4 Basic Tech Groups Comprise Healthy Security Diet
The electronic security industry continues to soar beyond its hardware-based legacy into the new world of software-centric solutions. Find out how the four main areas of technology are interacting today, and why mobile apps are becoming the apple of security professionals’ eyes.
The growth of technology advancement falls into four major groups that logically expand or restrict advances in our ability to protect people, places and property. The pace in developing these categories is only limited by imagination, money and skills in manufacturing techniques. These groups are not always in synch, which can cause legacy issues for everyone in the security food chain that at the least can be annoying but mostly cause everyone to spend more money.
Hey wait a minute; I thought this was only in the consumer electronics industry! If you better understand these four groups, you’ll be able to look just slightly over the horizon for our industry. The four groups that make up technology evolution are: hardware, firmware, communications, and applications. Let’s examine them more closely to see how they interact with each other and what they mean lower down the food chain.
Hardware Sets the Foundation
First is hardware, which includes the ubiquitous silicon wafer chip that can handle more commands than me tackling the weekend “job jar” my lovely wife Jayne supplies. Moore’s Law states that computing power should double every 18 months. “Moore” power (pun intended) usually means more heat in electronics. Heat is the sworn enemy of anything that lives on a silicon wafer chip. This includes logic circuits, static RAM and microprocessor devices — basically everything on the electron racetrack.
In 1967, Frank Wanlass patented the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) process technology that delivered great performance per watt consumed characteristics. More power and less heat is a very good thing if you live on Silicon Blvd. CMOS is really a technology for manufacturing circuit designs that yields low power consumption and high noise immunity. Both properties are important to advances in hardware performance characteristics and to fuel hardware growth.
Two concrete examples include the rise of power over Ethernet and the return on infrastructure investments it helps deliver. Another would be solar-powered hardware that only “sips” power due to CMOS technology in remote locations. So you see, strong hardware is a big player in our growth potential. So let’s take a look at some realities in our next category.
Flexible Firmware Can Be a Friend
Firmware provides for implementation between machine hardware operating systems and software applications, and typically lives at ROM Blvd. or Flash Freeway. Firmware versions can be tricky to manage, track and update, and in the worst case can turn a hardware device into what we used to call a “brick.” This gut-wrenching event occurred when remotely downloading new firmware (flash drive only) and the communication session would “hiccup,” leaving the devise useless. This would require a tech and a truck, which is how firmware was managed and changed in the good old days.
Firmware typically required a change-out of a memory chip (after properly grounding yourself), good eyesight, a steady hand and not too much force. Ever try to straighten out a twisted chip prong on a ladder with needle-nose pliers in the dark? Not fun. Flash memory devices allowed us to make changes using the network instead of a tech and a truck, thus saving costs and time when updating hardware.
For example, today most quality IP cameras have the ability to upgrade their firmware from a single PC via the LAN they are installed on. Being able to expand feature sets or repair bugs remotely saves a lot of tech labor as well as expense. I had firsthand experience when we designed and implemented a 135-camera megapixel system at a wastewater treatment plant in 2004. Not the kind of place you want to go back and reload firmware on each camera if you catch my whiff … I mean drift! What made this solution set viable was stable communication protocol and reliability during the firmware download procedure.
Communications Cross Boundaries
Communications technology has reinvented our world of work and play, but mostly work for those of us with kids in college! Better coverage, more bandwidth, lower costs, cooler hardware and firmware that still fit in our hands — what’s not to like? Improved coverage and faster speeds, feeds and fierce competition … yahoo! While limits still remain with bandwidth and channel availability, there are increasingly no limits to the mobile devices that can devour content data, nor the pace these devices intersect our lives at work and at home.
Does anyone besides me just want to curl up with a nice zinfandel and read a good old-fashioned, paper-based book anymore? BLASPHEMY you technology heretic! Want a concrete example of how communications and mobility are changing the way we live and keep ourselves entertained? Consider falling asleep while watching a streaming movie on Netflix in your living room and then picking up right where you left off the next day to find out how the story end on your smartphone. Not that you would actually be able to see much on the tiny screen, but hey, communications can really bring it now.
Why Apps Have Unlimited Appeal
Our final category is a passion of mine and I even got a degree in it. It takes the leading role to helps us manage this technology hurricane. Software applications or apps lend the ability to segment and narrow how we consume data. Apps are cool because they maximize the backyards they play in and sometimes just leap over the fence to expand our perception of how big a playground can actually be. Apps optimize and at times alter our realities for working and playing on the go.
Apps enable what I like to call LUT (leveraged untethered technology) — remember you heard it here first. Following are some examples of how apps “untether” us and allow us to leverage technology to the fullest.
My Droid or iOS device hardware is now an extension of a much larger and more powerful computing hardware system. The hardware and communication system that supports my mobile life lives in clouds around the world. This system aptly guides me through apps that make my life easier and sometimes harder than it should be. It’s like having 10,000 servers in my briefcase and the best part is it costs me nothing to maintain those services. Oh yeah, when they have a new version I can download it for free; guess I can kill the R&D budget next year.
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