In an article I wrote last year on Info4Security, entitled Security and The Intelligent Building, I waxed lyrical about the exciting opportunities advancing technology in the security sector is providing for the serious systems integrator, and the fact that it presents such a great catalyst for change.
Growth in IP security and surveillance and the developing convergence with IT certainly provides a powerful platform for transforming our industry. However, with opportunity comes challenge and change.
Systems are now more powerful and complex, encompassing a host of hardware, firmware and software residing on a common network and performing an array of functions. All of this is usually derived from an assortment of manufacturers, suppliers and developers.
As these systems become more bespoke, cohesive, intelligent and interconnected a more diverse and higher degree of skill will be required to make these systems work correctly and achieve their defined objectives.
As our traditional analogue industry continues to fade, so the value of our historic experience and knowledge diminishes. It’s therefore essential for the very survival of our industry – as we come under increasing threat from the powerful IT sector – that the people responsible for the development, design and implementation of these complex systems require new skill sets.
Security solutions as operational management tools
As technology change expands the use of security (and, in particular, surveillance) systems far beyond security uses, so it also transforms them into an operational management tool.
Most security companies will need to learn how to apply new equipment and solutions – servers, hubs, switches, PoE and systems, IP protocols, networks and cyber security analytics, etc. They must also garner a greater understanding of their customers’ business requirements outside of ‘the security brief’ such that they can develop and provide systems which deliver true business benefit (in terms of providing ‘real time’ visual intelligence for operational uses to maximise ROI, for example).
After all, ‘Information is King’ and most definitely paramount in terms of realising informed decisions.
It’s the ability to implement technical solutions which efficiently provides instant and relevant information. We need to make that information easily accessible when required and facilitate its sharing between all interested parties in the same way that has made the IT sector all powerful.
Such technical solutions have become embedded as a requisite facility of nearly every department in every enterprise.
In fact, nearly everything we do in life today involves an element of IT.
Focus on professional qualifications
Sadly, this is something the more mature security industry has failed to achieve. Could this be partly down to a lack of professional qualifications?
It’s fair to say the IT sector is qualifications-driven. There are numerous academic qualifications in computing and IT up to PhD level in computer sciences, giving the IT sector instantly recognisable professional credibility.
Qualifications demonstrate the holder’s ability to complete a comprehensive education, training and intensive study programme in a given subject(s). This provides proof that an individual is knowledgeable and has a clear and demonstrable understanding in his/her field. Above all, perhaps, it proves they can learn!
Major IT organisations have readily supported certified skill levels. Cisco’s CCIE (The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert), for example, and the Microsoft MCITP (Microsoft Certified IT Professional) are shining examples. If you’re not certified then ‘don’t touch it!’
For further information on IT certification take a look at this website.
Regrettably, the security industry has been slow in developing appropriate qualifications and encouraging ‘engineers’ and systems designers to complete the study time and gather the necessary papers. It must be said that, as we migrate more and more towards IP-based networked systems, and if we are to hold our own against the IT sector, we need to drive for a more professional industry supported by relevant qualifications and certification.
If we’re to succeed and be taken seriously by IT professionals we need to able to ‘talk the IT language’ and, what’s more, prove we really understand it.
True – and confirmed – technology knowledge
In our sphere of expertise we need professionals with a true and confirmed knowledge of the technology, how and where to apply it and a demonstrable awareness of how it sits in the network topography.
We also require a clear understanding of the clients’ business functions. We need to know more about how a given client’s business works and how we can introduce technology to deliver benefits in terms of increasing efficiency, reducing manpower and mitigating risk, etc.
If we do not have this knowledge to hand then we run the risk of ‘losing our industry’ and missing a huge opportunity for it to develop into the bargain.
However, not all’s lost just yet. We should not sell ourselves short as our knowledge of security requirements and experience of camera positioning and views – and the choice of optimum camera type/lens combinations – remain pertinent. After all, agreeing the camera views and what degree of the scene is occupied by a target is fundamental whatever the images are being used for.
Our ability to deploy information gathering devices such as cameras, access control readers and various sensors correctly is probably the one area in which we have a distinct advantage over IT professionals. I would also argue we know how to fit things in a diverse range of environments, mount camera brackets and control/equipment boxes, erect towers and columns and so on.
Fortunately, most security professionals are also computer literate and acquainted with various programming elements, albeit some of those elements being very simple in nature.
Flying the flag for enhanced qualifications
As risks and threats continue to grow in an uncertain world it’s refreshing to see a number of organisations and individuals alike flying the flag for a more qualified and professional industry.
Organisations like The Security Institute are determined to the raise the status of the security world and increase and enhance its profile.
Many more academic qualifications are being conceived, along with more manufacturers adopting certification schemes for their products. These developments can only be good for the security sector and a great aid in affording it deserved respect.
Where, though, does the traditional customer fit in to all of this?
Generally speaking, the customer is the security manager. Given the huge technology shift is it time for a new breed of security manager who can readily contend with a diverse range of business threats as well as ever-changing technology?
As an organisation we’re already experiencing IT Departments specifying systems which they manage and simply passing on the security-pertinent information generated to thise in the Security Department.
I believe we’re all in for an interesting and perhaps sometimes bumpy ride. For those who develop and adapt, though, the future should be characterised by a brighter picture.
This article was first published in IFSEC Global at http://www.ifsecglobal.com/why-security-must-get-a-grip-of-new-technology/