Emerging trends in integrated systems

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William Plante, Director, Integrated Solutions Risk Group at Everon Solutions, analyzes the current landscape of integrated systems within security.

Integrated systems

Earlier this year, a security manager enquired on a professional forum about AI vendors for video analytics, mentioning products A and B as their potential choices.

I knew these products to be different technically and functionally.

The enquiry led to the recommendation by respondents of six alternative products (C to H) and highlighted the importance of defining specific needs and goals for video AI.

Other contributors recommended developing a Concept of Operations to help assess each vendor’s strengths and weaknesses effectively based on the company’s functional needs.

The simple question elicited a complex response, and for good reason.

Today’s integrated systems technologists and managers are presented with issues, opportunities and risks that never existed to the degree or extent they do today.

Network hosting architectures, including serverless designs, biometrics, open or closed ecosystems, native or third-party video AI, internet of things (IoT) and IT service integration, drones and robots are moving from the emerging technology horizon into the mainstream.

What’s a system manager to do and how can security integrators support good technology decision-making for integrated systems?

It helps to understand the trends with the most momentum and why those trends matter today.

Corporate networks and systems

Once, during a security video infrastructure planning session, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of a leading content delivery network (CDN) firm stated, “Your cameras are hostile objects and they’re not going onto my network!”

While I understood his viewpoint (and was secretly grateful), it highlighted a common dilemma: unlike the CDN firm, many organizations hesitate to invest in dedicated security networks due to the costs involved, preferring instead to integrate security cameras into their corporate networks via virtual local area networks (VLANs).

Indeed, I’ve worked with several critical infrastructure organizations to remediate camera systems on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) networks.

The frequent reports of security camera breaches and the easily accessible vulnerabilities showcased on websites like insecam.org underscore the increasing concerns regarding security networks, especially as camera systems become more sophisticated with AI technologies.

Concerns over privacy and hacking risks are increasing.

Ray Bernard’s eBook, “Future-Ready Network Design for Physical Security Systems,” offers valuable guidance on creating networks that are scalable, extensible and secure, focusing on cyber-hardening and performance management for cameras and networks.

Integrators are being asked to provide security cameras and now more frequently, the network infrastructure and to deliver end-to-end hardware and software support.

End users have several options to consider when the IT network departments want to shift the burden to an integrator and the company would be well-advised to thoroughly confirm the integrator’s ability to provision and support networks even when they say, “We can do that!”

Closed versus open architectures and standards

Years ago, access control system purchasers faced a monumental decision: selecting a proprietary ecosystem, which inevitably meant becoming locked into a specific manufacturer and often the integrator, too, and guaranteeing a healthy revenue stream for both.

At that time, open architecture and interoperability standards were virtually nonexistent.

However, the landscape began to shift in the early 1990s when companies like Mercury Security and HID started to challenge the norm by offering third-party, non-proprietary components for panels and credentials, respectively.

Despite the benefits, the transition to open architecture was initially slow, primarily due to the significant investments companies had already made in closed systems.

Today, the scenario has transformed; many system manufacturers have become software companies and have embraced open panels.

Various credentials have become widely recognized and used, establishing open/non-proprietary security solutions in the marketplace.

Associations like the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) and the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) have driven interoperability between many proprietary and open systems to benefit system owners.

Closed systems have not disappeared; indeed, there has been a notable resurgence in proprietary technologies.

This resurgence is paralleled by two significant trends – the rapid expansion of cloud technologies and the development of a more extensive array of components designed for seamless integration.

There are now multiple examples of a cloud-based, end-to-end solutions characterized by integrated subsystems with a sleek UX/UI design and a support program aimed at ensuring hassle-free ownership.

Indeed, proprietary and open offerings based on “serverless design principles” (e.g., networks that eliminate on-premises application and storage servers) are emerging that simplify network design and management.

Many legacy incumbents offer a competitive suite of proprietary products that are high-end quality and offer streamlined system management.

Despite their proprietary nature, both new and legacy manufacturers are at the forefront of industry adoption and growth, thanks to substantial investments in R&D.

This demonstrates that both open and closed systems continue to vie for dominance, with ongoing R&D being a critical factor in their competitive edge.

The rise of AI

The rapid ascent of AI technology in our industry is unparalleled historically.

AI’s applications are widespread, yet video analytics has emerged as the foremost area benefiting from such advancements.

Initially, video analytics faced significant challenges, including a high rate of false alarms, which diminished its utility and sometimes led to its removal from CCTV systems.

However, AI video analytics has evolved today thanks to convolutional neural network (CNN) technologies and contemporary software development practices.

For instance, a San Jose-based video AI developer conducted over 200 “voice of the customer” interviews to refine its product before launch, continually enhancing threat detection to improve performance and utility.

Yet, advanced video analytics carry potential ethical, privacy and legal risks.

The sensitivity around AI use is heightening privacy concerns, especially regarding biometrics. Globally, regulations like Europe’s GDPR, Canada’s PIPEDA, the UK Data Protection Act, Brazil’s LGPD, India’s PDPB and the US’ BIPA and CCPA underscore the expanding legal landscape.

A Wall Street Journal article from 30 March 2023, titled “The AI Industry Is Steaming Toward A Legal Iceberg,” highlighted the looming liability risks for companies whose AI applications cause harm.

A Washington Post Report “AI is powering a revolution in policing, at the Olympics and beyond,” reports that France, a country historically sensitive to public video surveillance and facial recognition, is adopting AI video to support security during the Olympics and public support for it is increasing in specific instances.

Given these developments, companies considering the adoption of video AI should conduct a thorough risk evaluation to address potential application risks before proceeding.

Drones, robots and integrated systems

One of the most exciting advancements in our industry is the emergence of security drones and robots, along with their integration into physical systems and operational programs.

“Drone in a box” solutions are becoming increasingly popular for their ability to automate deployment and recharging, offering uninterrupted and efficient surveillance.

Many companies now provide these drones “as-a-service”, including Remote Pilot Certified staff (FAA Part 107) as part of the package, allowing missions to be launched and managed from the provider’s operations center and seamlessly integrated into the client’s security program.

With the rise of drones-as-a-service providers – of which there are now over a dozen in the US – fewer companies choose to manage drones in-house, citing high costs and logistical challenges.

Additionally, the field of autonomous indoor drone solutions is advancing, albeit slower than outdoor solutions.

For instance, an Israeli-based manufacturer has been at the forefront of this niche, overcoming the complex challenges associated with flying drones in expansive indoor environments, such as warehouses.

The business’ efforts extend to successfully integrating drone-captured video into a range of video management systems, significantly improving the capabilities and effectiveness of indoor surveillance.

Since debuting in 2015, the field of exterior commercial security robotics has undergone substantial development.

Robots equipped with features like cameras, sensors, lights and audio capabilities present a strong business case by augmenting traditional security guard programs.

They can offer continuous patrol coverage, embodying the “always on, never tired, always seeing” principle.

A Norwegian company stands out with its latest humanoid wheeled android, which is making its mark in high-tech security applications, while its imminent to-be-released model is noteworthy for its bipedal design.

OpenAI is making significant strategic investments in our industry, including robotics.

The Norwegian manufacturer is  planning to integrate ChatGPT into its robots, highlighting the fusion of AI with advanced security options.

Meanwhile, established manufacturers are improving their conventional designs with better AI that is optimized for environments with heavy pedestrian traffic.

A Philadelphia-area company has taken an innovative integrated systems approach by combining aerial drones with a robotic canine to deliver a comprehensive aerial and ground-based robotics security solution offered as a service supplied by its operations center.

Bringing it all together

Gone are the days when a human operator’s attention might last only 20 minutes on a camera system, often missing crucial incidents on video and access control screens.

Integrating AI into core systems has revolutionized physical security, greatly enhancing situational awareness across the enterprise.

Furthermore, the use of AI-enabled autonomous drones and robots integrated into systems and operations broadens this awareness, thus strengthening the security posture of the organization.

The rationalization of network designs also boosts these systems’ performance, cost efficiency and effectiveness.

The modern, AI-based integrated security system provides the ideal blend of technology and human operations and leaves us with the most essential task – deciding what to do with the information it provides.

This article was originally published in the May edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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