Surveying trends in the security integration market

October 2005 Integrated Solutions

Today's sophisticated security end-users demand higher levels of expertise, integration and interoperability.

The security market is a $53 billion global business. Of that, $29 billion is now in electronic-based security products, while the rest is mechanically based. But it is not the size of the market that is changing most dramatically - it is the sophistication of the end-user customer and the new technologies needed to meet their demands.

It is evident that the majority of security installations are becoming more and more complex. No longer content to monitor and manage separate access control, fire alarm, video surveillance, factory alarms and HVAC control systems, corporate security and technology managers want to consolidate and integrate various disconnected security and facility management systems. At a dramatically increasing pace, the information technology department is leading the initiative, particularly given the trend toward convergence of physical and logical security systems.

End-user customers are demanding that their integrator or dealer understand their business and their infrastructure. Security dealers and integrators must quickly decide whether or not they want to be part of this new security market or slowly wither away, providing traditional standalone solutions. And, it is not a one-time decision.

With every new advance in the installation marketplace, dealers and integrators must again and again decide whether to keep pace. Successful implementations require greater technical knowledge of systems than ever before along with products that work together more easily, while simultaneously providing better ease of use to end users.

Dealers and integrators who want to be positioned for continued success in this evolving marketplace need to choose not only the right products for any given installation, but align with manufacturing partners who will provide them with the best prospects for long-term success, manufacturers that heavily invest in both new scaleable technologies for their products and support programmes for their channels.

A new quid pro quo

It used to be that the dealer or integrator that sold the most widgets earned 'most favoured' status from its manufacturers. Having that status resulted in recognition, special perks and discounted pricing for those who delivered. However, in a direct reflection of the new realities of today's security market, this simply is not the case any more. It is not that manufacturers no longer appreciate top sellers or want to avoid rewarding them.

It is because forward-thinking manufacturers know that their dealers and integrators have to stay on top of the latest technology trends in order to stay competitive. These manufacturers want their dealers and integrators to succeed in a manner that will keep both the integrator and the manufacturer successful in the years to come.

A checklist for success

For success, you need to look for an integrator programme that provides access to a large range of security solutions, discounts and growth incentives, a single contact for all purchases, ascending tiers of rewards, training and pre-introduction information on new products.

Other benefits should include:

* Guidance on best practices to address all steps of providing the ultimate solution, including assessments, planning, design, implementation and management of the installed system.

* Solution-based offerings in a wide variety of industries, including automotive, aviation, banking, education, gaming, government, healthcare, hotel/hospitality, law enforcement/corrections, manufacturing, petrochemicals, retail, transportation and utilities.

* Industry leadership in developing new products and new technologies that you can offer your customers.

* Generous product discounts.

* Sales, marketing and business support as well as special access to products and integrator events.

* Lead referral services and bid list programmes.

Being seamless is essential

The security industry's current reliance on proprietary technologies and platforms inhibits innovation, integration and the assimilation of emerging technologies. Issues arising from proprietary technologies plague too many systems. This is self-defeating for the security industry, creates major problems for security dealers and integrators and hinders end users from having flexible, scalable security platforms that cost-effectively protect their people and assets.

We increasingly hear that the major trend that will permeate physical access control now and for the foreseeable future is the growing connection between physical security and IT security. Because of this, there is growing demand by organisations for migration of computer-based systems to a common software platform or to standards-based platforms that can be easily and seamlessly integrated. Leveraging technology breakthroughs and a need for increased security, companies will also more rapidly adapt smartcards, biometrics and intelligent video into their overall systems.

Physical access control systems on an enterprise level are now described as much in IT terms as they are in access control terms. New command and control integration platforms are giving integrators a wider range of solutions to help end-users meet this challenge head-on, while at the same time requiring the integrator to have higher levels of IT expertise.

To be successful, integrators and end-users must have a new way of looking at enterprise security and management. For instance, GE's Facility Commander is a command and control integration platform that brings the benefits of open systems to the security industry. Interestingly, most IT people will probably relate to it as fast or faster than traditional physical security staffers, representing a paradigm shift in the marketing and adoption of cutting-edge security systems.

Integration equals success

Today, the various components frequently used in the typical security system are not only disconnected, but from different manufacturers, complicating or making integration impossible. All too often, they employ incompatible hardware or proprietary, unsynchronised databases or completely inconsistent user interfaces that compete for space and attention. Such systems are inefficient and need many people to manage them. Security personnel who have been forced to use them have been frustrated for some time but these systems will not pass muster with IT personnel.

There is a good reason for this. Such systems increase employee and training costs, foster unnecessary equipment expense, have gaps causing security and safety breaches and can produce downtime in mission-critical operations. Since IT budgets and management are responsible for many of these operations, they are beginning to dictate what will be used, particularly for physical access control systems.

What has been needed for both IT and physical security is a complete command and control integration platform that integrates all aspects of security and facility management within a single screen. Such a platform provides a completely open architecture with published APIs, plug-and-play compatibility, cross-platform support, adherence to industry standards and the ability to seamlessly create a modular facility environment. With it, organisations have a single, intuitive, integrated console that lets them protect and manage security for their entire businesses.

First of all, the platform needs to be tightly integrated with the security management system, offering advanced access control, video surveillance, alarm monitoring, intrusion detection, fire alarm, intercom and personal safety/duress systems, credential production, and employee and visitor management functionalities. Additionally, though, the platform must address and enhance security management system capabilities by integrating and supporting security systems from multiple manufacturers.

Such a command and integration platform provides a single window into the enterprise, enabling physical access control/security managers to employ a centralised, consistent user interface for managing security, facility alarms, and events across the entire company. That brings us back to the ability to create centralised management with local control, as earlier stated. This allows companies to select best-of-breed products, often resulting in multiple, separate security systems for administration purposes while still maintaining centralised control.

In a similar manner, interfaces for alarms and events should be tailored to each system operator function, or location, to display only relevant information. Such an interface enables an operator to filter multiple facilities to show just the desired information, such as those currently in alarm state or in a sensitive geographic region. These techniques reduce screen complexities and speed decision-making.

Seamless integration means the physical access control department, as well as other groups in the enterprise, have the freedom to select different technology vendors, relying on the command and control platform to handle the integration.

This extends to hardware in the system. Today, with one card reader, users can read 125 KHz proximity cards, including those from GE and HID, along with Mifare and Vicinity smartcards. Such a reader provides continuity throughout the organisation, without having to eliminate legacy cards while additionally building a pathway to higher security applications in the future.

Dealers and installers who want to be able to offer this type of powerful security platform to their customers must be willing to stay one step ahead of the technology, and they need to be able to access solid training from the manufacturer that offers it.

A new respect for standards

In this new world of physical access control and IT convergence, 'open' is the operative word. Multivendor support is only achievable through the use of IT industry standards such as XML, TCP/IP, SNMP, LDAP and SMTP. The platform must support commercial off-the-shelf operating systems such as Red Hat Linux and Microsoft Windows in its many flavours, database platforms such as Microsoft SQL Server, MSDE, Informix, IBM DB2 Universal Server and Oracle Server, user directories such as LDAP and MS Active Directory, report generators such as Crystal Reports and common administrative utilities for system backups and fault tolerance. Likewise, it must seamlessly integrate with external applications, such as time and attendance systems, and peripheral devices such as printers.

With such standards, enterprises are able to achieve realtime, bi-directional data exchange and actions between security systems and other infrastructure applications, including HR and ERP systems. Management of people's access rights becomes streamlined with policy-based management across physical and logical security. With one step, an enterprise can set up or delete a complete set of access rights for any employee.

Physical security has many parallels with IT security. Digital video systems monitor the movement of people at key points on the property and intrusion systems monitor alarms from critical access points, much as logical intrusion detection systems monitor key access points of the IT infrastructure, providing alarms when hacker signatures or other security anomalies occur. Firewalls keep out unauthorised network traffic much like physical access control systems keep out unauthorised people. Security event management and integration platforms are emerging in physical security to parallel IT security and event management systems, which have been in existence for years.

In both disciplines, products and technologies are only a part of effective policy enforcement. Personnel training and commitment to corporate security policies, both physical and logical, are key to the success of both programmes.

Developer programmes

Last, but not least, dealers and integrators who want to develop custom solutions for their customers need the right tools and dedicated personnel to grow and scale their businesses to meet the emerging needs of the security market. A solid developer programme delivered by a manufacturer also plays a key role by expanding the focus beyond simply developing code, creating a successful business relationship with its participants. The relationship must be mutually beneficial to be truly successful.

A successful developer programme will offer integration opportunities along with go-to-market and business development support for third parties interested in supporting device driver development for the manufacturer's integration platforms. This type of programme should include software development kits (SDKs), which serve as the integration tools, training programmes, business development opportunities, developer support, and marketing resources.

Partnering for success

Dealers and integrators must recognise and respond to these emerging trends if they want to remain competitive. That means partnering with companies that are also aware of where the market is going, and are staying one step ahead of customer needs. You need more than just equipment in today's market. At a minimum, they require training, technical support, sales and marketing expertise, and of course innovative, forward-thinking products.

Today's partnerships are based on helping both partners build their business and profits, not just selling more products.

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