Keeping an Open Mind About Interoperability

To hear some tell it, proprietary, or closed, electronic security devices and systems are headed for the same fate as the dodo bird, Edsel and Betamax — obsolescence. That’s because they are more difficult, if not impossible, to seamlessly integrate together, making systems integrators’ jobs harder and end users more prone to dissatisfaction. These proponents say the security solutions of the future will be open, or interoperable

If that belief is true, it means a radical shift will transpire in the way electronic security products are developed, marketed, sold, installed and used. And there is mounting evidence that lends credence to this assertion. 

Indeed, it is impossible to ignore the profound effect computer technology and the emergence of software as an innovation driver has had on security equipment design. This has not escaped the notice of the IT industry, which has come to view physical security as a counterpart to logical security, and another source of useful data to run across the enterprise network. This convergence trend is further placing pressure on manufacturers to produce nonproprietary security products. 

However, proprietary pundits do not appear to be interested in tampering with a business model that has proven to be so successful and lucrative throughout the years. They argue that the nature of security is to “keep the bad guys out,” which is contrary to an open-system philosophy. They point to highly publicized computer viruses, worms, hackers and other network breaches, and ask, “Who is going to secure the security?” 

To help security integrators sort this all out and better understand the interoperability movement, Security Sales & Integration probed the minds of three of the industry’s thought leaders on the subject. 

Gary Klinefelter, chairman of the Open Standards Exchange (OSE) and vice president of technology for Fargo Electronics, Hunter Knight, chairman of the Security Industry Association (SIA) Standards Committee and president of Integrated Command Software, and Mark Eggerding, senior technical account executive of Johnson Controls, explain the necessity and inevitability of interoperable systems, as well as its repercussions on the industry. 

OSE, SIA OSIPS Take Leadership Roles in Promoting Open Systems
What is the purpose of the OSE?
Gary Klinefelter: The mission is to provide a forum for cutting-edge projects, interoperability and convergence. We are finding OSE to be very valuable as a forum for all parties, be they manufacturers, integrators or end users, to meet and discuss solutions for enterprise security. We are unique in bringing together all those viewpoints to provide thought leadership. 

We are a small, growing organization. Our recent focus has been on developing what we call the Convergence Roadmap. The idea is to put together a tool to understand convergence and how to make the transition. What are the best practices and what has to be done operationally? Our intent is to put this roadmap on our Web site and have it as a tool people can use to navigate through different areas of enterprise security. 

What are SIA’s OSIPS all about?
Hunter Knight: It is a serious effort to provide a variety of standards for product interface and performance standards applicable to the security and closely related industries. These standards provide measurable definitions of capability, performance and the rules for the exchange of information between different and similar components. 

SIA’s OSIPS standards are open. They enable the construction of systems using interchangeable components because the standards prescribe the basis of interoperability between components. Anyone who has an interest in how security products evolve or how solutions to security problems will be achieved should participate in OSIPS. 

Defining Terms; Identifying Trends, Challenges and Opportunities
What does the term “interoperable” mean to you?
Knight: Conventionally, interoperable refers to the capacity of interoperable elements to exchange information and to use the exchanged information. Frequently, elements may be interoperable for a specific purpose or set of purposes. An interface is a prerequisite for interoperable elements, although qualitatively interoperability asserts a broader concept of standardization and openness of the interface. 

Mark Eggerding: To Johnson Controls, it means taking a wide-open approach to applying both new cutting-edge technology and existing technologies within commercial building applications. This means utilizing similar and dissimilar systems to provide answers to an application to meet the customer’s needs. 

Very few businesses nowadays have the wherewithal to throw away their current systems within the building and completely replace them. Therefore, the goal of interoperability is to provide a pathway to the latest technology while still using the practical applications of systems within the building confines, thus providing a cost-effective approach to security upgrades. 

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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