After spending two interesting days in New York recently (aren’t they all) attending the International Security Conference (ISC) East, it has come to my attention that the physical security technology market is in critical need of device relationship management. The ISC East is the smaller of two annual events sponsored by the Security Industry Association (SIA) that brings together the physical security ecosystem - OEMs, dealers, integrators and buyers. This market includes access control, video surveillance, alarm systems and monitoring, fire, environmental safety and related services. For reasons we don’t like to think about, this is a large, growing and highly strategic technology sector. Think hundreds of billions of dollars in hardware, software and related services. It’s a perfect macrocosm of business and technology trends shaping so many industries in our world today. Hardware is foundational but largely commoditized. Software and services are highly strategic and form the basis for new business models - and challenges.
I had the unique opportunity to speak with both buyers and sellers of security systems and a common theme is the necessity of, and challenges around, remote monitoring and management of this critical technology. Ironically, we invest and rely on security technology to monitor for risks, breaches and other bad events that can occur. But at least half of the vendors I spoke with admitted that they could not easily report what product models were deployed at what customer sites and, of these products, what versions of software were running on their systems.
On the buyer side, I spoke with the CIO of a large integrator that was having issues managing a video surveillance system at a sprawling campus. They bought hundreds of cameras over five years which involved four different product models, some analog, some digital. Each product had different software versions and two separate remote management layers. At one point the CIO asked the technology provider for an audit of the products and assurance that the current version of software was installed on all cameras and control systems. This was an enormous undertaking since there was no central system for auditing and managing software updates over time.
Many providers in the market are moving to service based models - video monitoring as a service, access control as a service, etc. This makes perfect sense and ensures a continuous relationship between the customer, the product and the provider. In many cases there are dealers and distributors involved in the value chain as well. Where reliability is mission critical and ‘as a service’ business models are deployed, it is absolutely essential that technology providers have best in class systems for wellness monitoring and software update management. In almost all cases, OEMs have created home-grown systems for servicing this need, but the complexity of their products and the reasonable demands of their customers dictate a different and better approach. Device Relationship Management software solutions not only solve the lifecycle management challenges of connected products, they enable service models and simplify integration of products into other systems and the broader value chain. The question is whether or not technology providers will lead or be led on this journey. Only time will tell.