Security Solutions: New and Future Technologies

December 31, 2007 | Coverage

Security Solutions

Access Control & Security Systems

By Ashley Roe & Stephanie Silk

Technology is coming at you faster than ever before. No surprise if you fall behind on modern innovations, or lose interest in the latest and greatest. Ever feel like the technology train has left the station and you're still in line waiting to buy a ticket?

As the new year begins, the staff of Access Control & Security Systems wants to help. This month, we take a look at the state of technology for the security end-user, calling on experts in the market to comment on what's new in technology, and what's coming next. We offer this technology overview with an eye toward how technology in various categories can help our readers do their jobs more effectively, and, as always, with an emphasis on how technology functions in the real world. Maybe we can demystifysome of the wizardry as we go along. We hope you find it helpful.

The latest: Situational awareness

Situational awareness, in general, is the ability to identify, process and comprehend critical elements of information about activities occurring in and around a specific entity. More simply, it is knowing what is going on around you.

In security, the specific entity is the organization, and those who benefit most from employing this concept are the security professionals tasked with protecting the organization's assets. The situational awareness software platforms on the market today integrate technologies such as cameras, alarms, sensors, video surveillance equipment, communications and access control devices together to make device activity visible to users from one point on the network. By having what is essentially a security system “dashboard” controller at your fingertips, security professionals can more quickly identify, manage and respond to security events taking place within the organization at any time and anywhere.

Although a range of situational awareness and situation management platforms line the marketplace, end-users are just now embarking on adoption of the technology, which is expected to grow over the next few years, says Rafi Bhonker, vice president of marketing and sales for Orsus, New York, developer of the Situator situation management platform. The system provides control room users with unified monitoring and interactive control of all connected technologies via a real-time 3-D Geographic Information System (GIS) interface.

“Users are still in the early adopter phase of situational awareness technology. They understand how it works, and they are prepared to step into it, but in terms of situation management, they are still learning,” Bhonker says. “They need to learn how to take advantage of the pre-planning benefit because there are limitless options in that regard.”

Bhonker says the first step in working with Situator — or any other situation management platform — is not simply plugging in various systems and waiting for an event to occur. The first step is planning. “The benefit of something like this is that you can sit back and dream and figure out what it is you really care about happening in your hospital or your school, for example,” he says. “You can think about it and figure out a response, put that plan into a book and refer to it. When that security event happens, you have already planned out a response.” 

Dave Fowler, senior vice president of marketing and product development for VidSys, Marlborough, Mass., and Vienna, Va., says the situational awareness product trend is driving both public and private organizations toward cross-coordination. VidSys offers VidShield, an operations center management platform that integrates physical security devices.

“What we are seeing now is a drive toward shared coordination of activity. For example, in a number of cities, VidSys is working to enable first responders to get access to security systems used in private corporations,” Fowler says. With a dashboard view of the systems, first responders could use mobile devices to monitor system activity within the corporation and use the information to respond to emergencies more effectively. “Suppose there is a fire on the fifth floor of the building. Firefighters can use mobile devices to access installed cameras, get a real-time view of what's happening on the floor and coordinate a response across the organization,” he says.

Fowler says a possible explanation for users' hesitation to adopt the technology is that it is still being perfected in regard to security hardware integration. “With information security management on the IT side, you have a number of assets including databases, networks and other devices that you want to define in your security infrastructure,” Fowler says. “In doing the same thing with physical security devices, we are behind, and part of the reason is because it is a lot easier to integrate software than it is with hardware.” The new wave of integration, he says, involves enabling hardware and software to be plugged easily into the security management platform, so users can have a horizontal view of security systems.

The bottom line of the technology centers on giving end-users an outlet to develop more communication among those responsible for security and a clear view of events occurring within an organization at any given time. Users can expect to see the technology being implemented more frequently to boost security management and processes over the next few years.

As a side effect, Bhonker predicts that situational awareness technology will make the security department a more integral part of the organization's function. “The platforms not only enable security to be an integrated environment. They are also applications that can map into the business processes of an organization. Users can get an overall look at the organization's well-being and see how any situation can have an impact,” he says. 

Tried, true and evolving: Access control and locks 

Predictions for the access control and lock technology industry over the next few years all seem to center on one concept — maximizing return-on-investment (ROI) using existing access control technology. One of the ways end-users are realizing ROI potential, says Martin Huddart, vice president of electronic access control for ASSA ABLOY Door Security Solutions, New Haven, Conn., is by leveraging existing IP infrastructure to cost-effectively roll out network-based access control systems.

 “One trend I see that will continue involves customers taking full advantage of the infrastructure that is already there, whether it is WiFi or regular Ethernet,” he says. “By using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and WiFi locks, users have an advantage of running the network all the way to the opening, or edge, making it more intelligent and lowering the total cost of ownership.”

ASSA ABLOY's recently introduced Hi-O (Highly Intelligent Opening) Technology connects electronic door components together over a Controller Area Network (CAN) data communication network, allowing them to communicate continuously and monitor the health of the opening. Connected devices — such as the lock, exit device, electric strike and proximity reader — exchange and share encrypted information over a four-wire cable similar to how IT devices connect and communicate with each other through a USB connection. “Each device ‘learns’ its role, and going a step beyond that, can actually tell a user through network communication when maintenance is necessary before the device fails,” Huddart says. With built-in diagnostic reporting, maintenance becomes predictive rather than reactive, saving users money by reducing eleventh-hour maintenance costs.

Steve Van Till, president and chief operating officer of Brivo Systems, Bethesda, Md., also predicts a growth in the use of edge devices. “People have been talking about pushing intelligence to the network for years, and the biggest promise is the ability to use existing wiring to lower costs,” he says. “In vertical markets, another advantage exists because this makes it easier and less costly to apply access control in places you were not able to beforehand. You are lowering your cost per door. 

Brivo's hallmark applications are its Web-connected and Web-hosted access control systems ACS OnSite and ACS WebService. Both systems rely on a Web interface to program, manage and control access panels locally and remotely, so users are not required to dedicate large amounts of bandwidth to the application.

“Now that we have established viability of our Web-hosting model, one of the next things we will do is grow the number of services that come out of that same platform,” Van Till says. “This will include hosting video and alarm monitoring.” Standards, he says, play a big role in the growth of Web-hosted services. “The industry needs to have one platform that can communicate with anything such as cameras, video equipment and alarms,” Van Till says.

With Kaba's forthcoming E-Plex 5900 Series Locks equipped with Corestreet's Card-Connected technology, users could ultimately double the number of their controlled access points on the same budget, says Mark Allen, product management and marketing manager for Kaba Ilco Corp., Winston Salem, N.C. The locking system, expected to be available by spring, is managed and monitored similar to a wired door system, but requires no wiring or wireless communication networks. The locks communicate with commercially available physical access control systems by reading and writing digitally signed data — access privileges and audit logs — to and from smart cards as they are used. As a result, cardholders become an extension of the physical access network where cards, instead of wires, carry information to and from the locks.

The system can cut the cost of electronic access control per door by more than half because it does not require the infrastructure of a wired, IP-addressable or wireless system. “This makes it much easier and cost-effective to create a network across the miles,” Allen says.

Another benefit in using Kaba's Card-Connected lock is that certain users who are weary of the security issues in wireless systems will now have another option. “For example, in a hospital, a wireless network may be a big challenge. You are still sending radio frequency (RF) signals through the air, so there is a risk of interference with some medical equipment,” he says. “Many government users also would rather not use a wireless system because they are uneasy about transmitting information through the air.” The Card-Connected lock solves these concerns, Allen says. “It has virtually all the components of a wired system, but instead of running wire from a central location to each door, all an installer has to do is install the lock on the door.”

Also on the horizon are new opportunities for integrators, says Peter Boriskin, vice president of access control for the Access Control and Video Systems division of Tyco Safety Products, Boca Raton, Fla. “One of the challenges for the integrator is to become indispensable to their customers. They want to be part of their customers' business workflow,” he says. “With that in mind, an integrator who is savvy and who can leverage this new level of integration, has an opportunity to offer services and solutions above what they are offering today. They have a new solution set they can sell, and therefore, new revenue.”

With more edge device options, flexibility in tailoring existing infrastructure to suit applications and the resulting decrease in cost per access point, users will realize higher ROI in the coming years.

“Going forward, you will probably also see security management become indistinguishable from business workflow. Logical access and physical security will become more aware of one another, offering a seamless provisioning and de-provisioning capability,” Boriskin says.

Adds Van Till, “Ten years from now, virtually every door will be controlled and monitored. The cost will go down low enough so that you can have ubiquitous access control on anything you want, and the notion of an intelligent door will become a standard building practice.”

The big picture on video

The move from analog to IP video is not just a trend — it's a daily occurrence for security managers. That transition, on top of other upcoming improvements, including the emergence of 802.3at (Power-over-Ethernet Plus) devices, supports the idea that the future of video is less revolutionary, and more evolutionary.

These evolutions will include a video's image quality, low-light sensitivity and wide dynamic range, according to Todd Dunning, senior product manager for Pelco, Clovis, Calif. He says the industry is trying to attack these to fit in with the IP market. “When people ask why should they buy IP, right now it's because of good low-light sensitivity. But soon it will be all of these features,” Dunning says. He describes these challenges as solvable, but not for a few years.

Pelco is currently working on improving image quality, allowing it to become priority one in the IP domain as it already is in the analog realm. “It's a conundrum that people want better image quality, so they trade off light sensitivity for that,” he says.

Steve Surfaro, group manager of Strategic Technical Liaison for Panasonic System Solutions Co., Secaucus, N.J., says that because image quality is so important for video analytics, customer demand for a less costly imaging device may actually deter improvement of the overall object detection system. “Those end-users who recognize the need to balance image quality and overall system costs will begin to enjoy the improvements of continuously evolving video analysis engines,” Surfaro says.

Stephen Russell, CEO of 3VR Security Inc., San Francisco, says that video analytics will skyrocket to new heights since biometrics, access control and intrusion systems are becoming open and transforming video into one working structure. He says that the days of “government only” video analytics are gone, and that devices like analytic face and license plate readers will become more commonplace among users. “As video analytics becomes more mainstream and bundled with cameras and DVRs, people can be casual about how they use video analytics,” Russell says.

He compares video analytics to Google, which started as a research tool but now attributes the bulk of its business to casual searches. “The same thing will happen in surveillance. There are some ‘sexy’ applications, but just as important is using it to make day-to-day, hour-to-hour processes of surveillance video easier and more efficient,” he says.

Early adopters will see this video analytics transfer as early as late 2008, Russell says, but it might take two to five years for it to hit the mainstream market.

3VR is also working to integrate databases of known fraud suspects and to correlate that with biometrics that banks are extracting from surveillance systems.

Phil Robertson, vice president of corporate development for Cernium Corp., Reston, Va., says that video analytics will soon be used as data rather than something that produces moving pictures. “As we move forward, we will start to see standards evolve that will allow many companies to write applications to extract information from video,” Robertson says. “If you see a trend over time, having the ability to correlate it using software allows you to put a story together and possibly prevent something from happening,” he says.

Another step in video's future is compression of video, Dunning says. Because of the current unsuccessful search for a good combination of high resolution and space for data, compression is a constant issue for video. However, in the next few years, cameras will be coming out with H.264, a standard for video compression capable of providing good video quality at substantially lower bit rates without increasing the complexity of design.

Dunning says that a facility's transfer from an MJPEG camera system to H.264 may cut its hard drive requirement in half.

Frank Abram, vice president and general manager of SANYO's Security Products Division, Chatsworth, Calif., agrees. “Technology is turning toward advancements that will provide better identification while reducing the need for bandwidth, two things that may seem to be at odds with one another,” he says.

Surfaro contends that data mining will be the next big thing in video over the next few years, saying it will enable a user to mine the metadata from the video information they record at a place of business and to share metadata confidentially with other similar industries to improve safety and reduce crime.

Security professionals and users alike will be affected greatly by these changes, say the experts. Abram contends that as video surveillance is integrated with other business operating units, there will be a tighter collaboration with security professionals and other business units, particularly IT.

Russell concurs. “Investigators will become casual investigators. It will all become a less laborious research project the more applications that are available to them.”

All this new technology suggests a question: Will it be able to function in one working environment? Robertson says yes, citing that video will be tied closer to access control, while Russell says: “One big theme of the future will be interactivity connection. There will be a blurring of line between systems.”

Biometrics coming of age (really this time; no, really!)

One of the oldest traits known to man, the fingerprint, was used to revolutionize the way humans can be authenticated. Yet throughout the years of perfecting biometric technology, one challenge remains — acceptance. Experts say user resistance is holding back possible biometric improvements.

Today, biometrics is available for some everyday uses, such as on laptops and on cell phones in some parts of the world, but Walter Hamilton, International Biometric Industry Association chairman of the board and president, says that biometrics still isn't widely accepted. “The American public has a perception that biometric technology, and other types of authentication technology, is privacy-invasive. I don't believe that; I think it is a privacy protector,” Hamilton says.

Ari Juels, chief scientist at RSA Labs, points out that although less frequently used items such as e-passports include biometrics right now, when biometrics plays a role in more everyday routines, “privacy concerns will diminish as familiarity grows.”

Using biometrics on a daily basis will show ease of use, says Matt Bogart, marketing vice president for Bioscrypt, Sunnyvale, Calif., especially when using it as authentication for password-protected devices. “Which is easier to remember, an extensive password or the same password by presenting your finger?” Bogart asks. “There will be a certain move away from passwords as a default technology in 2008 to biometrics, but probably not completely taking over until a few years from now.”

Other emerging biometric trends in 2008 may include a rise in prosthetic biometrics such as wireless implantation, Juels says, which can be used to identify individuals for medical purposes and to identify “John Does.” Although Verichip Corp., Delray Beach, Fla., already offers this technology, Juels says it will blossom into a full-blown medical market, ultimately affecting the authentication market.

Bioscrypt is bringing change in 2008 to a face reader. Bogart says the company is taking the current face reader's 2-dimensional picture, which may pose problems with face angles and shadows, and transforming it into a 3-D picture that will match a face based on 40,000 data points.

Bill Spence, vice president of Transaction Systems at Lumidigm Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., says both the public and private biometric markets will grow in 2008. Since the private market concerns single-user authentication, lowering cost will be a 2008 goal. For the public market, accuracy will trump all other features. “While the security market uses both public and private sectors, they both have different demands. The needs are different, and so is research and development,” Spence says.

There's a lot in the pipeline for biometrics beyond 2008, say the experts. One development is biometric template protection. Juels explains, “If you're exposing your iris and finger on a daily basis for authentication, you are scattering your secrets. When you store your biometric template, you are still revealing what is used to authenticate you,” he says. “There is heavy reliance of trust on the reader right now, and I don't think that is a good assumption.”

Agreeing about the potential harm of stored templates, Hamilton sees a growth in liveness detection, important for unsupervised transactions. “It is not widely used now, but is considered high priority for the future,” he says.

Hamilton mentions DNA as a real-time authenticator and a possible live biometric. Being considered for long-term future use, it would include a sensor device that would take a DNA measurement, produce a record from the DNA and send it to a database for results. “It's one that is being highly talked about,” Hamilton says.

Bogart includes multimodal possibilities for the future of biometrics. “Organizations are going out and saying, ‘For my front door I want a face reader, for data I want fingerprint, for password I want voice,’ etc.,” he says. “[In the future] there will be less of a niche for single focus companies.”

Spence agrees with Bogart and takes it a step further with the use of multiple biometrics in a single acquisition. “By using two things together, such as the iris and the face, it will only enhance the accuracy,” Spence says.

He adds that this will come with a better promise of privacy for the user. “The biometric industry is working very hard to enhance privacy,” Spence says. “As biometrics becomes more widespread, users will adapt and adopt biometrics as a way to authenticate themselves.”

From communication to unification

The art of communicating, like most technology, only improves with time. For example, there will never be another time when landline phones are more popular than cell phones. However, a new device could certainly come along to eclipse the mobile phone universe we now live in.

Therefore, it's only natural to ponder the future of communication in the world of security.

Samuel Shanes, chairman and CEO of Talk-A-Phone Co., Chicago, says that integration, a term used to describe the attempt to get voice, video, data and access control to coordinate their operation in some meaningful way, mixed with convergence, a term meaning that these technologies relate to humans through a common experience, will combine to form the term “unification.”

Shanes says in 2008, along with the full development and deployment of IP technologies, communications will reach unification. “Whether it is audio, video or anything else that we may use — they are all data,” he says. “They represent a single ‘unified’ platform expressed to humans in different forms. The potential is limitless, and these new unified systems will start to appear on the market in this coming year.”

Chris Coffin, CEO of Digital Acoustics, Lake Forest, Ill., agrees about the movement of devices to the IP pipeline. However, as the IP infrastructure becomes shared, the number of connection methods to that pipeline must increase. “That is one thing that has to change in 2008,” Coffin says.

He also says we will see a creation of man-to-man networks, such as firefighters using mesh networks while working by wearing the technology. “We're seeing an evolution of seamless and smart communications allowing one to go into a building and be identified by his or her cell phone,” Coffin says.

For 2008, Coffin also says that data rates are going to increase as more wireless networks use 802.11. This may bring more challenges, though, as Coffin says, “To support video data and bandwidth-hungry devices, we have to see higher bandwidth and more fault-tolerant networks.”

Another challenge Coffin predicts is an increasing lack of IP addresses, although he says the continued deployment of IPv6 devices will help fix that. (IPv6 is the successor of IPv4, the current version of the Internet Protocol.)

The unified platform that Shanes suggests also applies to the intercom community. Coffin says that, in the future, intercoms will not only provide audio connectivity solutions, but access control capabilities, environmental management and temperature sensors. “This would all be available so that a single device can do more and provide more intelligence to a building management system,” Coffin says.

Beyond 2008, improved mass notification is in the planning stages, according to Shanes. “Our next generation mass notification systems being released this year open the possibility for more unified and powerful solutions in the future,” he says. Shanes also says some of these projects are labeled “what-if” and “why-not,” because they will only become more feasible as underlying technology becomes more available.

These projects will improve by offering a more human experience, allowing individuals in emergency situations to communicate with security authorities more quickly and effectively. They will also allow for better communications among affected populations in a larger emergency.

Coffin sees a move over the next few years to seamless, pure communication roaming. “Road warriors will be traveling with no limitation,” he says. He also says even with goals such as more secure encrypted communications and a faster network topology, that the future of communications is an evolving timeline. “There are going to be goals attempted and missed in this industry, and it's not required that it all be delivered in 2008.”

Shanes says the user should be pleased in the upcoming years, and will hopefully benefit by increased safety and security provided more efficiently and at a potentially reduced overall cost. “Although it sounds too good to be true,” he says, “it appears that as we enter the stage of unification, we are truly limited only by our imagination.”

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