The Australian security market imports some technical know-how, but adapts solutions to fit its unique needs.
Australia's security market benefits from its international outlook. This allows for a steady stream of ideas into a receptive society.
"We like to say we have global technology, but local knowledge, local application," said Andrew Goodman, General Manager for Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, GE Security, with Australia developing its own technology also. "We have 100-odd employees in the market, who help adopt these solutions for Australia."
Other multinationals also localize solutions. "ADT Australia is part of the broader global ADT organization, which operates in more than 50 countries, and helps protect more than 7 million commercial, industrial, residential and governmental customers," said Peter Sara, National Account Manager, ADT Australia. "Best practice is shared throughout the organization, resulting in winning solutions for our customers, wherever in the world they are."
Australia benefits from a solid network infrastructure, allowing for integration between systems. "Security is driving not just physical security, but helps save more energy efficiently, such as by managing elevators," Goodman said. "If you badge out, you can turn out all your lights."
Some customers expect more integration. "Integration is a key trend, as is convergence of physical and logical security," said Sam Afzali, Technical Account Manager for Cardax Australia. "IP based systems (peer to peer networked) are very much a trend too."
"IP surveillance is increasingly being adopted for its many benefits, such as remote accessibility and maximized utility of existing IP infrastructure," said Jafizwaty Ishahak, Industry Manager for Smart Cards and Auto ID Asia Pacific,Frost & Sullivan.
Australia's smaller population sometimes needs technology to make up for manpower. "Because of a lack of skilled labor, it's hard to find a pool of qualified guards," Goodman said. "We're seeing organizations replacing humans with technology."
Increased interoperability will be a trend for network surveillance. "Bosch, Axis, Sony have signed an agreement to develop a video security camera standard.
Interoperability is an issue the video security industry has been suffering for many years," said Peter Norman, Senior Product Manager for Security Solutions Asia Pacific at Sony.
More integration and network cameras make intelligent video a reality. The Australian market has a growing number of offerings, ranging from entry-level motion detection to more sophisticated solutions.
"People need monitoring, or what we call surveillance," Norman said. "It's not necessarily security."
Sony provides a distributed enhanced processing architecture, or DEPA, with video analytics for its latest network cameras. "A system has to be intelligent — sometimes one server has to process 500 cameras," Norman said.
Other vendors believe in analytics on the edge. "By moving the analytics to the camera level, we can build highly resource-efficient and intelligence-based security infrastructure and overcome bandwidth, central processing, storage and scalability limitations," said Khashayar Heidari, Managing Director of DigiSensory Technologies. The company offers three- and five-megapixel smart network cameras, with a wide range of analytics on its proprietary Morpheus ASIC chip.
"The AVISTA Smart IP Cameras can have customized applications based on their environment and the camera functionality can be changed over time, from face detection, motion detection to counting and tracking," Heidari said. "The core value is the XML-metadata based intelligence derived from the on-camera smart applications."
Despite analytics being promising, the market is still wary. "In Australia, video analytics is slow to take off," said Lance Heather, Senior Product Specialist for Video Analytics and Biometrics in Solutions, NEC Australia. The NEC SmartCatch solution enables "not just seeing," such as identification of women from the ages of 21 to 25 in a mall for business intelligence.
NEC's algorithms filter threats with 98 percent accuracy, which require intense processing and thus are on the server side. "DSP chips will melt in the middle of the desert at 69 to 70 degrees Celsius," Heather said. "The trend will be for distributed architecture, not edge devices."
Analytics have to be practical for real-world applications. "Our analytics can work in crowds," said Rustom Kanga, CEO of iOmniscient. The company provided intelligent video for World Youth Day and its 223,000 registered attendees.
Such large events, along with big projects, require extensive surveillance. "You need a system based on artificial intelligence that can tell you what is happening in real time — whether a person has fallen down or a bag has been abandoned — in a variety of locations, from car parks to shopping centers, from schools to banks," Kanga said. "We have focused on developing solutions for specific industries as we understand that each one has its own unique requirements."
Some vendors cautioned that analytics are helpful, but are not the answer. "Analytics get more complex and better over time, but they can't replace humans," said Terry Yallouris, Regional Manager, Australia and New Zealand for Pelco.
Sharp images are needed for video analytics to process them. The trend for more megapixels is evident in Australia, along with more efficient compression techniques to keep data manageable.
"We see advantages for the video security market at this time for 1.3 megapixel network cameras," Norman said. "Camera sensitivity is a major concern for video security and a 1.3 megapixel sensor captures more light than higher megapixel sensors."
Sony's 1.3 megapixel CCD image sensor performs better than a five-megapixel sensor in low light, while transmitting images without motion blur. "Users can crop the megapixel viewing frame, so they don't transfer useless data," Norman said. "Video security system design and outcomes need to be considered."
"While a single megapixel camera could be used in place of several standard cameras, there is increased bandwidth, data processing, storage, and costs," Norman said. "There are two camera considerations, sensitivity and resolution. At this time, one is a trade-off of the other." Megapixel cameras demand more than traditional cameras, requiring better compression. "With increased compression, there is increased processing required to decode the data," Norman said.
Smarter Access Control
Intelligence has affected access control as well. "The contactless smart card has contributed to the majority share of the electronic access control systems (EACS) market in this region," Ishahak said.
Smart cards can store more data than older contactless cards, making them ideal for one-to-one verification in multimodal solutions. "The trend is for biometrics — facial, iris, finger, voice," said Julie Kerim, Business Development Manager of Biometrics and Security Solutions at Sagem Australasia. "The key areas are smart cards, facial recognition."
Alarm reporting has become more integrated, thanks to convergence. "People look for IP solutions, wireless broadband," said Chris Mailer, Western Australia Manager for Crow. This is most useful for video verification in commercial applications, to see whether an alarm is actually an event.
While most providers predict slower growth in the next year, the overall outlook for the industry is far from gloomy. The scope of Australian security is sufficiently large to weather a slower economy, as shortfalls in some verticals will be balanced by growth in other segments.
"Given some of the challenges financial institutions are facing, banks will reduce their investment in security or slow down their upgrades," Goodman said. "It may be the same for retailers, but resources and transportation will balance that."
Rising commodity prices have hurt some companies. "Steel prices have more than doubled in the last six months, it's certainly affected our cost and therefore our sales," said Sean Marceddo, Marketing Manager for Gryffin, a perimeter provider. Projects have been postponed, although steel fences are still cheaper than concrete walls.
Being part of the international community has pros and cons. "Australia's in great shape, with low unemployment and a buoyant economy, but it's responsive to overseas markets," Yallouris said. "We're the primary producer of minerals, as China takes a majority of the iron ore."
"The next year or so may not be a boom or bust, because of resources," Goodman said. "Australia is better positioned because of its link to Asia, it's outpacing growth in the United States and Europe."
Other providers remain optimistic. "2008 to 2009 should see continued growth industry-wide, particularly as the demand for critical infrastructure protection builds," said Tom Knowles, Australasia Sales and Technical Support for Senstar.
For most observers, the Australian industry has enough momentum to get through the economic downturn. "The economy will affect the industry, but it's not going to slow down," Mailer said. "It hasn't for the past 10 years."