Our Networked Future: More Networked, More Wireless

Clearfix
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Networking will be more pervasive, more wireless, more everything
Networking will be more pervasive, more wireless, more everything

COMBINING the thoughts of manufacturers and distributors in the first few months of 2017 with comments from integrators like Schneider Electric, as well as considering growing trends in the U.S. and Europe towards cloud services, it’s hard not to feel that we’re in for a wild ride in 2017 and beyond.

Last month we talked about the growing prevalence of biometrics but the changeful feel in the marketplace is bigger than biometrics. It’s deeper and it’s likely to change things in every way. Something that’s notable in big systems is the U.S. Army’s decision to turn to cloud services, with a $US62 billion contract awarded to IBM.

Then there’s the General Service Administration’s $US50 billion infrastructure solutions contract, which will link all government agencies securely using a network built on continually-refreshed technology. Both these infrastructure investments are right now and they’re predicated on cost reduction, redundancy and secure comms. We could all use more of that stuff. 

Speaking with the Schneider Electric team that installed the Sunshine Coast University Hospital security and automation system recently has been instructive. The fact this Inner Range Infiniti system integrates 16 sub-systems is noteworthy – integration across multiple subsystems while delivering a coherent workstation experience is tough – but it’s the underlying architecture that bears most consideration and not only for its virtual environment and full redundancy. The Schneider Electric team’s biggest challenge throughout the installation came down to slow implementation of the SCUH network. No network, no work.   

At the device level, we hear a lot about IoT these days and there’s little doubt this sort of network-connected device architecture will become more prevalent in many applications of the future. But when you consider some very large electronic security applications, which include thousands of doors, thousands of cameras and tens of thousands of alarm points, you can see that there’s considerable network complexity on single sites when integrators deliver solutions engineered in the most intuitive possible way. The point here is that not only do big single-site systems increasingly depend on network backbones, their network complexity and the technical skill required to build them, is almost open-ended. The more of it there is and the better your engineers are at building networks, the more seamless and powerful your networked systems can be.  

Securing networked systems of all shapes and sizes – be they internet-connected DVRs, or enterprise systems – is challenging and we’ll be delving into this topic at SecTech Roadshow in May. But something that is clear in the post Mirai-bot world, is that most well-made devices and software management solutions do have adequate protection mechanisms, it’s just that most people don’t know how to apply them. And while the connectivity of security systems today certainly exposes them to greater risks, most mobile devices can be hardened via settings. 

Late last year at the AWS Invent Conference, cloud security was not just front and centre, it was presented as a benchmark providers needed to meet, with certifications, best practises, guidelines and support in all directions. Cloud security is going to be something users and providers share with each other in order to guarantee bullet-proof cloud services and protect the cloud business model. 

Hand-in-hand with an increasing dependence on, and appetite for, networked solutions of all kinds, we’re likely to get a look at pre-5G in Australia this year. When I first wrote about 5G a couple of years ago, with its 5GB mobile download speeds, I was sceptical. The specifications seemed too woolly and merely talking about IoT as an ideal application for 5G didn’t make much sense to me. Device data streams are hardly likely to demand GBs of download – not unless those devices are all high-resolution CCTV cameras. 

But lo and behold late February, Telstra announced that it will team up with Ericsson and Qualcomm for over-the-air field tests of 3GPP-developed 5G radio technology in Q3 of 2017. This technology uses millimetre waves in the 29 and 39GHz bands, mid-band radio frequency spectrum, and advanced multiple aerial technology, to offer multi-gigabit per second data speeds. The 5G push this year is part of an $A3 billion investment in mobile technology by Telstra slated for 2017. More wireless news hit this morning – Australia has the fastest mobile network in APAC – faster than America, faster than Singapore, faster than Japan.  

What does all this networking stuff mean? It means IVA everything, an explosion of lateral applications for CCTV cameras, greater threat from malware that evolves faster, greater need for co-operation and a greater tendency for underlying services to aggregate in the hands of single large suppliers. For electronic security installers and integrators, it means being open to existing in a dynamic new ecosystem expanding so quickly in so many directions, you’ll have to run hard to keep up. ♦