23 Jul 2019

Editor Introduction

In the digital age, software is a component of almost all systems, including those that drive the physical security market. A trend toward hardware commoditisation is making the role of software even more central to providing value to security solutions. Software developments make more things possible and drive innovation in the market. We asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable: How do software improvements drive physical security?


Physical security is evolving rapidly from the protection of personnel and physical assets to include the protection of IT assets and the safeguard against new threats emerging from use of new technologies. Managing these new threats requires a level of flexibility that typical security hardware is not able to provide. Given this reality, the only sensible way to address such unforeseen challenges is through software improvements, innovations that follow the ever-changing world of physical security and adapt to new trends. For example, a new trend that software innovations have been able to address, reusing the physical hardware in place, is the shift from pure camera and alarm monitoring to intelligent monitoring. The trend where operators are monitoring thousands of cameras and sensors on dedicated monitors is slowly fading away as software platforms offer ways to qualify incidents and correlate the necessary information to properly react efficiently to any given situations.

There is no question that software enhancements are at the heart of modern physical security systems, and intelligent software is the key to many remarkable advancements taking place today. Take video-based visitor management systems for example. These use existing cameras and access control systems with powerful AI to track visitors and tie them to their host during their visit. If for any reason they are separated, an alarm is sent to the security/management teams automatically. The integration of access control and lift access is prime example. The software intelligently ensures people can only visit authorised floors/areas and optimises journey times, which also reduces energy costs. Intelligent software is powering laser detection on perimeter fencing (replacing IR or wired systems), to provide highly accurate virtual tripwires outside the fence, to anticipate potential threats. This level of prediction and security intelligence would be nigh on impossible without the assistance of powerful software.

Eric Widlitz Vanderbilt Industries

The adoption of the cloud and connected devices in the physical security industry has allowed organisations to take advantage of software improvements that enable them to experience far-reaching benefits, such as immediate security fixes, feature additions and automatic updates. As a result, end-users can leverage the latest versions of their software without the added worry of updating it themselves, which can be especially important for small- to medium-sized businesses that don’t have a dedicated IT department. And for integrators, software improvements facilitate the ability for them to focus on making recommendations for increased protection at access points, enhancing a customer’s overall facility security. All of this combined helps drive physical security by enabling organisations to save on time and costs, allowing investment in additional methods of safeguarding their business, such as through IP networked video cameras, increased analytics capabilities and visitor management systems.

Eric Bassier Quantum Corporation

One area in which software is improving is ‘hyperconvergence’, which refers to ‘converging together’ separate compute / servers, networking, and storage into a single hyperconverged infrastructure. As background, a typical security infrastructure utilises a ‘three-tier’ architecture:

  • Servers that run applications such as video management system (VMS) software
  • Networking switches connecting servers to storage.
  • Storage systems where surveillance data is held.

New software technologies are now available that allow companies to hyper converge these functions onto one server platform containing embedded storage, while smart software handles the communication and networking functions. This software improvement drives physical security by making the infrastructure more efficient and enabling a single security director to surveil and secure larger, more complex environments. It also makes it easier to run analytics applications on surveillance footage that has been recorded, so potential security threats can be discovered more quickly. Finally, hyperconvergence software makes the infrastructure easier to manage.

Enterprise organisations face mounting business and security challenges, both in the cyber and physical domains. As these domains continue to overlap, integrating software that incorporates artificial intelligence and deep learning can improve physical security. This technology enables operators to pinpoint vulnerabilities before they turn into an emergency and determine the appropriate intelligence-powered response. Additionally, improvements to areas such as analytics and facial recognition software can help empower automation and create a predictive and proactive model that enables organisations to both increase situational awareness and improve business operations. As the amount of data businesses collect and analyse on a daily basis continues to grow, and cyber and physical security threats become more and more prevalent, these software improvements can help mitigate risk and facilitate an intelligent and predictive threat model.

Jessica Burton Seagate Technology

Software improvements ultimately drive greater interoperability among technology partners and system integration in physical security solutions. From a surveillance standpoint, software is also increasingly used to enhance system performance and overall longevity by identifying anomalies. For example, to ensure video data is preserved and not lost, customers are using health monitoring software on surveillance hard drives. Users receive proactive alerts of hard drive status changes as well as recommendations to limit drive deterioration. Thanks to legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation, many enterprises are taking their data security to a new level with software encryption. This technology uses computer software to make the data on hard drives unreadable without the proper key. Some customers are taking it a step further and utilising self-encrypting drives, where the key is stored in a dedicated processor on the drive itself. The information is protected even if the drive is lost or stolen.

Sudhi Sinha Johnson Controls, Inc.

Improving software with advanced digital solutions can offer a comprehensive view into enterprise systems, allowing for improved security and safety initiatives. By integrating artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytics technologies with enterprise management systems, the collection and monitoring of data from a building’s security solutions is more streamlined and can provide valuable insights to optimise facility security. For example, AI can be leveraged to sort through vast amounts of data from connected security solutions to find patterns and identify trends. When occupancy sensors are integrated with video surveillance cameras, foot traffic patterns can be identified to offer insight into when and where additional security personnel can be deployed to ensure faster response times should a situation arise. These patterns can then be utilised to predict future security needs and areas of improvement, such as where access controls are necessary.

So many of the developments in the security space revolve around the integration between hardware designed to collect raw data, and software that defines and categorises the information to create more situational awareness for an end user. Most simply, improvements to software, in conjunction with artificial intelligence technology, can benefit physical security by helping shift a security department from being reactive to proactive. But going a step further, cloud-based software provides even more benefits. The cloud enables continuous and immediate updates that address potential cybersecurity risks, provides more innovative functionality and creates the ability to remotely manage an organisation’s entire security posture from anywhere, anytime and on any device. By making improvements to security software, physical security now has additional ways to assess threats and reduce potential risks.

Editor Summary

Our Expert Panel Roundtable alludes to a wide assortment of ways software improvements are driving physical security. Software promotes greater interoperability among technology partners. It correlates information and guides an officer's response in effective shifting a security approach from reactive to proactive. Software has a role in adding intelligence to systems, incorporating artificial intelligence and deep learning. A new aspect of software is its role in ‘hyperconvergence’, which streamlines system design and yields more efficient hardware utilisation. Software plays a big role to enhance system performance and increase longevity. In short, software is more important than ever to physical security systems.