $3,000 per camera/per behavior, says President and CEO Brooks McChesney. This technology, called SmartCatch, which McChesney says consists of “robust and complex object tracking in a cluttered environment,” is currently in use at three U.S. airports and three corporations. 

DVTel, which sells software for surveillance and monitoring systems, has also added intelligent video-analysis capabilities in the form of separate software modules to detect behaviors, such as slip-and-fall accidents, and to help in people-counting.

Another approach is taken by 3VR Security, which has built intelligent video management into what it calls the next generation DVR—a box that will record, store, manage, and analyze video. “We are trying to turn the large volume of video stored into something useful,” explains Tim Ross, executive vice president of sales and marketing. Sixty-four cameras might need five boxes, each costing about what a high-end DVR costs, he says.

The software can be customized through integrators who program policies into the system so that it knows, for example, whether someone should not be in the lab at night; it will then flag the picture of anyone who enters the lab at an unauthorized time. One unique feature, says Ross, is that if you ask the system to tell you all the people who were in the building at a given time, “it has a way of determining the best picture, which traditional VCRs/DVRs cannot do.”

ObjectVideo, a pioneer in intelligent video analysis, has new technology—still in the R&D lab—called “automated learning.” Rather than having to create a specific set of rules, such as telling the system that going over 35 mph is speeding on one road, while going over 45 mph is speeding for another road, this system would simply “learn” what is normal for that given environment, then send an alarm when something out of that normal range occurred. The product might be available some time in 2005, says marketing director Edward Troha.

Also new for the company is embedding its software into TI chips and cameras. “This is the future of intelligent video,” says Troha, because by embedding the technology on a chip, “you take away the network and the PC, so you save.”

In addition, by putting the intelligence in the camera, if nothing is going on, the camera “knows” up front, and “you don’t waste bandwidth sending that video over the network,” says Nilsson, who notes that Axis is working with TI and ObjectVideo to put more computing power into the camera so that it can handle this type of intelligent analysis.

Locks/readers. Wireless locks have been around, but what’s new about a technology called KeyFast from CoreStreet is that it provides a way for doors that have not been wired to a system to send information back to the central station without the use of traditional wireless technology.

“Each time someone uses a card to enter a door, the information on everyone who’s used that door is downloaded into that card,” explains Göran Jansson, deputy CEO and CFO of Assa Abloy, which is putting the technology into its card readers. When the user then inserts that card into a reader at a wired door, the information is uploaded to the central station.

This leverages the power of a smart card, turning each card into a portable network, Jansson explains. The technology is still being beta tested at this stage, but it is expected to be available by this spring. If it works as planned, it will offer companies a cheaper way to expand electronic access control.

Companies typically have only about 3 percent of their doors in their access control system, says CoreStreet President Phil Libin. This technology would make it possible to protect many more doors cost-effectively.

Moreover, the technology, unlike a more traditional wireless option, removes the need for a panel, so there are no restrictions on range, no issues of interference, and no power-consumption concerns. A second generation will put the door lock and reader into a single unit, and a third generation would make it smaller and mobile, so that it could, for example, be used to secure cargo in transit.

Badging systems. Heightened security concerns are leading smaller companies than in the past to install computerized ID badging systems, says Fargo’s Wright. “It used to be a company wouldn’t get cards until it had about 500 employees. Now it’s more like 100 or 200,” he says. “Maybe they had a cut-and-paste Polaroid system before or nothing. Now, they want database functionality.”

Companies are also looking for more security in their printers, and technology has advanced to help meet that need as well. For example, Wells Fargo has introduced a software package of five applications from which the end user can choose to protect the ID badge printer, including password protection, forensic marking to leave evidence of where a card was printed, and print notification whereby authorized-use hours are set and the printer sends an alarm when those parameters are violated.

Another trend, says Wright, is that the government market is exploding and has moved down from the federal level to the state and local level of police, fire, and government facilities. In addition, more event managers are calling in dealers and asking for ID badges even for smaller events.

Visitor badging has also grown exponentially. Stopware, a pioneer in visitor management, has experienced 70 percent growth every year since 9-11, says Terschuren. But the demand is regional and specific to certain sectors, he says. The growth in the use of visitor systems has been primarily from companies along the Eastern Seaboard that have 300 or more employees. Typically, they are healthcare companies, multitenant facilities, and corporate headquarters, he says.

One new feature offered by Stopware is that the system will automatically adopt the rules a company has set for each new threat level when that threat level is raised in response to a government alert. So, if the normal policy is to allow unescorted guests, it might switch to only escorted guests.

Other manufacturers are incorporating similar features that offer companies a way to implement automated changes to programmed policies in response to alert-level settings. These features are not just in visitor systems. For example, ObjectVideo’s intelligent video-analysis system will change the rule set for surveillance in response to a change in the alert level.

Fire safety. Some interesting new features have been introduced in fire safety. For example, Fire Control Instruments (FCI), a part of Honeywell, is offering a new Ethernet board so that a company could have a technician remotely diagnose a faulty alarm before going to the site for maintenance. By the end of 2005, this function will also enable mass notification capabilities via voice over IP (VoIP). “What’s good about that is that fire alarms are supervised communications, so they are more likely to operate in an emergency,” says FCI’s Jim Kimpel.

Integration/networking. The move toward some form of integrated systems also continues apace—although the extent to which these systems rise to the level of true integration varies. For example, GE wants anyone to be able to plug into its software. “These days, companies go through mergers, acquisitions, and end up with multiple technologies. We are building products to help with that transition,” says David Tynan, the director of product marketing for GE.

And while the merging of IT with physical security gets most of the attention, the merging of security systems with building management (HVAC) systems and sometimes fire safety is also a strong trend. “A lot of people are looking to do networking and tie fire, security, CCTV, access control into one end,” says Dan Corbet, product manager for Notifier.

Integration—or convergence—is also about having one system that addresses access control from the door to the desktop, says Johnson. Cliff Dice, CEO of DICE Corporation, agrees. DICE is working on integrating proximity-reader technology with the computer so that the user “would be able to access the computer by just sitting next to it,” he says.

DICE is also beta testing an IP-based card access system. Alarm monitoring companies may also be able to tie phones into this system, giving clients voice over Internet phones, which are cheaper than land lines, Dice says.

VoIP is an example of how interesting “points of intersection” are arising, says John E. Mack III, cofounder and CEO of USBX, Inc. For example, he notes, a company like March Networks, which has historically been in the network video and DVR business, is now talking about installing the VoIP telecommunications infrastructure for clients as a part of putting in the video-management network infrastructure.

This type of networking of all of a company’s security devices and systems, now such a pervasive concept, was not originally embraced by the security world. “We came into the market in 2000 with networked cameras and Web browsers, and people didn’t really take us seriously,” notes Nilsson. “Now, in the last nine months, no one questions networking.”

One major benefit of networking is that it allows companies to leverage human resources through remote assistance. For example, L3 Communications has networked x-ray stations so that supervisors can remotely oversee operations without going on site. It has also teamed up with Michael Stapleton Associates (MSA) to offer users of its x-ray machines a way to remotely contact an MSA expert bomb technician, show that technician the same image that the screener sees live, and get consultation in interpreting suspicious images on the spot.

But networking is not without its problems. One of the biggest issues in networking is bandwidth.

Networked cameras that send data-rich images consume a lot of bandwidth. For industries that need high-resolution live images, such as casinos, airports, and highway/traffic control monitors, fiber optics is being embraced, because it can send more data over a single wire over a longer distance than copper, says Gregory Stempkoski, director of international sales at American Fibertek. Fiber optics also doesn’t require amplifiers or surge protectors (because it doesn’t conduct electricity), he notes.

But most IT networks are on copper. In those cases, technological solutions revolve around finding ways to limit the data that needs to be sent. For example, one CCTV system from GE records in both low resolution (called common image format, or CIF) for streaming over the network, and high resolution (called D1), which meets standards for evidence.

An unexpected ancillary benefit of tying security systems to other corporate systems, such as IT and HR, has been observed by Checkpoint’s Karp. There is, he says, “more selling at the C-level, because you’re involving more systems.”

That could be a bonus for security professionals if they are able to turn that into an opportunity to bring security issues, goals, and achievements to the attention of the company’s senior executives.

Sherry L. Harowitz is editor-in-chief of Security Management.