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Security Electronics & Plate Tectonics

TECHNOLOGICAL development in every area of security electronics has become tectonic – the underlying layers are all in motion. 

It’s a paradigm that demands more from everyone – more development, more education, more technical training, more standards, more open-mindedness. And behind this new paradigm we’re seeing more investment in infrastructure, facilitating expansion of the capabilities of solutions – demanding a living and breathing comprehension of multiple layers of networking. Everywhere in the market there’s change. You see it in management software, in control panels, in devices – whether cameras or intrusion alarm sensors, or access control readers and expanders. And much of this change swirls around the governing imperatives of networkability and integration. 

From a business and an operational perspective, there are some challenges ahead and the commoditisation of surveillance cameras is only one area to watch. Just as CCTV manufacturers have developed the capacity to give users brilliant video solutions, price has become the overriding factor in decision making – the lower the price, generally speaking, the lower the quality. The optical solution to more resolution and better low light performance is not rocket science – it demands larger BSI sensors and appropriately well-designed lenses.Neither of these things comes cheaply. 

If there’s a benefit to the price pinch in the surveillance market, it’s the likelihood manufacturers will be pushed to deliver higher resolution 4K cameras delivering bit rates and the low light performance of current 1080p cameras. In CCTV, compression is another area of interest – Hikvision, Axis, Dahua and Panasonic are pushing at compression and Vivotek has just announced full H.265 integration with Genetec – we should see additional developments there.

Access control has been largely insulated from the commodisation we’ve seen in CCTV. Incumbent manufacturers have worked hard on development and backwards-compatibility with their existing installed bases, while services like cloud-based access control have been slow to take off. Something to consider is the likelihood huge IT infrastructure providers might start looking at access control as an entry to IP-based global automation solutions. Something else might be the filtering down of controller functionality to devices. Instinct suggests, however, that the nature of access control is not going to be overturned any time soon. 

When it comes to intrusion detection systems it’s impossible to ignore the tilt towards wireless in residential and small business applications. Some is of this shift is good, some less so. Many home automation systems from outside the industry are decidedly weak in terms of detector technology but these devices drag down overall quality and R&D levels as prices fall. For larger applications, the best intrusion detection technology is probably thermal cameras and while prices are falling in this area, too, market penetration remains relatively shallow. Battery powered wireless CCTV cameras for video verification in domestic applications will continue to grow – though image quality really needs some work.

A challenge to be faced is the diffusion of comms technologies and standards in security and home automation. It’s an area that needs addressing before more widespread penetration of smart home technology can take place. One of the worries about generic comms tech is that it opens up the market. One of the worries about proprietary comms tech is that it creates an opportunity for one dominant proprietary technology to become a de facto standard and crack the market wide open – something like Z-Wave. 

Remote management of electronic security solutions is something else we’re going to see expanding at all levels of the market – residential, small commercial and at the enterprise level. Users are comfortable with remote access now and they expect it. But a fundamental that needs work from suppliers in this area is latency, which can make real time operation of systems using mobile devices more laborious than just using an old school keypad or wireless remote. An expansion of remote access will come hand in hand with the need for paying attention to the security levels of mobile devices and data networks – that means more talking with IT and telecoms people, and a willingness to stay on top of threats and solutions. 

One thing that is certain about 2016 – the elevated threat profile faced by many commercial and government organisations, the need for sales and useful RMR, the demand for solutions that offer superior operational performance – all these imperatives make staying on top of fast-changing technology more compelling than it’s ever been before.♦

By John Adams



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