In the world of security systems, the intruder detection sector has the widest range of standards. While many see this as a good thing, it pays to remember that standards work by stifling deviations from the norm. While the intention is to prevent negative deviations, standards also put a stop to positive ones too. In a world of rapid technological transition and burgeoning innovation, is it time to rethink the suitability of prescriptive standards?
The intruder alarm sector has more standards than any other part of the security systems industry. These are based upon standards which originated in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and whilst they have been upgraded they still hark back to a previous time. Key focuses when these standards were created included insurance company requirements and ACPO demands relating to police first response.
In the last 20– 30 years, the world has changed. Significant risks have radically altered, the structure of law enforcement has undergone something of a sea-change and end users have access to communications and technologies which are a world away from what was available in the hey-day of writing standards. Additionally, the insurance sector’s understanding of current risks has changed (think revolution rather than evolution) and the reality of first police response is well known to the security industry and to the vast majority of end users.
It is true that standards do evolve, and it is also true that many companies and individuals give their time and efforts in an attempt to deliver credible and realistic standards.
However, we have to accept that standards work by removing the ability for the introduction of deviations, and that innovation and smart thinking will fall into the general scope of deviations where prescriptive standards exist. Yes, some deviations can be bad for users, but many can be good for both our industry and its customers. This is increasingly true as the evolving technological landscape offers an increasing variety of options to security manufacturers.
If you consider the video surveillance sector in comparison to that of intruder detection, you start to see how the development of new ideas has had an impact. You can also admittedly see how the negative deviations might impact on the experience of users.
Video surveillance is currently more flexible, scalable and beneficial than it ever has been. A look back at what was cutting-edge in 2014 or 2015 underlines that. If you go back a decade, then the difference is staggering.
The headline changes have been a move from hardware to software, the ability to quickly implement new technologies from other sectors, the drive towards integration with both security and non-security systems and a renewed focus on delivering what customers actually want.
In comparison, the intruder alarm sector offers customers not what they want but what it can give them due to the constraints imposed by the standards. While most intruder alarm systems are software-based, the product’s hardware isn’t as flexible as it might be in order to be compliant, implementation of newer technologies – which end users already enjoy in other systems, including security solutions – is slower as they must be tested for compliance, and integration opportunities are fewer, again due to standards issues.
Despite all the restrictions of the standards, the vast majority of end users know the police probably aren’t going to be in a tearing hurry to arrive whenever the alarm is activated. Therefore it is more important that the systems they buy empower them to handle their own risk mitigation strategies.
The standards may well have been of benefit in the past, but do they do anything other than serve some parties’ commercial interests today?