In the Know: Champing at the Bits

During its first 100 years, our industry grew despite the inability of most of our products to transmit more than one binary bit of information from point A to point B. That single bit simply indicated everything was normal or, depending on the service provided, either the police or the fire department was needed.

That all changed in the 1970s with the implementation of the Bell-103 protocol. Bell-103 gave us the ability to transmit packets of data, at a then lightning-fast 300bps. The information we were then able to transmit to and from our customers’ premises completely changed the types of services we offered. Our industry coming into the digital age was the beginning of a period of innovation that had not been seen since the invention of the McCulloh transmitter that brought us up to about 3bps (yes, three).

The digital age continues to have enormous impact on security products and services. Anyone reading SSI is well aware of the influence IT is having on our industry. We are undergoing another paradigm change as advanced telecommunications technologies led by IP drive security product innovation.

Key to the current innovation cycle is interoperability, the ability for devices to exchange usable data. Gone are the days when a simple one-way serial interface sends commands from a card access system to a video switcher. In today’s environment, that interface is really an integration that facilitates true two-way functionality. Instead of simply receiving camera and monitor commands from the access system, it is becoming common for the video system to send situational data back to the card access system.

Applications that embrace interoperability enabled by IP facilitate a video system to send “health check” messages requesting service, such as when a camera fails or goes out of focus. It is this same two-way interoperability that an analytics-based video system uses to send the above mentioned real-time situational data to the command and control system. It is all made possible by network connectivity, more often than not, IP-based.

Look to the sky for the next chapter, up there in the clouds. It’s hard to go an hour without hearing some mention of cloud computing. The interoperability described above is traditionally a feature of higher performing, higher cost systems. However, there are many customers who want to take advantage of the applications IP interoperability provides, but simply don’t need or can’t afford the required infrastructure.

This is where cloud computing comes in. IP-enabled edge devices and IP appliances connected via the Internet or B2B networks to managed services offerings will make what were once big budget security services available to the masses.

IT’s influence has driven the security industry to embrace the benefit of standards. However, the vast majority of installed systems utilize proprietary protocols. The widespread historical use of proprietary protocols makes it difficult for a customer to take advantage of new offerings since more times than not, the old and the new simply do not talk to each other.

The need to leverage investment in existing security infrastructure linked to a customer’s desire to embrace innovation from multiple sources has given rise to physical security information management systems (PSIMs). PSIMs take interoperability to the next level by integrating simultaneously to an incredibly wide breadth of manufacturers’ systems, from in and outside the security industry. Interoperability for disparate platforms once required costly one-off interfaces. PSIMs are making integration applications much more mainstream.

While I have no desire to quote The Carpenters, I will say we have only just begun. A third paradigm is on the horizon: Google the Internet of Things. So hold on to your hat!

Jay Hauhn, Chief Technology Officer at ADT Security Services, has more than 30 years’ industry experience and is a member of SSI‘s Hall of Fame.


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