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Adapt to Survive
Submitted by CornerStone 2010/3/12

The security market has changed. Whether vendors are ready to shape the future is explored by Jon Roadnight, Senior Director of CornerStone.

The security market has changed. Whether vendors are ready to shape the future is explored by Jon Roadnight, Senior Director of CornerStone.

The constant in our modern day lives is change. Sometimes this is a gradual, steady and developmental process, such as the adjustment from tape-based recording on VCRs to DVRs. Although the recording medium had changed and moved into the heralded digital environment, users were able to adapt because manufacturers had developed their products to operate like the superseded product.

Adapting to this change was easy because the system installer did not need to change his setup routine. A camera is connected to the recording device via a coaxial video cable, which is then terminated with the same connectors being plugged into the new device. While the installer needs different technical skills to commission and set up the system, the proliferation of PC skills made this change more of a "shuffle" than a "leap" into a new technological world.

The overall change that is currently taking place in the industry is not as simple as the change from VCRs to DVRs. Instead, this shift is dramatic and challenging to those of us it impacts directly.

There are, however, no longer any doubts about the industry's medium to long-term direction from anyone who has observed the electronic security arena during the past five years. If the metaphoric “fog of uncertainty'” had obscured the future vision for our industry, then the picture has now undoubtedly been clarified in spectacular HD.

Problems with Change
The growth of the IP video market has been rapid. The annual growth is estimated to reach 25 percent to 200 percent by 2012. IP video product sales are driving the present growth in the security market, with new manufacturers and new products constantly being launched.

Cameras have evolved, from analog to IP and from megapixel to HD, in the span of a few years. This raises the concern that the installation industry is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the cameras, and that they are not marketed correctly.

One issue is the proliferation of equipment manufacturers and the convergence of technology. The security system marketplace could become more commoditized, with similar products with the same compression algorithms and networking standards.

This may be good news for global brands, as they are masters at taking products to market, and have the supply chains and distribution channels to do so. However, they risk losing buyers and brand loyalty when similar products can be purchased for less.

Many of the rules, design principles, technical knowledge and support networks must be altered as the scale of change continues. This will challenge installers and end users the most. Years of working practice and technical principles will need to be relearned. Industry standards will need to be rewritten. Client expectations and requirements will need to be readjusted. Product designers and manufacturers will push the boundaries of technology today to develop the digital technology of tomorrow. Products will develop quickly throughout this phase, bringing difficulties. Adopting the right technology or the most suitable protocol will be critical. This could mean the difference between a system that can be developed and built upon over a number of years, or a wasted investment with products quickly becoming obsolete and unserviceable.

Currently, not all products are interoperable. During the system design process, it is essential to understand the interface capabilities and limitations of the products of choice. It is easy to make the costly mistake of producing a product without the capabilities for integration.

The new technologies being developed do not satisfy all regulations and standards. This poses a difficult question for manufacturers. Do regulations and standards matter, or should the market decide the direction of the products being developed?

The downside of having standards and regulations is manufacturers must ensure the quickest route to market, to sell as many products as possible to recoup R&D costs. The removal of restricted protocols opens market potential and enables makers to leverage their brand to drive sales.

On the other hand, a small independent manufacturer with an excellent product will wish to ensure that the functionality is protected by closed protocols. Patents may be what drives commercial success for the brand to further develop.

For manufacturers, industry standards offer a framework to operate in. Imagine having spent millions on R&D only to realize the market has moved in a different direction.

This is why the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) exist. The standards bodies promote open IP-based systems and act as a guide for manufacturers. Although these are two separate bodies, with ONVIF focusing more on IP video, and PSIA focusing more on the broader area of physical security, they both regard interoperability as their ultimate goal.

Embracing New Technology
Experienced security professionals must guard against the devaluing of the security system application knowledge by gaining a higher value skill set.

The solution in solving the knowledge gap is training. As IP technology was developed from a microprocessor- biased background, it would be unreasonable to expect an individual from an electrical and broadcast background to pick up the new technology naturally.

Expenditure on product training and professional development should be increased. This spending will be essential for security professionals to overlay their experience with a deep understanding of the new technology. Only by making this investment will security integrators retain their competitive advantage, and will end users have the understanding to define their operational requirements.

It is our belief that as security operations improve and service level expectations increase, the individuals and organizations that do not embrace the new technology will be left behind. Organizations that are more dynamic and can harness the technology will thrive and grow. Times of change open up many opportunities. Learning, adapting, educating and embracing new technology will allow manufacturers to compete with others and not be left behind in the dust.

About the Author
Jon Roadnight is a Senior Director of CornerStone GRG, an international security consultancy practice. He can be contacted at or www.

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