What will be the impact on the security market of the “Internet of Things”?
People using computers to surf the Internet is "so 20th century". Today, the big trend involves machines using the Internet to communicate, exchange and analyse data in what has widely become known of as the Internet of Things. Various security devices are among the IoT components, and how devices connect effectively using the Internet – even devices not related to security – will constitute a large part of the future business of security integrators and installers, whether in the residential space or eventually in the enterprise sector. We asked this week's Expert Panel Roundtable to look ahead: What will be the impact on the security market of the “Internet of Things”?
Connecting security equipment to “the outside” is risky. Let’s assume for a moment it’s safe enough. After all, secure IoT platforms and networks are being developed so myriad suppliers can build their own unique devices and services. There’s the key word: “services”. In spite of the deluge of information we’re fed every day, many people and businesses want more. IoT can serve them that granularity like never before. Video surveillance and intruder detection can use any device with a camera or microphone (legal restrictions permitting), including alarm verification, response and fault diagnosis. Access credentials use everyday smartphones and the Mk.1 Human’s “in-built” biometrics. There are complex situational data processing, machine learning and decisions made in the cloud by huge machines. Like buying cheap set-top boxes and spending fortunes downloading movies, IoT could provide cheap devices so we spend a fortune renting their data and control services. There’s the Gold Rush.
The security industry needs to think hard about the benefits and risks of the Internet of Things (IoT). The market has a rising expectation that all networked devices should work together, yet strict security must be preserved. Unfortunately, for every new device that has full access to your network, you have an end-point that needs protection. Potentially any vulnerable point could leave any other part of your network open to attack or intrusion. The solution is to find the right balance between security and practicality. It is vital to consider the layers of security in any product associated with IoT. Ideally all online-enabled devices would contain the highest levels of protection, but realistically pricing would prohibit this. It makes more sense to limit the access of less-secure items to central systems, but as an industry we also, where possible, need to embrace the integration benefits of IoT as well.
I think in general it is too early to see an immediate, drastic impact. However, standards will likely be pivotal in the development of IoT technology in the physical security industry. IoT will require manufacturers and developers to work together in forming standards and specifications that will make physical security systems interoperable with other physical security devices, and with other kinds of devices outside the security industry. Broader technology alliances are already forming with groups like Zigbee and Thread Group, serving as think-tanks on IoT. Physical security leaders are involved in most of these automation alliances. The integrity of networked security devices is already a concern, and this will definitely become even more important as the IoT becomes more prevalent in the security industry. Network integrity will be one of the greatest issues to be addressed when it comes to IoT.
The intelligent application of the Internet of Things in the security market will be a game changer. The key is to, first, identify areas where devices can sense, monitor, and control functions to improve response times and drive efficiency, without human intervention; and, secondly, to store the data from these multiple sources so they can be aggregated and analysed to discover relationships, trends, and patterns that can lead to actionable intelligence. One example might be the use of active RFID combined with location sensors that can reliably determine “on presence” identification of employees and contractors, immediately send alerts if someone enters an area where they are not authorised, and when they leave, automatically lock office PCs and restrict network access. Companies are looking to security integrators to facilitate the connectivity between these solutions to drive efficiency, optimise operations and better protect employees, products, consumers and ultimately their brand reputation.
If we understand the meaning of Internet of Things to be about the network of products, services and objects that can be accessed by the internet, then this phenomenon leads a security storage expert to ask one question: how will the security industry, and the technology sector as a whole, manage and store the enormous amount of data that results from this constant connectivity? It won’t be surprising to learn that according to Gartner, there will be nearly 5 billion connected things in 2015; it will be 5 times this by 2020. With all these devices talking to each other, the rate of data creation is exponentially increasing. There are significant opportunities for the security industry to use and analyse that data for tangible business benefits – but of course, in order to reap those benefits, all of the data needs to be reliably and accessibly stored.
The vast and growing array of IoT devices will allow the security market to develop and provide rich solutions to customers much faster. Such solutions will speed up the adoption of the cloud in the security market, as well as create new recurring monthly revenue (RM) opportunities for integrators and manufacturers. IoT devices will also open the security market to smaller software-centric solution companies since they don’t have to make and sell hardware. Security systems for the past 40 years have been closed systems with every component made and sold by the same manufacturer, and integration with third party devices was costly and time-consuming. Not anymore. Dozens of new IoT devices are launched every day. These devices are designed to be components in larger solutions. A security solutions company can focus on providing the best solution using commercially-available IoT devices. They no longer have to develop every component themselves.
The almost limitless potential of the Internet of Things comes with a big caveat: The likely cybersecurity dangers inherent in connecting and allowing unattended machines to communicate via the Internet. There is risk involved, and even if it is manageable, it must be managed. And costs will enter into the equation, too; cybersecurity isn’t free (or inexpensive), and the level of its implementation will likely be driven by the value of the data being protected. The IoT is certainly a game changer (as one of our panellists points out); hopefully changing the game won’t also unleash a new wave of harmful unintended consequences.
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