Prepare to Accelerate

A snail accelerating with a small rocket.

With change brought about by new technology, faster computing speeds, artificial intelligence (AI), open integration and more devices entering the IP foray—2019 was momentous. As the digital transformation deepens and the race to everything-connected quickens, 2020 looks to be another banner year for the physical security industry.

The landscape has changed for security contractors, creating opportunity for those who can adapt to the needs of this transformative market. There’s more competition and new companies, devices and services getting in on the action. There’s an emphasis on a superior customer experience, friction-free access control and combining physical identification with typical human resources and operational processes. A smaller pie is available for product procurement, a result of massive acquisitions and mergers in the manufacturing and distribution sides of the market.

“Security” now means cybersecurity, data privacy and information privacy, while “physical security” refers to hardware and software designed for access control, intrusion and surveillance. The two are intertwined. The internet of things (IoT) could bring some 20 billion-plus new devices online in 2020, according to IBM, raising fear of network compromise, system breaches and insider and outsider threat.

For enterprise, global and even small to medium businesses, the risks are real and potential consequences dire. They want contractor partners who have conducted due diligence on products for cyber-hardening and other network safeguards.

“As we expand in the loT, we are not just expanding connectivity but inputs and outputs and our attack vectors are increasing,” said Brad Hegrat, security principal director, Accenture, Dublin, “Not all loT devices are created equal. We need to evolve our operational technologies to address these inputs. Once we bring physical into the cyber world, we create a clear and present threat.”

Cyber threats are fluid and keep changing. The 2020 “Data Breach Forecast” by credit-monitoring firm Experian, predicts hackers will evolve their tactics and devise new ways to circumvent networked systems and commit fraud this year.

Cybersecurity weighs heavy

With breaches through surveillance networks—such as the 2016 Mirai botnet attack, which was brought on by insecure cameras and resulted in one of the largest distributed, denial of service attacks in the United States—customers want to know what’s being done to protect their network and the devices residing on it. As higher technology devices continue to swing over to physical security, contractors providing systems integration need a plan and a method to evaluate products before this question comes from customers and prospects.

Facial recognition emerged strongly in 2019, fostered by smartphone use and the need for a higher level of security. With it has come legislation banning the technology in some states after uncovering issues of violating privacy and civil liberties and misidentifying or profiling people of color or by ethnicity. According to a report on physical security published by Data Bridge Market Research, Maharashtra, India, privacy concerns are becoming a constraint for the market. In addition, issues such as device interoperability with physical security systems may obstruct market growth, the study reported.

Video stays big

Video surveillance continues on its massive upward spiral, with cameras at all price points, higher quality and powerful analytics making detection more stable and reliable. Tying into the growth of video surveillance is the move to intelligence at the edge. Cameras, which have become mini computers in their own rights, are now processing complex algorithms in the camera and doing more tasks onboard. With millions of data points emerging and converging as part of the loT, these powerful devices will be able to intelligently process information and make decisions on whether to initiate an alarm, record, ignore or send live images to a customer or to the cloud for archival or storage.

With sea change the norm, this year will bring opportunities and challenges. Self- installed, self-monitored and DIY continues to jab at professional installations, but experts believe traditional security companies shouldn’t be concerned. DIY from Amazon, Google and others entering the industry won’t have the major impact many predicted, according to Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, Arlington, Va.

“Amazon is a category killer if you are a retailer. In your service category, I don’t think Amazon will have the trained installers they need. With AI and facial recognition coming on strong, there is just opportunity at this point,” Shapiro said.

With opportunity comes challenges. Low-voltage contractors that set their sights on an exceptional customer experience, staying on top of cybersecurity and trending client concerns will likely find physical security is still a great place to be this year. The advancements we witnessed in 2019 will carry through.

About the Author

Deborah L. O’Mara

O’MARA is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com or 773.414...

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.