The Boston Marathon. Sandy Hook. Columbine. These words are instantly recognizable by nearly every American and immediately bring images of tragedy to mind. After the Sandy Hook incident, a friend asked why law enforcement was not able to “see” inside the school to hasten the response and potentially limit the loss of life. I attempted to explain the technical complexities that create challenges, but my friend ultimately left the conversation unsatisfied. To the average American it seems simple that law enforcement should be able to view video inside a school and gather intelligence that may save lives in the event of a crisis.
Security integrators are at a critical turning point in the evolution of our industry. These tragic events are culminating into a paradigm shift for our industry. They are thrusting us into a public eye that is simply going to expect more from us and our systems in the future. It is our challenge (and opportunity) to bridge the gap between first responders and the technology we deliver to keep bad situations from getting worse. This collaboration is inevitable and will happen with or without us. The security integrators in this country stand ready to rise to that challenge and are fully capable of deploying systems that assist first responders in the event of a crisis.
While we are technically capable of deploying those systems and can work with first responders to enable that type of collaboration, we also know the major challenges that accompany deploying proprietary systems that require universal access at a moment’s notice. How does law enforcement know what VMS client to launch when they pull up to school district A vs. school district B? Is the client software up to date? Do they have the right credentials? Do they have the right connectivity? These are questions we answer for clients on a routine basis for systems inside their walls. The challenge is it is not a viable model when we need to provide access outside their walls for multiple first responding entities.
As security professionals we know the complexities of trying to meet the expectation of “seeing” everywhere at any time (not to mention the inherent privacy concerns that follow). Those are challenges and concerns that we address on a daily basis. Our collective business is to integrate technologies that protect people and property. For the most part, we are very good at this and getting better every day.
The missing piece to this puzzle is the maturity of the standards that can provide ubiquitous access to normalized information across systems. For first responders to access integrated systems installed in highly visible public venues (schools, hospitals, churches, etc.), we need robust and universal standards that are embraced by our entire industry. While some would argue that PSIM is the answer to this challenge, this model is not scalable or sustainable in these circumstances as it requires continual manufacturer-specific coding to maintain interoperability. Progress is being made through the development of PSIA, ONVIF, OSIPS and others but we need to collectively hasten the pace and come together to focus our efforts.
These various standards have many redeeming technical qualities but none have catalyzed our industry to the point of achieving a true paradigm shift. No question this is a monumental task made even more complicated by the very different viewpoints of manufacturers, standards bodies and integrators. Despite these challenges, the goal of industry-unifying standards is worth the effort as our end users’ best interests are served when we achieve this objective. If we fail, we risk forfeiting our long-held position as security leaders.
Reconciling the various competing standards and stakeholders’ viewpoints is difficult but I am reminded of the Biblical truth that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Will we as an industry unite to overcome the proprietary model and embrace the need for true interoperability standards? Or will we hand our future over to the IT industry simply because it has the expertise to deploy standardized systems that can exchange information seamlessly? Let’s work together to ensure that the security expertise we have all spent decades building is the foundation for the technology that will secure our future.
Eric Yunag is President/CEO of Sioux Falls, S.D.-headquartered Dakota Security.