What is the impact of standards on security systems and technologies?
Industry standards make it possible for systems and technologies to connect and work together. Standards enable today’s integrated systems. But does adherence to standards stifle innovation? Does the necessity to interface using an industry-wide standard slow down the implementation of newer (and possibly not standards-compliant) capabilities? Or do standards eliminate extraneous variables, empower more integration and encourage greater innovation? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How does the use of standards either stifle or jump-start innovation?
Sometimes standards can stifle innovation as it can take years to adopt, whilst technology is developing at a rapidly increasing pace. Equally, standards don’t necessarily give the remit for new ideas or innovations to reach the market. However, it is important that systems are tried and tested before they are sold, otherwise customers will struggle to know which products they can trust! This is why it’s important to design standards that protect customers but also leave room to encourage and nurture innovation. ONVIF is a good example of a standard which achieves this balancing act by using open protocols to encourage collaboration between technology manufacturers. Some suppliers see this as a threat to their business model, but it levels the playing field by encouraging companies to work with these open standards rather than ignoring them and finding the competition has taken the initiative and has dominated the market.
If we consider systems that let security integrators and their customers create robust, flexible and lasting solutions to their security problems, standards are a prerequisite. Think about it. The majority of access control installations are now integrated, sometimes simply and, oftentimes, within complex security systems. In most cases, even the standalone systems will ultimately become integrated. This is why buyers should consider an evolution beyond Wiegand and assure that their equipment meets the new Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) standard, adopted by the Security Industry Association (SIA) that lets security equipment, such as card and biometric readers from one company interface easily with control panels and equipment from another manufacturer. From a cyber security standpoint, the standard benefits smart credentials by increasing communication speed and bandwidth, constantly monitoring wiring to protect against attack threats and serves as a solution for high-end encryption such as required in federal applications.
The answer depends on the type of products, the standards in question and the type and level of innovation. For innovative products, wherein value is realised through new features, companies may be reticent to put in certain features if they limit adoption of the product due to lack of compatibility/interoperability. For example, if a product has a better WiFi system (e.g. lower power, higher data rate), adoption could be stymied due to non-interoperability with other system components. In the security industry, a standard such as ONVIF that specifically addresses interoperability doesn’t necessarily stifle innovation since it only addresses basic functionality; advanced features that enable product differentiation continue to be developed. The need for basic interoperability exists because products do not operate in a vacuum. In the video surveillance world, while basic video streaming protocols are standardised, there is innovation in the processing of the video to extract and analyse data.
Security manufacturers are facing fundamental changes in the way they do business. Strategies and business practices are continuously being evaluated to determine how to maintain and increase market share, reduce costs, increase productivity and safety, and maintain a competitive edge. Standards for the security industry have been in existence for many years, but more recently are being recognised as an essential factor to help manufacturers to innovate, to reduce costs, and to improve quality in a highly competitive international marketplace. The adoption of manufacturing standards also provides security end users with an assurance that products and services meet a recognised level of quality. For example, Profile S standard from ONVIF addresses common functionalities of IP video systems and allows users to easily identify specific interoperable features. Overall, the adoption of standards in the security industry is a vital method to ensure that security products are safe, reliable and perform consistently.
The introduction of standards over the last several years has allowed us to innovate in ways previously not possible. We can now plan our product development roadmaps to take advantage of a variety of vendor’s products and not be locked into a select few. This of course allows these new innovations to be used by a much larger audience and brings the final products to market a lot faster. Such open standards also motivate us to be much more creative in our product offerings.
The increased reliance on corporate networks to transmit and store security data has hastened our industry’s move toward open standards – which IT departments have long supported. Even consumer products – HDTV and 4K for example – are influencing the drive toward open security standards. Open standards let manufacturers create feature-laden, simple-to-use products at a competitive price. End users have grown to expect their security systems be modular so that one piece can be replaced without having to replace everything else. They want to safeguard their investments against the rapid pace of technological advancement and related obsolescence. Of course, we still need basic industry-wide technology standards such as H.265 video compression. Rather than stifle innovation, these standards help us compare apples to apples and provide the confidence to develop and adopt new technologies. Manufacturers are forming partnerships to create new solutions from dissimilar products. That wouldn’t be possible without open standards.
Standards are important to assure users and integrators that their system will integrate with others and that it will be reliable. Having these regulations as guidelines can help manufacturers more rapidly develop new products that fit within certain limitations. Depending on the manufacturer, the regulations can also inspire a higher level of technological creativity, to find new ways to deliver expanded functionality while maintaining compliance. In any case, the issue is not going to diminish; there are currently more than six standards from various industry organisations and governing bodies that can affect access control (including ONVIF, SIA, PSIA and the international IEC). Government standards or certifications add three more (DICAP, ATO, and FICAM); and certain regulatory compliances can tack on yet another three (NERC, HSPD-12 and FIPS 21). So, manufacturers who find these regulations to be a hindrance will have a much higher barrier to success in the market.
A revolutionary design for a new technology called the internet (TCP/IP) was first introduced in 1974. After years of development the World Wide Web was finally introduced in 1991. Another eight years would pass before we saw the first significant innovations that leveraged this foundational technology. In 1999 innovations such as Napster disrupted entire industries. We can now say that the Internet has been one of the most important inventions of modern life and has provided a foundation for innovations that we now rely on. Interestingly, this level of reliance on the Internet has only come about within the last 10 years with the introduction of the full screen smart phone. Indeed, standards can move slowly, even once they have seen full adoption it still takes time for innovation. But once innovation starts, it is exponential in growth, and to support this growth you must have a solid foundational standard.
Our Expert Panelists see mostly positive trends coming from the increased use of standards. Adherence to a standard in one area doesn’t eliminate possible innovation in another area. Even systems that “talk to each other” still leave plenty of room for innovation. As one panelist points out, the Internet we all use every day is a success story supporting the ability of standards to jump-start innovation. The growing capabilities of integrated systems in the physical security market is another.