Are the industry’s ‘great and good’ out of touch?

Many of the technological advances that are driving change in the security industry have been around for a good few years now. For the outside world, they’re no longer ‘new’ or ‘emerging’. The public are aware of what is on offer and businesses are now exploiting the available benefits. Despite this, the security industry’s associations and bodies seem to be dragging their feet. Benchmark asks whether installers and integrators looking to create bespoke solutions must effectively go it alone.

In recent years technological developments have changed the way most of us live and work. Twenty five years ago, mobile telephones weren’t common, Internet connectivity was in its infancy, mobile computing was hideously expensive, wifi was rare and unreliable and cellular data was a pipe dream.

Considering the historical facts really does bring home just how rapidly the technological landscape has changed. However, the past few years have been especially interesting in a number of ways. For many, the writing has been on the wall for a while regarding connectivity, interoperability, smart buildings and the Internet of Things. It was clear that implementations were being held up by a lack of affordable processing power.

Anyone who was in touch with the world of technology knew that the coming generation of processors would make many of the theoretical benefits a reality. As a result, they were ready to act when the chips became available. That is why technology in so many fields leaped forwards last year.

A number of security manufacturers were clearly aware of what was happening in other technology sectors, and of the potential that next generation processors would offer. This much is obvious by the number of solutions now being launched that exploit the potential of the latest developments. These products and systems weren’t thrown together with minimal thought; they are the outcome of much planning.

A growing number of installers and integrators have also been following these developments with interest. Some have adapted their offerings to attract new customers, including some who might have previously questioned the investment in a security system. A few bold companies have diversified into areas such as business intelligence, smart buildings and site management. Again, these changes weren’t a knee-jerk reaction; those involved kept track of technology developments in a number of other sectors.

The bottom line is that today’s system advances – which are due to the latest technological developments – have been obvious across various business sectors and the consumer market for a few years now. IoT devices are commonplace. You can find them in the DIY sheds and the catalogue shops on the High Street. Major broadcasters have television programmes dedicated to the changes. The world is embracing the possibilities on offer.

The end user is aware of what is going on. Manufacturers have acted on the opportunities to create enhanced systems. Installers and integrators are rapidly waking up to the new face of security systems. So, is there anyone who hasn’t spotted the very obvious potential?

A blinkered view?

Last year, Benchmark gathered opinion on how smart technologies, connected systems and the Internet of Things would impact on the security market. We received a lot of feedback from a variety of sources. However, the industry bodies we approached did not respond. There also didn’t seem to be any published guidance or advice on the new technologies.

Many installers and integrators involved in the intruder alarm sector have expressed concern as to how the NSI and SSAIB will view the new technologies. Additionally, the BSIA has remained silent despite having a number of technology-specific sections, which in turn means the association has a number of technology-based members.

In the past, the various associations and organisations haven’t always been fully supportive of innovation. On occasions, an ‘interpretative’ view has been taken of industry standards and policies which effectively created barriers for some innovative security products. Additionally, in the past some industry standards have included elements which – either wittingly or unwittingly – prevented innovative solutions from being applied.

Given the sea change that is happening across a wide range of industrial and commercial sectors, plus the growing demand from end users for value and flexibility from systems in their work and home lives, surely the security industry’s bodies haven’t just ignored what is going on?

Benchmark contacted the BSIA, NSI and SSAIB to ask what policies they have with regard to emerging technologies such as smart buildings, connected systems and the Internet of Things. All three replied to state that they did not have a policy on the new technologies. Also, the BSIA SEMS (security equipment manufacturers section) told Benchmark that they haven’t yet discussed the matter, although it is ‘on the agenda’. This is despite a number of its members producing systems that use the technologies.

Despite the end users, manufacturers, service providers and a growing number of installers and integrators being aware of the high profile developments, the BSIA, NSI and SSAIB seemingly failed to attach any importance to them. This is despite the technology increasingly being used in security systems.

The responses

NSI Response NSI Spokesperson

NSI does not have a policy as such regarding IoT. NSI is a certification body appointed by UKAS to accredit companies working in the security sector accordance with international and British standards, who are seeking approval/recognition for their competence, professionalism and integrity. The Internet of Things conceives of a world where physical objects are equipped with electronics, software and/or firmware and network connectivity to enable disparate devices to exchange information. So how does the IoT affect the professional security installer? It is unlikely that traditional intruder alarm systems will be improved by adding more sophisticated communications technology to the sensors; this would add cost with little or no benefit, and in many cases it may make these devices more open to being exploited by hackers. However, the future IoT will change how all the systems and devices in the house (energy management systems, environmental controllers, domestic appliances, people monitoring applications, entertainment systems and security systems) communicate and interact with the homeowner. There is little chance that in the near future there will be one ubiquitous protocol which will meet all the control and communication requirements for these systems, therefore single intelligent hub and user interfaces to manage the systems in their home environment are being developed. These act as a ‘Babel Fish’ between the devices, enabling the various protocols to exchange information between systems and the householder and to also learn the behaviours of the householders. The real challenge to the professional installer will be to keep up with emerging technology and develop an understanding of how they might integrate their security products into future home management systems. They might also consider how the security products they select may be able to provide value added functionality to the customer, perhaps most importantly whilst still providing effective security systems that meet customer, insurer and police requirements. The challenge to the manufacturers of security products is to enable this to happen.

Worryingly, the NSI started its explanation of not having a policy with the claim that these technologies will not improve intruder alarm systems, and even state that they ‘add cost with little or no benefit’. Their lack of a policy is also defended by claims that a ‘ubiquitous profile’ will be required. This is despite a number of security manufacturers already delivering such systems without such a profile.

The idea that a golden protocol will be needed for the creation of such systems is archaic and has been proven to be wrong in a wide range of implementations. If the as yet awaited protocol is essential, how are so many other sectors already implementing such systems?

SSAIB Response David Profit, Technical/Operations Manager

The SSAIB has been asking questions about this (emerging technologies including smart buildings, connected systems and the Internet of Things) at our seminars. There is little feedback from security installers on this, as currently it is not seen as integral to alarm systems and there has been little impact on business; i.e. it is not being asked for by customers. The only time there has been an impact is when the security system is connected to the internet via a router, as there is concern about the security of the router. However, most of these systems have dual signalling. In larger projects, it is happening and this is normally dealt with by system integration. The main concern here is security of data and attacks on the system, which are still a problem as there is no standard for this. Our auditors are aware of this, but there is no change so far to our auditing process except checking the signalling systems.

The SSAIB states that via conversations during its seminars, it has established that there is no demand from end users for the technologies, and little interest in providing connected systems from its registered companies.

BSIA Response Matthew Grimley, Acting Head of Communications

The BSIA does not have a policy on emerging technologies, smart buildings, connected systems and the Internet of Things. It is more about alignment to our strategy, in so much that the BSIA ensures it identifies opportunities (emerging technologies are one example) that would be of benefit to its members in expanding their business offering. The BSIA is represented on Euralarm (Security Section) and one of its key objectives is to expand the market reach to include the likes of IoT, cyber awareness and BIM. The recent Euralarm symposium included speakers on these subjects. The BSIA is represented on the BSI smart cities working group to contribute to standards and mirror work activities of standards that are being developed across the world on this subject. The BSIA works with CEN/CENELEC management centre to improve standards development. As part of this it is actively lobbying for industry sector steering groups to identify opportunities for industry to engage in other connected markets to ensure it is part of the solution. The BSIA is working on the electronic call handling for ARCs to allow technology convergence for future related services for alarm handling. The BSIA’s work with the HMG SIDC is all about technology and innovation.

The BSIA also has no policy, and the SEMS section confirmed it had yet to discuss it when asked at the end of June 2016. Indeed, the BSIA response seems to imply that it is reliant upon other organisations to formulate any future direction.

Probably the biggest concern is that if the BSIA, the NSI and the SSAIB do not yet appreciate the importance of the technologies – which are now being implemented at a growing number of sites – how long will it take to formulate a well considered policy when they do realise what is happening? One fear could be that we see ill conceived policies issued as a knee-jerk reaction without appropriate consideration.

In summary

There will be some in the industry who will never adapt and embrace the benefits of the new technologies. However, the majority will. A growing number are active today, and are increasingly realising where success for the security systems sector will be coming from.

Despite a world-wide acceptance of the evolving technological landscape, the bodies that hold influence and all too often speak for the entire sector seem oblivious to the very obvious advances that will impact on the entire security industry.

 

BENCHMARK
Benchmark is the industry's only publication for installers and integrators which is dedicated to technological innovation and the design and implementation of smarter solutions. With an unrivalled level of experience in technology-based systems, Benchmark delivers independent and credible editorial content.

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