Where will the “edge” be tomorrow? It is sitting on your belt or in your briefcase. Smartphones and tablets are stretching the concept of where the network edge will be in the near future. The technology is straightforward but the procedures to manage these edge devices are not. Photography ©istockphoto.com/DNY59
While I don’t own a crystal ball, my powers of observation will suffice as I share with you some trends in the security industry that may impact you now and in the near future. The first caveat to my prognostication is that they are based on my opinions, which mean you may see things differently. So be it … we move bravely together into the future.
There are six trends I will share. The first three I will explore with you this month and the final three next month. To make this a bit more interesting and interactive I am going to copy the format of the only TV show I watch, the incomparable “Jeopardy.” In addition, I will post blogs specifically for this two-part series. So if you are in fact a dedicated reader of this column … engage! Our “Jeopardy” trend categories are:
- The “edge” is way past the edge
- Instructional to intuitive
- Your enablers
- Analyze this
- It’s just a phase
I didn’t take a drama course in college, but perhaps I have your attention? Let’s begin our trip into the future — pedal to the metal!
‘Edge’ Moves Well Past the Edge
When I get anywhere near the edge of a cliff or on top of a tall building my hands get a bit sweaty, which is bad when you consider if I slipped I wouldn’t be able to hold on to anything. The evolution of network-centric security solutions might make your hands a little sweaty and rightfully so since the “edge” of your security systems has moved. Maybe a round of “Jeopardy” will keep things interesting and make sure you maintain a firm grip!
For $100, where was the edge? The edge of your security system was easy to define, easy to find and easy to maintain. It was usually a sensing or communication device. It sat at the end of a dedicated homerun wire with an end-of-line (EOL) device to provide some wiring integrity. This simple four-conductor 24-gauge wire carried relay change of state information and perhaps some low-voltage power. It did not require an advanced technical certification to correctly install an edge device, or to troubleshoot it for that matter. Life was good and simple. Then everything changed when an invasive species, Category-5e cable, invaded your environment.
For $200, where is the edge today? With the introduction of IP cameras and the evolution of IT network architecture in the late 1990s, our security world was changed forever. The conventional concept of the edge of a security network began to shift and became more complex, a lot more complex. No longer did your faithful installer determine where the edge of the network would be. They now needed to get both permission and IP addresses tables, as well as server gateway addresses before they could complete an edge device installation on a wired LAN. In addition, installers would need new skills and tools. We shifted from installers to technicians. But wait, it got better.
With the introduction of wireless local area networks (WLAN) right when we were just beginning to get a grasp of this LAN edge thing, it moved again magically through the air, untethered by wires or to our concept of reality of edge devices.
This iteration now allowed an IP camera to be in a parking lot without trenching, which opened up both opportunities and technical challenges. Salespeople saw the opportunity to sell a lot more cameras without worrying about those pesky installation costs that could kill a commission with the push of a calculator sum button. The installation and maintenance teams were introduced to an entirely new animal that required some serious technical skills for commissioning and troubleshooting a system down the road.
For $300, where will the edge be tomorrow? Hey, it is sitting on your belt, in your purse or briefcase. That smartphone, iPad or Kindle is stretching the concept of where the network “edge” will be in the near future. While the technology is amazingly straightforward, the policy/procedures to manage these edge devices are not. So what are the implications and how will they impact your company?
Many-to-Few Now Many-to-Many
In the old days, the relationships between integrated security system subsystem components and where the systems were monitored/controlled was straightforward — best characterized by their communication protocol and homerun wiring configurations, many-to-few. Many peripherals and subsystems were monitored at a few strategic locations. While this approach is still used by small to medium-size applications, there are long-term expansion costs and flexibility of operations issues to consider.
You can have many edge appliances (IP cameras) communicate to many monitoring devices (smartphones et al). This trend begins to deliver on the great promise technology can play in improving safety and security levels for everyone. Delivering the right security data to the right people at the right time will reduce response times to security events. Reducing response times may mitigate the impact of a safety or security event with the right policies and response procedures in place.