GIVEN the increasing symbiosis between electronic security solutions and consumer and industrial technologies, it’s always instructive to think about the ways emerging technologies might impact on security electronics in the years ahead.

I can never think about this long before grounding on the sandbank of broader IT infrastructure, our own IP technologies, thickening cloud. It’s a duplex connection. At the same time digital technologies liberate our systems, they constrain us through the limitations of compression, bandwidth, storage, unrealistic cost and the painful proprietary aspirations of global players, each wanting to own the future. 

For many years now, integrated electronic security systems that include video have been beyond anything the IT industry can support outside of dedicated networks. You see this each time a public surveillance application is forced to ally with a utility or build a dedicated mesh network to secure the bandwidth needed by modern camera systems. But the same flawed systems that hamper us, offer new ways to excite buyers.

It was reading up on 5G comms this week that got me thinking about the next generation of technological developments. What struck me about 5G was the peculiarly holistic nature of expectations. A multiplicity of incompatible technologies are grist for the internet of things. Running parallel there’s wearable electronics, organic electronics, big band wireless, brain-computer interfaces, long life battery technologies, screenless displays and overarching it all, cloud, the most epic RMR model the world has ever seen.  

Some of these things demand an enormous leap in the synthesis of diverse technologies. And there’s something paradoxical in this expectation, given that fully open technologies do not make for strong business models. When you consider that the push for SDx – which is a bit like an ONVIF for cloud software – is an exercise in completely closed open-ness – it’s hard to see such huge concepts materialising as useful solutions.

Further, given the conservatism of the electronic security industry, it’s hard to see us rushing into speculative open tech. While the idea of the internet of things is interesting, the security implications are scarifying. It’s more likely to be the internet of some things. But what things will they be?

When you think on a smaller scale, it’s obvious there are strategic technologies that are beginning to have a visible impact on our industry. For a start there’s management of systems using mobile devices. Many security manufacturers are employing such solutions to drive systems, yet these enabling technologies also allow pop-up competitors from outside the industry to break out with sleek new tech from a miniscule cost base. Think Piper.

Startups are offering consumers compact units that spin up into all-in-one self-reporting alarm/CCTV/automation solutions with every sort of sensor imaginable bolted on. And they're self-monitored. A control panel? Why bother with a control panel? And of course, browser based solutions managed by mobile devices drive in the cloud and are governed by open apps developed not just by manufacturers and their partners, but by customers. This means turbo-charged application development in tandem with the turbo-charged security issues you get with variably secure remote access points and Trojan code. 

Staying with cloud, there’s also a deliberate move from some big organisations – government departments in particular – to take their entire IT function to cloud. This is a really big deal – especially given many IT department functions are outsourced to other countries. 

Alongside cloud are enabling smart devices. Phones, tablets, wearable displays like Google Glass, a new generation of smart watches with projection displays. All this will integrate with next-gen security technology – Ultra HD, H.265, low cost thermal cameras, wireless everything. And as meaningful computerisation shrinks, it’s likely we will see the development of electronic security solutions with greatly increased power, or greatly decreased size. 

The ongoing development of emerging technologies is going to play a big part in our future. This impact will be psychological, too. Things are going to get more competitive. Consider that as big cloud providers such as Google and Amazon improve their services, offering more functionality and faster services, everyone is going to be forced to drive their technologies to meet or exceed the broader market’s accelerating expectation of what high performance is meant to be.

By John Adams