A search on the Internet for articles and comments on the convergence of physical and digital security shows that the topic was quite popular a few years ago, but then tapered off. Lately it has reared its head again as more people realise how important this topic is.
Unlike the convergence onto the IP platform we used to talk about, which saw security products (primarily surveillance) moving from analogue to IP (others also moved to IP but not with the impact that was felt in the surveillance market), the new convergence is much bigger. Physical/logical convergence (I use the terms digital, logical and cyber interchangeably as I don’t know which is more appropriate) does not only impact the security and the IT industry.
In this new era, physical security is part of the IoT (Internet of Things). The IoT is nothing new; the physical security market has been connecting ‘things’ and transferring data for ages. The big deal about the IoT is that there are now billions of devices that are able to connect and communicate – the physical security market is a small part of this.
Apart from the need to understand how to secure the devices, the communication and the internal systems (like databases) and gaining the skills to do it, this convergence makes the competitive landscape much harder. There are already ICT companies out there with the skills to connect, manage and secure almost any device and its connectivity. If a camera or access control reader is just another device, what value do the security installer and integrator add?
Then there are companies providing platforms that will manage every connected thing, from your data centre to a connected thermometer hundreds of kilometres away, all from a central console. Again, what value will traditional security add? In this case, the security of the devices and communications leaves some opportunity for adding value, but it is limited.
So what should the security industry do? As mentioned above, the key is adding value through services, maintenance, and expanding your scope of operations to include more ‘things’ and making connectivity easier. Of course, the market will take its time to adapt and there will still be work installing, configuring and maintaining security systems for a while, but it’s a business that has a limited lifespan (feel free to disagree).
Of course, this change is part of yet another even greater change. If Kai-Fu Lee is correct (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kai-Fu_Lee), 50% of the jobs we know will vanish in the next 15 years or so, and not just the blue-collar jobs. (His book, AI Superpowers is an excellent read.)
We’re in a situation where we will have to rethink and readjust just about everything to remain relevant. Sadly for those of us in South Africa, the country is already far ahead of the curve in terms of unemployment and far behind in rethinking and readjusting – we need more than just a few entrepreneurs and innovators.
Perhaps it’s time to hire some millennials, not because they are cheap, but so that they can educate us about the future and how we can remain relevant as everything changes?
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