The pace of change in the security industry has not always been, shall we say, brisk. My how times have changed. Technology today is evolving at such a rapid pace, enabling faster progress and causing an acceleration of the rate of change it can seem at times exponential.
However, it’s not just top technologies that are evolving. Much more across the security ecosystem has been transformed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, forcing forward-thinking security professionals to reckon with the reality their roles must also evolve in the developing new normal.
Grasping the impact these tech trends will have on organizations and clientele will be key to averting the worst downsides of the disruption that is sure to follow.
With all the launches, refinements, hype, promotion for 2021 coming to a close, an important question security dealers and systems integrators seek clarity on is: Just what were the predominant security technologies introduced or that showed the most innovation, progress and promise during the past year?
SSI conferred with more than a half-dozen technology providers from across the manufacturing sector to gain a clearer sense of top-performing vertical markets during the year, as well as learn what role the pandemic has played in tech introductions and applications.
They also share additional marketplace insights to help installing security contractors prepare for the New Year and beyond.
Hot Vertical Markets Overview
As the pandemic extended into 2021 and organizations sought to deal with its prolonged effects, Axis Communications experienced increased activity across the vertical landscape.
From retail and education to healthcare and public transportation, end users were looking to improve safety through network technology that enabled remote monitoring, touchless entry, contract tracing and social distancing, explains Larry Newman, senior director, sales, Axis.
Moreover, as COVID restrictions ebbed and flowed throughout the year, Axis saw an increased interest in the use of network technology and video analytics to gain operational efficiencies, especially as companies looked to manage remote work, cope with staffing shortages and gain business intelligence.
“For example, hospitals installed cameras and intercoms in patient rooms which allowed staff to monitor patients more efficiently and respond quicker to incidents,” Newman explains. “Additionally, this technology reduced unnecessary in-person encounters between patients and medical staff, thereby helping to curb the spread of COVID and also helping to stretch PPE supplies. Additional integrations with telemetry systems and audio analytics proved invaluable when it came to alerting staff of changes in a patient’s vital signs.”
On the retail side, an increased number of brick-and-mortar stores adopted occupancy and queue management analytics to manage their operations and gain business insight, Newman continues. Occupancy analytics helps store management identify busy and slow times in order to efficiently schedule work shifts and determine downtime for workers to restock shelves or clean facilities.
Some stores are utilizing queue management analytics to trigger audio recordings that notify store associates when checkout lines are — helping to reallocate workers to cash registers or other departments as needed.
“Many stores also added curbside pick-up service during 2021. In order to increase efficiency some retailers used a variety of network technology including cameras, license plate recognition software and even integrated audio devices to notify store personnel when a customer has arrived and help expedite service,” he says.
The sudden closure of many offices and workplaces during the pandemic ushered in a new era of remote work for millions of employed Americans and may portend a significant shift in the way a large segment of the workforce operates in the future.
Still, Shiraz Kapadia, CEO and president of Invixium, a global provider of biometric access control and workforce management solutions, figures about 75% of the total workforce cannot work from home. Industries like construction, manufacturing, mining, infrastructure and transportation need people at work to keep the rest of the economy moving.
“It’s every business leader’s job to reduce the risk of illness and quarantines that can impact profit, and that’s where we’ve been seeing a lot of demand this year,” he says.
And, Kapadia explains, now that enterprises are considering returning to work or renovating their workspaces to be more closed off and socially distanced instead of open offices, construction projects are once again picking up. “Now, these office spaces need the hands-free security that touchless biometrics can provide to make their staff feel comfortable returning to work.”
With the real estate market booming and consumers looking for residences during the pandemic, the multifamily market continues to be particularly robust for physical security solution deployment, explains Mike Simon, managing partner, of Connected Technologies, maker of Connect ONE, a Cloud service that allows the convenience to view, control and interact with security systems on a single screen from any web-enabled device.
“Building managers want better control of the property and heightened security and safety for their guests,” he says. “Gate entries, building access areas, common party rooms, pools and gym areas require intercoms, access control and intrusion detection — especially in light of potential liability for owners of these properties.”
Another hot market for physical security is commercial, Simon continues. “Commercial facilities with multiple locations need a better way to control movement in and around buildings, verify occupancy numbers and prevent unauthorized access. That’s all possible with Cloud-hosted management platforms.”
Large commercial properties have also remained a mainstay for Inovonics, a provider of high-performance wireless sensor networks, says Scott Fincher, senior product manager.
“Within this segment we continue to see strong demand for our duress systems, including fixed panic buttons, but also body-worn mobile duress pendants designed for any environment where an employee is inherently mobile, and potentially in harm’s way,” Fincher says. “These include employees in schools, hospitals and government facilities.”
Salient Systems Chief Product Officer Sanjay Challa says vertical market opportunities for the company’s open architecture video management software haven’t changed much in 2021. Salient’s wares are designed to meet the security needs and requirements of numerous industries in the marketplace.
However, due to the pandemic, businesses have been gravitating toward remotely accessing their facilities without being onsite. This has been especially prevalent in education and retail sectors, which were highly disrupted by the pandemic, Challa explains.
Also, pre-pandemic, workstations for security operations required close contact among employees and countless shared touchpoints.
“Remote check-ins allow for increased health safety, as employees can view video footage on the web or from a mobile device. As an added bonus, remote access and easy-to-use web and mobile clients are easier to deploy for an organization and allows for simple installation, management and updating processes,” Challa says. “We are likely to see web and mobile clients continue to be more prevalent, even as the pandemic thaws.”
Assessing the Pandemic Effect
The pandemic’s impact on stakeholders across the security ecosystem — from product release pivots to developing new solutions to wholesale portfolio changeover — cannot be overstated. By example, Invixium migrated from traditional access to “healthy access” because no one wanted to touch anything anymore, says Kapadia.
Enterprises are now investing in long-term solutions to satisfy strict compliance rules and new demands from their staff, visitors, contractors and more. To meet these expectations Invixium launched IXM Mobile, a platform with layered feature sets.
“I often say that face recognition advanced 10 years in a few months because this is a proven technology that people trust — we all use face recognition to access our phones already,” he says. “We’re now combining face recognition with digital attestation, temperature screening and wellness checks because security is far more than just people gaining access to places where they’re allowed to be. Now, we need to be certain that every person entering a building is healthy, and that is a new requirement because of the pandemic.”
Connected Technologies developed a module within the Connect ONE Cloud service called Safe Passage to provide dealers with a way to help their customers control possible COVID-stricken employees and guests from entering the facility and infecting others, Simon explains.
The module controls facility entrances through the smartphone while providing a framework to admit or deny access immediately based on health/liability waivers or other criteria created by the user, including temperature checks, COVID protocols or other compliance mandates.
There were several new technologies introduced to the industry that were pandemic-related, such as skin temperature screening cameras. Like many manufacturers in the industry, Johnson Controls developed a solution to address this need.
But, Louis Rabenold, the company’s senior security solutions strategy lead, says what’s interesting is that there are some solutions and systems capabilities that are going to be useful beyond the pandemic.
“On the access control side, this includes temporary clearance filter features and enhanced reporting features which enable facilities to track those who may have had close contact with another individual infected with COVID-19,” he says. “We expect capabilities like these will continue to evolve and be leveraged to help with occupancy management and building workflow.”
Additionally, Rabenold says, Johnson Controls has also experienced growing interest in its video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) business where customers have chosen to simplify their deployments with smart edge devices and Cloud-based software and services. The company’s biggest overarching theme, he adds, is automated solutions and delivering the capability to automate as many processes as possible for customers.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a big role here. “Many of our new product releases have been AI-focused where we have expanded our AI capabilities both at the edge and on the server,” he says. “For example, we recently introduced a new camera line with improved edge analytics, where we are providing more and more object classifications. As a result, the VMS platforms have also had to make adjustments and enhancements to give the user the ability to leverage that data to solve problems.”
For Axis Communications, Newman says 2021 validated the company’s focus on edge processing, analytics, high-quality video, open architecture, a robust ecosystem and strong partnerships. He notes that advanced edge computing is helping end users to achieve significant cost savings due to lower bandwidth and storage requirements.
Among new portfolio additions, in April the network camera pioneer introduced a unified video management and access control solution, with video-verified features to support operators with monitoring and controlling door access, or search and filter access control logs linked with video recording.
“With a user-friendly interface, it’s easy to manage cardholders and control who has access to what and when,” Newman says. “It truly provides operators with a complete overview of everything that’s happening.”
Market Forces Not Named COVID
The pandemic may have indelibly impacted most any security provider, yet there is much to the industry’s dynamism and resilience that keeps on truckin’ regardless. Integrators are faced with navigating through unfolding business complexities related to people, supply chain, financial health, customer engagement, risk management and more.
What marketplace trends then should integrators key in on to leverage and help set a prosperous path forward? For starters, businesses are looking to get more productivity out of their workforces and also better leverage the data they have to improve operations and customer experiences, says Challa.
▶Increased interest in the use of network technology and video analytics to gain operational efficiencies, especially as companies look to manage remote work.
▶ Increase in brick-and-mortar stores adopting occupancy and queue management analytics to manage operations and gain business insights.
▶ Building managers seeking better control of property — via intercoms, access control and intrusion detection — to provide heightened security and safety for residents and guests.
▶ Businesses and facilities — especially prevalent in education and retail — gravitating toward remotely accessing their facilities without being onsite.
▶ Enterprises investing in long-term solutions to satisfy strict compliance rules and new demands from staff, visitors, contractors, others.
“These key market forces have been driving considerable innovation in video analytics. Video analytics can automate otherwise routine or mundane video surveillance tasks, improve the efficiency of guards and investigators, and importantly, can help extract insight from video data that can directly impact business operations and customer experience,” he says.
For example, using facial recognition analysis, retailers are able to provide customized, white-glove treatment to loyal customers entering their stores while simultaneously being able to fend off known shoplifters more effectively. Increasingly, adds Challa, video analytics have become an important buying consideration.
Newman of Axis describes three main forces that are currently driving innovation: technological advancement itself, the market environment and the technology ecosystem.
First, recent advances in technology — namely network camera chipsets with deep learning capabilities — are making it possible to effectively run high-powered analytics on the edge. This advanced tech is spurring new use cases, improved outcomes, enhanced data sets and further developments in the analytics space.
“As far as the market, workplace trends — marked by an increase in remote work and a demand for digitization, automation and greater efficiency — are driving innovative new solutions,” he says. “Finally, partnerships and collaborations are leading to new innovative technology. Industry relationships including formal partnerships between technology providers, work within partner ecosystems, collaborations with system integrators and pilots with end users, are yielding new ideas and advanced solutions.”
Invixium’s Kapadia is also seeing a big push for digitalization and migration to the Cloud to aid flexible work schedules. “The idea of ‘work from anywhere’ is a [market-driving] force that’s always been here, and businesses need very modern infrastructure to allow employees to access their technology and tools everywhere,” he says.
Rabenold says Johnson Control’s approach moving forward is about efficiency and availability. The pandemic has changed the culture of the workspace and people’s day-to-day lives. Availability is a big thing and making systems available to anyone, anywhere has spurred increased demand for Cloud and AI-enabled technologies.
Integrations will also come into play, he says, such as in the retail market relating to point of sale and inventory management. “One of the biggest forces that is dynamically changing the solutions we bring to market is the user of our systems. These are not the same people who were using our system five or 10 years ago. The up-and-coming users are more savvy about technology and they are accustomed to using technology every day, including video platforms that are now part of many social media channels.”
Mark Hillenberg, vice president of marketing for DMP, likewise invokes a version of the efficiency theme as a key focus for the company. A manufacturer of intrusion, fire, access control and cellular alarm solutions, DMP has been improving and investing in the multisite administration and deployment of systems from its Dealer Admin Platform.
The platform allows dealers and large national footprint end users the ability to manage a number of locations at one time. “This includes anything from adding or deleting a user across multiple panels, to providing for an automatic programming template to be downloaded into the panel when it’s hung on the wall, saving the installing company hours of time on the installation and providing for a cookie-cutter approach to consistency and quality of the install,” explains Hillenberg.
In can be a bit dizzying to consider the vast number of solutions with the potential to boost efficiency, security, growth and competitive edge. For integrators, seductive potential needs to be weighed heavily against limitations and costs. However, there are trends that stand out that can serve as guideposts for decision-makers.
Kapadia suggests integrators take note: Be ready to deploy Cloud solutions. Moreover, he stresses, no company can expect to solve today’s problems alone. “System integrators will need to combine different solutions for front-end, back-end and personnel management software to create an end-to-end solution. Seek training to deploy multifaceted, integrated solutions like these and demand that your chosen manufacturers provide certified training,” Kapadia says. “Only seamless solutions can quickly solve real-life problems, and it’s in everyone’s best interest for this industry to strive to be cutting-edge.”
There is also a school of thought that leans toward pragmatism where it concerns technology adoption. “We feel it is important for integrators to standardize on equipment and systems as much as possible. It’s easy to get excited about all the technologies available, but always reaching for the latest and greatest can be expensive and counterproductive,” says Mike Simon, managing partner of Connected Technologies, maker of Connect ONE, a Cloud-hosted integrated security management solution.
Training of both the integrator’s staff and end-user customers can get overwhelming and inventory out of control without standardizing, he says.
“It’s best to decide who your main customer base is and what their needs will be and build your product offering around that business model. Technology should be used for simplifying end user customer needs and growing integrators recurring revenue stream,” Simon adds. “Integrators chasing technology can really hurt the bot-tom line and frustrate their employees.”