Technology Triumphs Despite Turbulent Times in 2008

Although there were lots of pressing issues swirling around throughout 2008, it turns out it was another vibrant year for security technology. The upcoming December issue of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION features our annual Top 30 Technology Innovations of the year, which for 2008 range from video, access control and detection solutions aimed at the high end of the marketplace to modest installation tools. The picks by SSI Technical Writers Bob Dolph (“Tech Talk”) and Steve Payne (“Convergence Channel”) and yours truly champion products that represent breakthroughs, moneymaking opportunities or timesavers to improve efficiency. In some cases, they may hit on all those key areas. Anyway, be sure to check out the article in print or online next month to see what made the grade. Also check out my column for a look back at the key news stories that defined our industry in 2008.

In the meantime, as part of the process of assembling the Top 30 this year, I asked Dolph and Payne some questions to assess how 2008 will be remembered in the annals of electronic security technology and what we might look for in 2009.

In an Under Surveillance exclusive, here is what they had to say …

What were the leading security industry technologies trends seen in 2008?

Steve Payne: Outside of the basic march toward an all-IP environment, megapixel cameras and tighter systems integration were the highlights of 2008. There was a great deal of time along the camera evolutionary path between tube cameras and CCD. But as soon as IP hit it’s been amazing to see how fast megapixel cameras have taken hold. Integrators that just year ago were still strictly analog have leapfrogged standard IP cameras and jumped straight to hi-def. The acceptance of analytics also made advances, along with the technology, this year.

Bob Dolph: I have noticed a lot of versatility in wireless with more applications using wireless mesh technology. One very exciting area is the broader use of wireless mesh networks that allow for multiple radio paths from security sensor back to alarm control. Cellular communications is now getting to be more of the norm for reporting alarms, especially in houses that now do not have a landline anymore.

Which trends offer the greatest opportunities for installing integrators?

Dolph: While I am seeing an increase in IP technology I think the best opportunities overall this year for generating RMR and new sales is in the expanded use of wireless technology. Once the IP infrastructure for security is a little more established then IP will truly take the main stage during the next few years.

Payne: I would probably have to say the megapixel camera offers the greatest opportunity. End users that were up until very recently wowed by the concept of an IP camera are now demanding the image quality only offered in HD resolutions. I have never seen a demand for technology take off like this before. Just a few years ago we would tell people a camera that could see a whole parking lot AND zoom in on a license plate after the fact was only in the realm of CSI shows on TV. Well, guess what? They’re here. I can’t think of too many other technologies that went that far that fast. More integrators are realizing the benefits of the software end of the spectrum, too. Integrating systems at the API level is starting to become a cottage industry, and one way that the traditional security and networking industries are successfully sharing turf.

Would you say 2008 was more of a breakthrough year or a business as usual year?

Payne: As far as technology goes, it was a breakthrough year. The advancement of video technology was faster this year than I have ever seen.

Dolph: Business as usual. This is because standards coming from organizations such as SIA are still evolving. Once manufacturers truly apply standards such as those for IP connectivity and open source integration then this will truly shape the future of the convergence of technologies. We are still a couple of years off before we have manufacturers using new standards in the area of IP video and alarm reporting, and wireless technologies that talk across many platforms.

Is there anything that disappointed you about technology in 2008?

Dolph: I would have liked to see more robust applications of integrating older security technology with new IP-based technology. Why? It is a big change for many and it just takes time to be confident and comfortable with the new IP technology. IP communications is still proprietary and we are seeing the old days where every panel manufacturer has a matching alarm receiver.

Payne: We have still not developed a broad range of standards in our industry. Technology is still too much ‘every man for himself.’ The attitudes of the large manufacturers are changing rapidly, but there is still a lot of ‘old school’ thinking when

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