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Found 5 results

  1. Change is coming, like it or not... There is currently a movement by many businesses within our industry to get involved with much more than just 'vanilla' alarm installations. What does the near and distant future hold for those involved with service delivery, manufacturing, installation or the monitoring of such systems? Are we truly on the way to Security 2.0? It is a clichéd term, but we are currently on a one way street towards our industry either embracing other technologies and service offerings OR facing the very real prospect that our services will be provided by other industries in our place. They will not provide these at a standard which is anything close to our current quality and performance, yet with the apparent move towards an eventual privatisation of emergency response and with apathy from some key stakeholders towards resolving these issues we must accept that maybe the way we have always done things is not perhaps the only viable solution. Growing demands of the 'hyper-connected' generation... End users have been somewhat spoilt by an age of technology that has provided information at their fingertips. Interaction is available instantly, on-demand and in several different formats allowing end users to decide to use their laptop, phone or several other mediums to check their status and to provide a means for them to control. This has been also available in our industry in many ways with smart phone apps for control panels, CCTV systems and direct access to control their alarm monitoring. This is not going far enough though. This is control in a granular fashion with multiple applications and protocols being used and a 'clunky' approach to solving issues and having to cross reference several systems to get answers. The user experience (UX) needs to improve drastically if we are to keep up. Events such as CES2013 have highlighted the developments in white goods and home automation systems showcasing smart homes and their benefits. This has the potential to develop into an 'expectation' in new homes as clients look to a UX that matches the rapid pace of their changing demands. What, where and how.. So where do we fit into all this, considering there is already an established and rapidly growing industry providing home automation and AV solutions? As an industry we have previously provided 'system integration' which allowed end users to benefit from the best in class of each type of product whilst still allowing such systems to work together in what was a seamless manner offering a fantastic UX as far as the end user is concerned. This has always been a strength in our industry and one that we have shown great expertise in, though this has been supported by rigorous standards and protocols with flexibility and the enforcement of these among equipment manufacturers. If we are to provide the same level of interoperability with evolving markets and next generation products that are not yet available (Google Glass / iWatch / Etc...) then we need to begin to agree on how we are going to achieve this. One of the most critical points is to try and avoid the closed (proprietary) protocol approach and inflexible standards that have stifled our industry to date which have been a major part of our inability to move as quickly as the technology has. We should consider being less technology specific and aim to instead define in our standards a clear end goal and aspirational targets yet with scope for multiple methods of meeting these. Standards are by their nature outdated as soon as they are released. We should aim to find ways to improve engagement with their development and enforcement and look to other industries to ensure that we are delivering the best possible offering. Is the current system effective at delivering the intended aims such as protecting end users? One of the most crucial elements is to select the most appropriate 'eco-system' of a platform and protocol combination that will support developments and allow complete interoperability. Choosing a winner... In moving forwards there are currently several platforms to allow communication between our current systems and likely potential future developments. We already have some systems available to support building management and 'smart home' systems: X-10: Basic protocol which has been in use for a while. Uses home power network Z-Wave: Widely supported product range and was the first wireless protocol Modbus: Very basic wired serial connectivity Insteon: Enables wireless comms on X-10 format and improved UX ZigBee: Newer wireless technology but struggles if multiple manufacturers kit used Both Z-Wave and ZigBee have an alliance behind them to promote the benefits of the platform and to support uptake. In some cases a combination of these technologies can be used to acheive the end result. For example some Smart Meters use Modbus protocol to exchange data via an RS232 port but then Z-Wave or ZigBee or others, to then pass that information on outside the device. So how do we pick a winner from all of these standards and more? What benefit is there from all manufacturers and system integrators using the same languages? We can focus on patching and fixing multiple disperate protocols until we are blue in the face, or, we can all agree on an approach and then put that same energy into developing the possibilities that are enabled through the agreed technology. There may be countless disagreements at first, but if we can stand united as an industry then that would give us strength to tackle some of the more difficult challenges and showcase the potential of our place in this emergent market. We have in the past struggled to work collaboratively, but social media and changing attitudes now mean that we can have much more open and frank discussion and can see the immediate benefits of doing so. As an industry we have a lot to offer and we can create world class solutions when we work effectively. I am optimistic that we can all pick a winner and that we can all succeed. I would ask all readers to consider what they can do to work effectively with others to ensure that we provide a solution that puts us on the map as world leaders in innovation and effective collaboration. Legal Notice: All images and logos remain trademarks of their respective owners and are used in accordance with the fair use of a copyrighted work for purposes such as comment, criticism, news reporting, teaching or research.
  2. Augmented Reality There was a glut of press attention given recently to a free Android and iPhone application called "Chestburster" which allowed users to see a 3D ‘alien’ type creature emerge and come to life when viewing a particular static image along with gory sound effects. This image could be downloaded from their website and placed; for example, on a t-shirt / computer screen or as a printed image. Whilst this was very much a niche ‘toy’ to demonstrate the possibilities it is a powerful reminder that augmented reality (AR) is very much here and all of the tools required to utilise it are available now. AR uses static ‘trigger’ images or location data such as GPS to overlay virtual content on top of the real world. This virtual overlay can then be interacted with based on user input if they so wish. To bring people up to speed and help explain the possibilities we can look to Google as a good example of usage. Apple have been developing wearable systems (iShades?) to provide AR functions since 2008 or earlier. Google have been working for just as long on "Project Glass" which is in effect a pair of clear glasses which overlays 3D virtual images and data onto a real 3D landscape. In a basic form it would effectively allow you to have a ‘Streetview’ style view of streets as you walk around in an area or for the purposes of directions. This could theoretically extend to whilst driving and can indicate locations of landmarks or retail outlets etc… Go a step further if you would and imagine looking at a retail outlets signage and suddenly it comes to life listing the current special offers and promotions. With this being Google of course the content of such promotions can be specifically targeted for your demographic or interests. They can even remind you of that item which you looked at before but didn’t buy at the time for which they can offer you a unique one off discount…. Billboards will just be blank canvasses in future, a man and woman walking down the road may see a different moving advertisement each or may even see a different advert if together than they would each see apart. Those in a vehicle would see the same billboard specific perhaps to the type of vehicle they are driving or their plans for that evening. This is aside from any seamless integration of social networking applications, checking in to locations, advising stores or restaurants of your details as you enter the premises… “Hello Mr. Smith, it’s good to see you again, did you enjoy the steak last week?” You can begin to see what could be achieved through careful application of this additional layer of reality when usage becomes common. - So you may rightfully ask ‘What does this mean to us in the Electronic Security Industry though Joe?’ Whilst it is arguably the retail and entertainment sectors that will see the most dramatic impact from this technology it still allows our industry many ways of capitalising on the technology to deliver our services more effectively and efficiently. Some examples could be as follows: Training Whilst there is no replacement for full on training it would be a powerful tool to allow engineers to see a video demonstration or a list of specifications when viewing a signalling device or alarm panel. A link can be given to contact the manufacturer or ARC or maybe to documentation or a replacement parts lists. Circuitry can be overlaid with plans and inputs and outputs labelled to millimetre accuracy in clear text and full colour with active links to enable context based content. This training can also be extended to security system users to explain how to reset an alarm or to help them understand how to omit a detector or zone or other such issues. Marketing It can be difficult sometimes to convey an important message in the short length of time in which you hold captive a persons attention whilst they read a brochure or advertisement. Through AR you have an opportunity to showcase your products and services in a manner that is relevant to the end user. Complex issues can be more effectively delivered through media playback or animated images or diagrams triggered by static images on a website or leaflet for example. Day to day usage Aside from training and graphical overlays it may be that suppliers can start to think more diversely in their approach. Why have a keypad on the wall at all if a virtual keypad could display upon approach for verified users carrying an authenticated fob or similar? Why not allow engineers to receive feedback from detector positioning and any masking to allow an overlay showing precisely where the detection covers within an environment during the installation of equipment? This data could even be used as a form of Kinect style visual overlay of a scene to provide ARCs with an image of the specific activity that led to an alarm activation so as to allow them to make an informed decision on a relevant handling procedure. Bell Boxes These already provide a form of advertising for Electronic Security companies but what if the same devices could trigger advertisements in full even with geographic based promotions? Imagine a virtual billboard on every home which can be constantly updated remotely if you wish? Promotional offers could be provided simply on the basis of having viewed an existing installation and then making an enquiry or you could even elect to provide some form of promotion for specific properties which generate enquiries based on their location. - I have only scratched the surface of some of the possibilities that could potentially be achieved. With a little imagination I am sure that each of you could find a way to use this technology to your advantage and I would ask that you begin to consider how you could go about utilising it to full effect in your own business by making it a reality before it becomes ubiquitous. The final word goes to T.S.Eliot... Human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present
  3. Collaboration Our current generation is without doubt the most "connected" generation yet. We have numerous tools available which allow us to convey our thoughts instantly in every possible media format and yet we still occasionally struggle to communicate with each other effectively. I want to look at some specific examples of platforms for collaboration and see how our industry might be able to put them into useful practice as well as considering our motivation for contributing towards a collaborative approach. Documentation Creating standards and policy documents is a very difficult and often thankless task which must be carried out in order for our industry to continue to progress. If we were to sit everyone around a table to try and agree the wording of an important document then we could be there for a very long time (if indeed we were able to sit down in the first place). Using free, secure applications such as Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) means that a collective of people could all work on a single document as and when they have time to do so, and at a pace that suited them. All changes would be audited, commented upon and can be discussed in an easy manner alongside the document so that people can find a way to reach an agreement. At any stage people can look at who has edited what and why and a final draft document would be the output of the process. People may be hesitant at the idea of putting content out securely into ‘the cloud’. To those people I ask one simple question: "Realistically, whose servers are more secure? Is it Googles data centres or your own servers?" What would an independent auditor say if comparing the two options on a like for like basis? The primary consideration will always be one of risk versus reward. The opportunity to encourage engagement from an occasionally apathetic and yet well informed industry is one which we should strive to grasp. Impact & Opinion I recently had the pleasure of contacting representatives of all NSI Gold and SSAIB accredited ARCs. It was quickly apparent that across a broad spectrum of different types of alarm receiving centres, that the people I was talking to were all well informed, had a great deal of experience in their particular disciplines and were passionately interested in the industry on the whole moving forward and progressing. They all had something useful and positive and unique to contribute. This is a valuable resource which our industry ought to be taking the fullest possible advantage of (in the nicest way possible). The same I am sure can be said of installers, manufacturers and other interested parties. Often the difficulty can be in taking the wide variety of people and preferred contact methods they may have into account when trying to gauge the opinion of the whole. We could use tools such as private LinkedIn groups and built in polling facilities: This can quickly help to identify the collective opinion of individual members. However, though users can comment on polls in such groups it is important that a facility somehow remains for users to contribute comments anonymously if they wish as it may be that an unpopular or controversial opinion may in fact be an important point for all to consider. It is also important that such questions remain relevant, neutral and help to identify or resolve key concerns in the day to day operation of such facilities, as this will promote participation and engagement while providing useful output for interested parties. Sharing ideas Why would potential competitors want to share information and ideas? Everyone knows that our industry historically has thrived on secrecy and that unique technology can give businesses a cutting edge over others with whom they are in competition, so why would anyone want to share? There is value in effective collaboration which can simply not be achieved in isolation. We have gone from being one way consumers of information to instead being very effective communicators of information. What seems interesting to one person could inspire another to actually create an innovative idea or approach. It is now recognised that there is a "cognitive surplus" which is often untapped and which is willing to give input autonomously to the benefit of the greater good. Now, whilst I am very mindful of intellectual property and issues related to it, there are issues which are broader and affect all interested parties within a group. These are the types of challenges to which a collective group of experienced and interested people can help to overcome. Given the opportunity to participate and with enough barriers to participation removed, then people will go out of their way to help. Many individuals in our industry have valuable contributions to make, it is a question of giving them an opportunity to have a voice whilst accounting for their hectic schedules and any genuine concerns.
  4. App-something?.... The recent launch of the Windows 8 operating system has become the flagship of a new thrust in technology culture that is here to stay if we like it or not. Windows are trying to push their desktop experience into the App based smartphone sector whilst at the same time crossing paths with Google who are busy working on selling their App based platform to desktop users. At the same time Apple is looking to futher improve communications between their many available devices to ensure a smooth user experience and to bond users more closely to their brand. Users are increasingly being taught to think less about the specific machine that they are using to access tools and data (Laptop / Mobile / PC) and to instead focus on a common interface and a shared pool of data. More content is being delivered to users in the 'App' format. By 'App' I mean simple, modular applications that are generally geared towards a specific focus area or subject. The aim in most cases is to simplify the interface used, allowing the more non-technical minded among us to interact in ways that would have been either slow or difficult to achieve previously. This combines with an ever increasing 'Always on' mindset to create a demand whereby users are surprised and disappointed if they can't 'find an app for that' when they search. Conversion One of the most common themes at the moment is the migration of existing products and services from a traditional email / letter / phone approach to instead utilise an App. What name is given to the process of converting something which is not an App into an App though? Imagine converting your hard copy lens calculator into an App, or maybe making your invoice payment system into an App. How do you describe this process of taking a none-app format procedure or task and making the same process achievable through an App? I came across this dilemma recently and discovered the following terms actively being used in this context: Appifying? (4.7k Google hits) Sounds satisfying but not quite self explanatory enough Appverting? (14.4k Google hits) "Converting into an App" sounds feasible however this term was hijacked by the marketing industry for use as 'Appvertising' (A failed marketing attempt to channel adverts to mobile devices) Appetising? (Huge number of irrelevant Google hits) Hungry? This causes confusion already... Apping? (576k Google hits) A term that is used already to cover many different non App based uses (Such as applying for something) Appification: (23.3k Google hits) Probably the most prominent term currently in use, perhaps also the least self explanatory one for ‘Joe Bloggs’ non-technical person Applicable applications Why would this process be important to the Electronic Security industry? Our industry already embraces this technology in many ways you could say, with many hardware manufacturers beginning to make interfaces to their products possible through apps. Is this the only narrow use for this approach though? We are a service industry. Many of the services we provide can be made more efficient or more easily accessible to a wider audience if converted to a format with which an end user can easily and securely access. Processes which currently soak up valuable staffing hours could instead be made automated or at least interactive. The evolving possibilities presented by the internet of things (IoT) and IPv6 offer amazing scope but also an amazing level of potential complexity. Apps could help organise and empower users so that they are able to be informed, advised and participatory in the naming and configuration process. Communication can be made much simpler and the secure sharing of information to relevant parties can be done in a transparent, seamless and immediate manner. Many of the back end systems currently utilised by Installers and ARCs have common protocols such as SOAP or XML available which means that your App can directly interface with your core products if you wish. You may find it worthwhile to take some time to stand back from your organisation and consider how you could use this ‘App momentum’ to your advantage. There is potential for all sectors of our industry to take advantage of this migration including but not limited to Installers, ARCs and service providers. How can you empower your end users and staff through this technology?
  5. Innovation It is easy with hindsight to look at some developments and think 'why didn't I come up with that?' We are currently living at point in time where technology is developing rapidly across a wide spectrum of disciplines, this is at the same time as we are bringing billions more people online to join the global discussion. Will this inevitably lead to progression or will these new minds need first to assimilate all of the current and existing ideas in order to further innovate? I beleive that there is immense value in being able to look at your existing problems from an outside perspective. It is all too easy today to say that something is "impossible" if you have only one or a few fixed ideas about how something can be acheived. We can focus too often on fixing the symptom of an issue rather than looking to the root cause. In addition, some of the barriers that led to dead ends when perhaps we first investigated an issue have perhaps been removed since or will be over the next few years. There is a risk that a viable solution could be missed as you may automatically write off what is a valid answer based on your past experiences, without looking objectively at the issue as it presents itself here and now (and in the future). Progress The British government has indicated in the past that it sees innovation as a key 'currency' in the future as more mundane or manual tasks become automated: "We want to make sure that Britain is the best place in the world to run an innovative business or service - this is critical to the UK's future prosperity, our quality of life and future job prospects" (Department BIS - Policy statement) Innovation is celebrated in our sector with annual award schemes and peer review. There have been attempts within the industry to push the benefits of apprentiships with programmes such as the "Engineers of tommorow - 100 in 100" (pdf) which has been vocally led by Simon Banks We have a history within our industry of being at the cutting edge of technology in order to stay one step ahead of the more manevolent members of society and this continues to be the case. There is no doubt that many of the people working within the industry already have an idea of the capabilities they want to see from equipment within 5 - 10 years and currently the technology is lagging behind the ideas being generated, how long will this last for though? Electronic Security This perhaps leads to some questions that the Electronic Security industry can ask of itself regarding innovation: What steps can we take to avoid blind spots and recognise all possibilities? How do we as an industry ensure that such opportunities are not missed? Are we introducing enough new thinkers to our industry through measures such as apprentiships? Should we do more to encourage transparency from manufacturers about their roadmaps? Is some innovation only possible through collaboration? Not all change is good, how do we differentiate the good from the bad? Do we consider other points of view enough? Does your business carry out enough research and development? These questions are worth considering regardless of the sector of the industry to which you belong as they may have a impact upon you at some point. As always please share your thoughts and views on the subject.
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