What lies ahead in 2018?

security camera on wall of office building, security system concept
security camera on wall of office building, security system concept

Article by Andrew Seldon, Hi-Tech Security Solutions magazine (February 2018)

The start of a new year always brings predictions of what we can expect to see happening in the coming year, and this year is no different. To find out what the physical security industry is expecting in 2018, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few of the leading players what they expect and how they see the year panning out in South and southern Africa.

To keep thing simple, we asked our interviewees three questions. Below are the answers we received. Feel free to email Hi-Tech Security Solutions at andrew@technews.co.za and let us know if you agree or disagree, or if you feel there is something important missing in these answers.

In general, what trends, changes, opportunities and challenges do you see for the security industry in 2018?

Vaughn Tempelhoff, Forbatt SA: In general, there are quite a few challenges that come to mind. The most prominent are manufactures across the world seeing the South African market as a dynamic market with loads of potential and business opportunities. Products are being flooded throughout the industry into the hands of companies that do not have the capabilities to support these products. One can see security products surfacing in flea markets, classified platforms such as Gumtree and other marketing media.

This impacts the industry in a detrimental way, affecting the credibility of service provides, us as manufacturers and agents, and last but not the least, the end-user who has paid for a product that has now become a white elephant.

I believe we should clean up the industry. This can only be achieved by supporting credible service providers, distributors, agents and manufacturers.

Walter Rautenbach, neaMetrics & Suprema SA: The security industry will continue its efforts in integrating and incorporating trends, such as IoT, IDot, mobile credentials, the cloud, mobile biometrics, BOYD, BYOID, VR, AI, machine learning, advanced analytics and business intelligence, but enough with all the terms. 2018 is the time to really bring it all together and make it work to truly extract the value (beyond the nice-to-haves) it promised consumers in the beginning. Security products have been commoditised and the true disruptors will be those that make them sing and dance to the same rhythm.

The view of integrated security in itself is not new, but the past few years saw the value of integration forgotten in market conditions were cautious consumers hung on to each buck, not even budging (or budgeting) for standalone products, never mind integrated security solutions. With pressing market conditions, price instead of total operating cost became a valid excuse to check off the security checklist and to make the long-term value the next manager’s problem. System integrators and installers alike felt this price pressure and were scraping around for margin.

In 2018 we foresee consumers making better choices for their money and opting for solutions that don’t just satisfy an immediate need, but that offer long-term benefits and expandability. We are looking forward to a year where technology just works and where system integration is more than just fancy cabling or sales terminology.

Tim Timmins, Electronic Specialised Solutions, G4S Secure Solutions (SA): From an electronic point of view, I see the surveillance industry getting stronger and stronger with video analytics, especially with camera manufacturers making camera edge software more powerful and thus having distributed intelligence.

In the access control industry biometrics is big in the South African market where fingerprint technology has dominated, however, we are seeing a shift to facial recognition readers, especially as the cost of the technology is coming down.

More and more monitoring in the cloud is being offered globally and I can see this catching on in South Africa during 2018.

Gus Brecher, Cathexis Africa: In no particular order:

  1. Increased interest and development in video analytics. This includes learning algorithms (deep learning) and the use of algorithms in retail environments. The hype is still over-stated in this regard, but basic perimeter detection algorithms are now mature and working well. There is also a shift towards the edge, but as algorithms become more sophisticated, so does processing requirements, which limits the potential of edge solutions.
  2. Integrated solutions (e.g. video surveillance integrated with AC, fire, intrusion etc.).
  3. Cybersecurity focus.
  4. Cloud-based solution considerations (limited for video surveillance because of bandwidth considerations) and VSaaS (video surveillance as a service).

Armand Steffens, Milestone Systems Southern Africa: Increasing productivity will be a trend. Demands for increased safety are rising, we are adding more cameras and, at the same time, we need to improve the return on investment. This means that non-digital security systems will be challenged as they do not have the ability to present video as data.

We will see more focus on cybersecurity, as more of our personal and business details are being stored on cloud servers and used by third-parties. At the same time, there will be an increased focus on privacy, at least in Europe, thanks to the coming EU legislation. On the device side, we will see a trend towards a much more diverse spectrum of device types – body-worn cameras will just be a part of it.

The trend for large-scale integration in applications like smart cities will continue. We expect a focus change here as safe cities will be a rapidly emerging trend. We are going to see smart industries, intelligent buildings and maybe the first smart nation.

Johlene Selemela, ZKTeco South Africa: Everyone will be gravitating towards AI (artificial intelligence). AI is made possible through machine learning algorithms, which will be incorporated in a variety of applications. AI is set to feature in almost every new platform, app or device, and that trend is only going to accelerate.

We now need to consider biometrics as a foolproof security system that can ensure that your information is kept safe and away from intruders, which is a great opportunity for the security industry. But, with change in technology systems comes the threat of people trying to override the system. This serves as a challenge for companies within the security industry to come up with better and safer systems and devices. This year, developers and engineers are getting ready to make a new generation of Internet possible. By the end of 2019, 5G networks and phones will be available. 5G Internet has the potential to be almost 10 times faster than 4G, making it even better than most home Internet services.

Roy Alves, Axis Communications: A move to the edge. Two trends of recent years that have become familiar – cloud computing and the Internet of Things – have delivered undeniable benefits to businesses and consumers alike. But, they also come with implications: namely the huge increase in the amount of data being transferred from connected devices to the data centre for processing and storage, and the associated bandwidth needed.

Edge computing alleviates this issue by performing data processing at the ‘edge’ of the network, near the source of the data. Doing so significantly reduces the bandwidth needed between sensors and devices and the data centre. A further drive towards edge computing relates to potential concerns around data integrity and privacy: anonymising and creating encrypted data within the device at the edge before it is transferred to the data centre will be a likely response to these concerns. As network cameras, audio and other sensors – the devices on the edge of the network – become ever more sophisticated and of higher quality, the need to balance both cloud computing and edge computing domains will be imperative to deliver refined, reliable and usable data.

In addition, as it did last year, cybersecurity must appear on the list of trends for the next 12 months and beyond. The constant enhancement of cybersecurity will be a never-ending task, because well-resourced cybercriminals will never stop looking to exploit vulnerabilities in any new technology. And as the number of connected devices grows exponentially, so too do the potential flaws that, if left unaddressed, could provide the opportunity for networks to be breached, ransomware to be planted or, more simply, costly downtime to occur. 2018 will no doubt see more attacks and vulnerabilities exposed. The answer is proactivity and a systematic process for ensuring that patches are implemented as soon as they are available. Cybersecurity is not a onetime thing, it is a lifelong process.

Lastly, personalisation vs. privacy. One of the potential applications for deep learning could be in the delivery of highly personalised services. Imagine a retail environment where a customer’s face is recognised upon entering a store and then offers are pushed to their mobile device based on previous purchases, preferences, or even their recent browsing -history. But then, just because something can be done doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be, and this example immediately highlights increasing concerns around privacy, and how personal data is being used by businesses and other organisations.

Legislation is being created to address these concerns. In the European Union, the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In SA, we know this as PoPI – the deadline for compliance which is May 2018 – will unify the protection of data for individuals within the EU, wherever that data is held or used.

Whether motivated by legislation or simply wanting to do the right thing by customers and citizens, balancing increased personalisation with the protection of an individual’s data and privacy will be a tightrope all organisations will walk this coming year.

Specific to your company and the field you operate in, what trends, changes, opportunities and challenges do you see for the security industry in 2018?

Timmins: G4S is driving an integrated approach to security, offering consultancy and risk management, system design and integration, technology and software, analytics and intelligence, manned and mobile security and monitoring and response as a one-stop -solution. Clients like the fact they are getting all their security needs from one company.

Brecher: Everything I mentioned above. We are focusing on higher-end enterprise solutions and architecture changes in order to enable us to embrace the cloud and VSaaS. We are also focusing on data integrity and ongoing integration as well as ongoing improvements in operational considerations for large sites and multiple enterprise solutions.

Steffens: At Milestone, we will, of course, focus on increasing productivity. The amount of digital video to keep us safe and protect assets is rising sharply, data from sensors and alarm information are being added, in order to give a better situational awareness.

The only way to handle all the visual data is to be cleverer and get help from intelligent video management systems that enable the operators to take better decisions faster and hopefully avoid incidents. The ability to react faster to any incident will limit the impact and the cost of handling the incident. The ability to avoid the incident thanks to predictive abilities in the VMS would be even better.

Intelligent learning technologies are now bringing video content analysis and advancing video content analysis far beyond the capabilities of legacy rule-based analytics systems. Today, rather than just evaluate a few pre-defined situations, intelligent learning video technology can learn directly from the video about an object and their normal relations and behaviour. The system will then be able to alert the operator to unusual activities with a qualified recommendation. This will lead to better-informed decisions and higher efficiency.

In the longer term, we believe these learning abilities will lead to predictive systems alerting the operator before an incident might happen. This will, of course, be a major time-saver.

Alves: On a local front, we see all of the above trends very much part of our business, for example, moving more of our analytics to the edge. Cameras are themselves becoming far more intelligent with much more computing power to run sophisticated analytics instead of rather streaming the video content back to a server, these decisions are being made on the field devices, storage as well is now being done on the camera with the ability to install micro SD memory cards in cameras. Of course, the technology has been there for some time, but we are starting to see a trend towards having the video recorded on the device as well as the server as failover.

Cybersecurity is becoming part of our everyday lives with it being so prominent in most of our media, affecting people from every walk of life. The challenge we see in our industry is one of education, there seems to be very little thought when implementing intelligent network devices on networks as to whether they pose a threat to that user, even in some instances the default username and password is used when handing over a system or simply a basic password is used.

How do you expect the security market to perform in 2018? How should security companies, from vendors to integrators and installers prepare in order to succeed in the SA security market this year?

Tempelhoff: There are quite a few positives brewing in the SA economy with a lot to look forward to. This cannot help but stimulate spending and restore consumer faith. Security is generally regarded as a grudge purchase; however, it is something we cannot be without. In the coming year, we are again focusing on taking our brands to market with the emphasis on supporting our partners with sufficient stockholding. There is nothing more frustrating than to not have a continued and sufficient supply of stock when you need it.

Rautenbach: The security market’s growth has constantly been outperforming general economic growth and we don’t believe this will change anytime soon. We do, however, see a looming improvement in the economy and we believe that the security market will not only follow this but exceed economic growth rates. Our renewed focus on training, certification and channel quality will make life a bit uncomfortable for those who skimp while benefitting those interested in sustainable business practices and who do justice to the brand. Continuous product improvement, more flexibility, integration and responsiveness in all aspects will remain our focus.

Timmins: From a G4S outlook, the second half of 2017 finished strong and I can only see this continuing into 2018. One area that I think is affected is the distribution market, as more manufacturers are going direct and getting a bad name because of it.

Brecher: While Cathexis is continuing on our fantastic growth in South Africa and Africa, I think the market will continue to be a bit depressed in general. The threat of low-cost solutions from the East is a real one which has a negative effect on the whole channel, including vendors, distributors and installers as their margins are squeezed. It also means that less reliable product is being supplied to the end-users (and opens up doors to more ‘fly-by-night’ operators entering the market), which has the potential to negatively tarnish the industry in general. The players need to make sure that the value of premium products, improved product functionality, reliability, support, data integrity and long-term cost-of-ownership are effectively communicated to the marketplace.

Steffens: We expect the market to be in a learning phase with an increased emphasis on lowering total cost of ownership. Now is the time to abandon standalone analogue systems and move into the digital age. For us, the community approach is important and we truly believe that solo-solutions will be seriously challenged in 2018.

Selemela: Security is the most important part of every entity in the world. Whether you are at home or in a shopping mall, on the road, your security is priority. If proper security is not in place, then assets are at risk. Whether you are a tech-savvy individual or just an ordinary consumer, one will always look forward to the technology developments and trends that lie ahead in the future, so definitely the security market will still perform well and the markets will improve.

Alves: Like all industries in SA, 2018 will be tough but not impossible. Security spending every year is increasing and the need for security seems to be growing on a global scale. We also see a shift to using security devices to complement physical manpower, not to replace, but reduce the manpower component. Looking back on 2017, what has made a positive change is understanding the ¬customer’s needs. In addition, being better equipped in terms of positioning your company as a solutions business rather than a products business will most definitely have a positive impact. End-customers are wanting a solution to their problem. With companies wanting to tighten their belts and better manage their operations by increasing their efficiencies, we see a trend of cameras being deployed as a business tool while still providing security.

Thank you for the article Andrew!

Jean Brown, Sensor Security Systems

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