Six technology trends affecting the security sector in 2021

Issue 1 2021 Editor's Choice

It is useful, when looking forward, to first look backward. Hindsight has a wonderful way of providing context for future-gazing activity. And when looking back over the last year, one insight could understandably be that attempting to predict the future is a futile activity.

While the COVID-19 pandemic had taken hold in Asia before the end of 2019, few would have predicted the enormous impact it would have across the world throughout 2020. Within a short space of time, our way of life, working practises and business operations were upended. Travel restrictions, social distancing rules, increased hygiene requirements and the pressure placed on health services all affected our business and the security sector.

In dealing with the impact on our own business and workforce – with employee health and safety at the forefront – we also saw new use cases emerge for our technology and solutions, in addition to new ways of working, that will continue in 2021 and beyond.

Technological advancement continues, however, and as we have seen in recent years, rather than heralding the emergence of completely new technologies, the trends we see for 2021 are shaped by how and why technologies are used, and the associated implications.

Trust remains at the top of the agenda

We’ve mentioned trust in previous trend posts, and it’s become even more critical. There are many factors which contribute to maintaining trust, and the technology sector is under more scrutiny now than ever before. Customers and end users are demanding transparency around how tech is used and how data is managed, especially with increased surveillance. This, together with the need to maintain privacy, will be a key challenge.

Renewed discussions around trust will directly impact how organisations in all sectors actively demonstrate why they are trustworthy. Due to its nature, the security sector will be under even more pressure to double down on its efforts in this area.

The world goes horizontal

Recent years have seen applications and services largely designed for specific environments, whether server-based, in the cloud or at the edge. Driven by a desire to achieve optimal performance, scalability and flexibility, along with the benefits of accessing and using data at any time and from anywhere, the next year will see momentum towards horizontal integration between environments.

Increasingly intelligent applications and services will be deployed across all three instances – server, cloud and edge – employing the best capabilities of each, improving solution performance and efficiency. For example, edge analytics in a surveillance camera will potentially message an operator with an alert, the operator then accessing the live video feed through a cloud-based application to verify and respond.

This shift to a ‘horizontal’ approach will increase the speed and accuracy of security and surveillance – moving from reactive to proactive, manual to automated – while also reducing bandwidth, energy and cost.

Cybersecurity: the continual trend

Such horizontal integration will only increase the focus on robust cybersecurity – a chain, after all, is only as strong as its weakest link – and the constant evolution of the threat landscape cements its relevance year after year. Due to the potential for high financial returns and disruption of critical infrastructure, new capabilities, tactics and threats will continue to emerge and require constant vigilance.

AI will be employed by cybercriminals as much as in any sector, strengthening their ability to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Deepfakes will become even more sophisticated and realistic, potentially calling into doubt video surveillance evidence. As a result, further developments in methods to verify content, devices and applications in order to maintain trust in their authenticity will be required.

Advancements in cybercrime will also extend to tried-and-true methods such as phishing lures which will become more difficult to spot. As a result, employees will be even more susceptible to these types of attacks and constant education and reminders of best practice in cybersecurity will, as ever, be needed.

Traditionally, cybersecurity has been based on a ‘perimeter’ model, where the network is protected by a single, hopefully impenetrable wall made up of firewalls, VPNs/VLANs, air-gaps, software-defined networks and other technologies. But as this model is challenged, a single breach can result in the entire network being compromised.

The move to zero trust networks will therefore accelerate, where the security profile for each device and application is independently evaluated. Trust will be delivered through device-to-device and/or application-to-application communication through signed firmware, software updates, secure boot, encrypted data/video, and secure identity. It may seem like an indictment of the age we live in, but the only way to trust the security of anything is to trust nothing.

AI: developing the good, addressing the bad and anticipating the ugly

We’ve been talking about AI for so long that some might question its validity as a trend. But with machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) now broadly available in surveillance technology, the implications of its use will be a factor in 2021.

We now have concrete examples of various use cases for AI in surveillance, but as we have seen in other sectors (e.g. autonomous vehicle crashes) the positive impact of AI can be outweighed by the attention given to specific failures. Narratives tend to focus on the errors of automation, and this will no doubt also be the case in the surveillance sector.

However, this shouldn’t act as a deterrent and we must not lose sight of the positive potential use cases of ML and DL in surveillance. For example, using these capabilities in edge devices can assist in identifying objects and reducing false positives. As a result, security experts can move to a proactive, event-based way of working, rather than continuous manual monitoring.

Low- and no-contact technologies come to the fore

Regulations, rules and consumer habits established last year will become commonplace in 2021. Technology will support how these are monitored and enforced, driven by hygiene concerns and social distancing. As a result, the implementation of low- or no-contact technologies, especially in areas such as access control, will increase. In addition, surveillance solutions with people-counting capabilities will become the norm, to ensure adherence to social distancing regulations.

Sustainability reimagined

One concern during the pandemic has been that the focus on the environment and sustainability has been reduced. Several major environmental incidents have brought these discussions to the forefront, and it is expected that in 2021 sustainability will regain its position as a primary area of concern.

The materials used in products and their length of life remain two of the most impactful areas upon which the surveillance sector can drive environmental benefits. While significant steps have been made in reducing the use of plastics and PVC in products, and in increasing the level that recycled and recyclable materials are used, more progress can be made.

Alongside the materials used in products, how long they last will be a critical decision-making factor for customers. Far better for the environment – and economy – to specify a high-quality product with a lengthy anticipated lifetime, than one which requires replacement after a few short years.

The only constant is change

It’s clear that predictions must be taken with a grain of salt, and the events of 2020 singlehandedly demonstrated the risks of trying to accurately predict upcoming events. However, the trends outlined above are, we believe, broad enough to apply even in the context of a turbulent environment. What will continue to be true is that periods of uncertainty underscore the need for agility and an open approach to problem solving, whatever the future holds.


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