The current financial adversity and economic downturn have "forced" manufacturers to think more about product development, business strategy and risk management. Having witnessed the largest three industry events this year — namely SecuTech Expo, ISC West and IFSEC — A&S presents its key findings to, hopefully, shed some light on the future of security.
Continuous R&D was the one thing that most of the exhibitors at the three shows could agree on. Below are some of the highlights and emerging trends.
At the component level, Texas Instruments went all out at SecuTech Expo, demonstrating its capabilities in image processing and video analytics while advocating open standards. Others like Techwell, NXP, OmniVision, Xilinx, Grain Media, Ceramicro, Sunplus Core, Everlight and Ambarella discussed their solutions in H.264 compression, imaging sensors and LED design, for surveillance and other applications, at SecuTech's subconference, CompoSec.
In image capture, high resolution, H.264 and all-in-one were the buzzwords at all three shows. CNB and Samsung Electronics both developed new DSPs in-house — MonaLisa and A1, respectively — for their analog lines, boasting the industry's first 600 TVLs. While the migration to full IP seems to have slowed down a bit due to the global credit crunch, megapixel has still become the de facto standard in network cameras, with pixel counts ranging from 1.3 to 16 million while the most demanded are between two and five megapixel. H.264 was undoubtedly the most discussed, though resistance could be seen in some mature markets like the United Kingdom and Italy. More standardization and education are required for further growth in H.264 uptake, as three different compression profiles combined with three to four resolution possibilities can be complicated or unclear to buyers and users.
Tibet System's all-in-one camera/ DVR was an eye catcher, featuring a network camera, H.264 DVR with SD storage, PIR motion detector, PoE, WiFi and audio functions in one compact enclosure (about two sets of poker cards). Others like Bosch Security Systems and Camdeor Technology had their IP-ready cameras on display while urging users to maximize their existing analog investments.
In storage, H.264 hybrid DVRs garnered the most limelight, with vendors like AVerMedia Information dishing out easy-to-use operator interfaces for better differentiation, higher security and faster response. Cost-effective video analytics could be found in brands like Hikvision and HuperLab, helping reduce operational cost while enhancing user efficiency and performance with streamlined human resources.
For transmission, major developments were seen in fiber optics, WiFi and 3GPP, with ease of use (such as one-touch and plug-and-play) being the most demanded feature and the latter two catering to end users. Panasonic and Sony had on display their IP-over-coaxial offerings, again helping users maximize their existing installations.
Intelligence at the edge, PoE, wireless reader-to-controller transmission, multimodal biometrics and physical/logical convergence were the common themes at the shows.
Solution providers like CEM Systems (Tyco) showcased their smart edge devices, equipped with user-friendly management software and plug-and-play PoE. Expensive cabling could also be avoided via encrypted WiFi or ZigBee transmission.
Biometrics have been gaining traction in the marketplace, thanks to ever-increasing accuracy and ever-reducing prices. Multimodal capabilities from L-1 Identity Solutions and Face-Tek, for example, help ensure higher security by verifying more than one set of biometric or traditional card/ password data.
Converged physical and logical solutions, such as those from HID
Global and Hirsch Electronics, also received much attention as they protect existing physical investments and alleviate data/privacy concerns in the logical space at the same time.
Product and manufacturer categories were found to be increasingly blurred. Prime examples are Lenel Systems (a UTC Fire & Security company) and Brivo, known in Web-based access control and now offering video recording and management solutions.
Video management software and video analytics have been merging as well, with Milestone Systems and Genetec promoting automatic license plate recognition and access management. Providers like exacq, ISS, OnSSI and Orsus have also come out with cost-effective solutions, dabbing in both video management and analytics.
In intrusion detection, Tecnoalarm and Optex were found to advance into the video sector, providing in-house video verification solutions to reduce manpower cost in case of false alarms.
With respect to business development strategy, offering "do-more-with-less," cost-effective options is especially demanded in today's harsh economic climate. Cash-strapped businesses and end users are looking for relatively "entry-level" solutions that could meet the basic requirements of physical security (when faced with increasing crime rates) at competitive prices.
For example, Arecont Vision announced price cuts to all its megapixel products worldwide, aggressively eating into Axis Communications' customer base. World-renowned players such as Dedicated Micros, GE Security, Honeywell, IQinVision, Norbain (Xeno) and Pelco (a Schneider Electric company) released their no-frills lines, directly targeting small businesses and home users that could account for as much as 30 to 40 percent of any given market.
Lenel and Genetec also made their entry-level management software for physical access control blatantly obvious at their stands, while the former also offered a basic video management package.
Some resellers and users, however, expressed their concerns that the quality of service and support may deteriorate (to some, already has) should the recession drag on and more manufacturers turn to drastic cost-reducing measures like office closures and staff cuts. Luckily, there were vendors like Actiontop Electronics who boasted to provide five-year warranties on all their product offerings.
Reading Tea Leaves
Both manufacturers and integrators from the IT field have been eyeing the electronic security market for at least a couple of years now, given their experience and advantages in networking, software engineering and "marketing stunts." Most in electronic security perceive them as a real threat that will soon negatively impact profit margins, especially when more corporate users are turning security operations over to IT or MIS departments.
As such, manufacturers are advised to increase their investment in IT/IP training, for their own employees, for channel partners and for clients. HID, for example, has designed courses in networking and IT for its top 15-percent channel partners.
R&D is another area that requires unwavering support. Axis, for example, has planned to release 30 new models this year along, while many Asian manufacturers have targeted the second half of this year for full IP releases. And with more people becoming more resource-and-environment-conscious, continuous R&D ensures that solutions like video analytics and management software continue to improve in accuracy and openness.
It is inevitable for some business entities to cut back on their human resources, but it should be noted that some manufacturers have secured new accounts because these new accounts were dissatisfied with previous suppliers' reduced levels of quality and support. A number of small-to-medium players from the United States have also gone noticeably more "global" with many new hires in charge of international sales, further intensifying the competition.
Another common but hard-to-solve challenge was brought up a few times during the shows: risks associated with inventory management. Although there are glimmers of light on the horizon, the jury is still out on when the financial storm and economic recession will really subside. Even representatives from conglomerates such as ADT Worldwide and Bosch also expressed their concerns in overstocking or losing business when back orders suddenly rush in.
This game-changing downturn came at a critical juncture in the evolution of electronic security. It remains to be seen what the rise of Asia will bring and who will be left standing at the end of this race to strike a balance between price and performance.