Convergence and integration have become buzzwords in the security industry, and mostly for good reason. The interoperability of VMS, access control, alarm systems and other technologies in security operations centers has already illustrated a number of new operational efficiencies and capabilities when combining products and their data sets. This trend will continue, and costs will also continue to decrease over time. Beyond the security operations center, convergence of security applications is now expanding to new platforms and new stakeholders.
As smartphones have become increasingly more powerful and affordable, they have become ever more ubiquitous among us. The ascent of the smartphone has fuelled not just a new computing platform, but also a new platform for physical security that can be put in the hands of everyone in your organization. In fact, most people in your organization already have smartphones – whether it’s part of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy or provided by your organization. Today, most organizations have already adopted mobile applications in some form for physical security, but in a limited capacity and for a limited number of users – typically members of the security group, or a handful of executives for travel safety purposes. That is all going to change.
The next wave of security products will be driven by the myriad sensors, radios and input/output functionalities of smartphones. Beyond voice calling, today’s smartphones pack super-fast cellular data and WiFi upload/download capabilities with which to stream high quality video and audio streams, Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 (BLE) radios that consume very little power and have the capability to communicate with an increasing number of wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Today’s smartphones also have an increasing array of sensors including gyroscopes, accelerometers, magnetometers that provide detailed information about the immediate surroundings of that device, and when combined with other radios such as GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi, can yield information about where people are located within buildings with ever-increasing accuracy. These modern (and future) capabilities will be the key drivers of a new trend – the convergence and interoperability of security applications on the smartphone as a common platform.
Early examples of security-driven mobile apps with wide distribution potential include access control solutions that leverage RFID or Bluetooth radios for proximity-based access control in place of typical access cards and card readers; there are now documented cases of these types of systems being rolled out privately in organizations as well as publicly as seen in the hospitality industry. Another example of broadly distributed, security-driven mobile apps include those used for employee safety and security – to provide indoor location detection of employees and other people within buildings during emergencies, and enhance communication and information sharing between a security operations center and its employees around the globe.
From a security management standpoint, the aggregation of sensor, location, video and other information from mobile devices across different groups of people has the potential to generate meaningful “Big Data” sets that can be analyzed for patterns, operational efficiencies, emergency planning and a multitude of other uses. A myopic view at the individual level can provide highly detailed personal information specific to an individual, based on information collected from the sensors and radios of their mobile device(s); provided of course, that the necessary privacy consents have been received by those individuals in advance.
Many security leaders are well aware of the “Big Brother” concerns that may exist within their organizations, or within certain circles in their organizations. After speaking with dozens of security leaders on the matter, early signals indicate that most security leaders agree that benefits to the organization at the executive-level and at the security-level outweigh perceived risks to privacy. To gain extended stakeholder buy-in within organizations, security leaders agree that clear communication surrounding which information is being collected by mobile apps, when it is being collected by mobile apps, and how it is being used by the organization are all extremely important. Furthermore, there should be clear policies surrounding who within the organization will have access to viewing this information and under which circumstances (i.e. only if a certain event happens, with a Director’s approval, or at any time).
We are living in a very exciting time in the security industry. Each day, new capabilities emerge that seemingly make yesterday’s capabilities obsolete. Today, I welcome the smartphone as an emerging key platform for the security industry.