The Road So Far to Nonproprietary Systems

Three industry executives discuss the advancements, and struggles, the electronic security industry has experienced in efforts to move toward open architecture security platforms. While real successes are being achieved, the industry’s proprietary legacy can be a vexing creature to nudge.

What impact has the absence of industry-wide standards had on growth and development?

Underwood: An absence of industry-wide standards requires manufacturers to invest more engineering time and money to grow their business. As an example, our company has invested an enormous amount of time and money developing IP camera drivers to support our VMS software through native APIs [application programming interfaces].

Some of the camera manufacturers have different APIs for different cameras. When new cameras are introduced with new or advanced features it’s not uncommon for the manufacturer to introduce a different API. All of which requires development time and money.

The ONVIF [Open Network Video Interface Forum] and PSIA [Physical Security Interoperability Alliance] standards are the industry’s attempt to reduce or eliminate development for new or updated IP cameras and other components of the physical security industry entering the market. Having standards allows companies to focus on making solutions and making those solutions better, which benefits everyone. (Editor’s note: Click here to view more on ONVIF.)

Moceri: As the industry moves more toward integrated solutions, lack of standards will slow some growth opportunities. However, many systems today are using standard IT components and software, i.e. Sequel databases, IP protocols, wireless backbones, etc.

Using these standards allows IT-savvy integrators or end users to integrate security systems with other disparate security systems or onto the enterprise platform. As standards continue to evolve in the physical security industry, it will also help adoption by the integrator community. Standards make it easier to train and develop the people responsible for implementing integrated systems.

How do you think that the convergence of physical security with IT has impacted openness and innovation in physical security products, and what role have end users played versus system integrators?

Underwood: The physical security industry and the IT industry are now sharing the same infrastructure resources and, in some cases, the same suppliers or vendors. Overall, I think that’s a good thing.

I believe most end users have a pretty decent grasp of networks, which allows them to make more intelligent decisions when it comes to the latest IP-based technology available in physical security solutions.

Moceri: The convergence of physical security and IT has clearly hastened the move toward openness by manufacturers. End users looking to lower operating costs, achieve regulatory compliance and eliminate duplication such as employee crede
ntials in the physical security system and IT system are driving the demand for openness.

The integrator’s need is for a more simplified way of achieving this integration. While a higher skill level is needed for today’s integrator, better customer solutions can be delivered with physical security products incorporating open IT standards.

It has been said that openness helps manufacturers pursue new revenue opportunities and end users get better solutions to their problems — both positives. What are you hearing from integrators/dealers/resellers about the opportunities that you have seen created and what are some of the challenges that come with this new way of doing things?

Underwood: One thing we have seen is a new breed of integrators who not only understand IP surveillance video, but they are very network savvy as well. In addition, we’re now seeing more and more IT integrators jumping into the physical security industry as they see this as another solid offering for their customers.

A successful IT integrator already has a solid customer base that he or she sees on a regular basis to update software and systems or to provide regular maintenance. Now they have yet another service to offer these customers. The end result is that our integrators are getting smarter and have even more to offer to their customers — the end users.

Moceri: Many opportunities are now available to the traditional security integrator who embraces a solutions-based integration model. The physical security integrator can now provide high level software-based integration solutions that previously were provided by specialty IT integrators. This allows security integrators to capture a larger revenue stream from their customers.

The major challenge for traditional security integrators is to transition their business from a hardware model to a software-based solutions and service model. This requires a significant investment in building these new skills with IT-certified resources. Another approach is to partner for these resources instead of developing in-house capabilities. The downside to this approach is the integrator does not own the solution and does not have total control over the results. 

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