THE MAGAZINE

Security Gets SaaSy, But Has Standards

By Sherry Harowitz

Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us. We all love customization, but when manufacturers give security products too much of their own “secret sauce,” it ends up being difficult to make them work together in an integrated system. Some degree of standardization is needed.

Surprisingly, after years of talk, genuine progress is being made via the collaborative body called ONVIF. ONVIF began with standards for video and plans next to tackle access control, logical access control, advanced video motion detection, and life-safety systems, says Steve Surfaro of Axis, an ONVIF spokesman. Already on the video side, 72 percent of new products are compliant with the core standards. Complex systems may never be 100 percent plug and play, but basic interoperability will become easier.
 
One company bucking that trend, however, is Panasonic, whose President Bill Taylor says, “We pride ourselves on these black-box solutions.... We don’t have interoperability.... That’s useful in government, defense, and courtroom applications.”
 
Another issue getting lots of attention at the recent ASIS Seminar and Exhibits was “software as a service” (SaaS), which refers to a third party providing some type of system functionality remotely over the Internet, with the data, such as time and attendance information, residing “in the cloud.” (In an earlier iteration, this approach was called the application service provider, or ASP, model.)
 
It’s already happened in other industries, such as HR, and security is poised to follow suit. SaaS is “going to be big,” particularly for smaller companies for whom buying a full system might be cost prohibitive, says Bruce Sachetti of ADT. The technology is there, says Fredrik Nilsson of Axis, and partnerships are being formed among security providers and data centers. He predicts it will take about a year and a half to gain momentum.
 
Another force reshaping security is the ongoing transition to networked cameras. In 2009, only about 20 to 25 percent of new installations were digital. Coming out of the recession, however, IP-video growth is accelerating more than analog, and 2011 could be “the tipping point,” predicts Milestone’s Eric Fullerton.
 
IP-video facilitates the move to SaaS. Together, these technologies create a new business model for security managers “not to buy [DVR] equipment and service it, but to buy service as they need it,” says Nilsson. (They’ll still have to buy the cameras.)
 
Smart phones are also having an impact on security. Tony Ball of HID says the company is working with others to develop a virtual credential that allows your smartphone to be your access card. Even 3D is making inroads. A 3D image gives analytics more information, which means fewer false alarms, explains DVTel’s COO Paul Smith.
 
Of course, it’s not all about the technology, says JoAnna Sohovich, the new head of Honeywell Security & Communications. “In the past we’ve launched complex technologies to much fanfare and very little excitement on the part of the end user. We’ve really failed to see what’s important to them,” she notes. “Sometimes it’s very simple things instead of complex technology.”

 

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