The future - coming ready or not...

IT’S hard to believe 2017 has come and gone so quickly, almost as though the cadence of temporal things has caught hold of technology’s tail fin and is being blasted towards a flickering horizon.

It’s not just the speed of change that’s breathtaking but the acceleration of change. Older tech heads will remember the dawning of the digital age, the slow trickle of lateral technologies that brought society and our electronic security industry to a place where a digital revolution was conceivable.

But now the infrastructure is in place – comms, data centres, powerful workstations, software, support, ubiquitous personal smart devices – change seems generated by some internal reaction, a frothing tide, flecked with scraps of older technology, a hardwired sensor, a Wiegand reader. The substrate of tomorrow, which once like a familiar road dipped and turned from view, only to be spied again on a distant crest, is diffracted by the fierce heat of the engine of the future, shimmering and distorted.

When we think of what will be we can only think of what might be. The flood tide of the digital ocean has broken the mooring lines of old conceptions and swept us onto an unexplored sea, pressed by unseen winds and swells, bent by hidden rocks and sandbanks, a sea most discernible when it reflects the mirror of the sky. We have no certainty but uncertainty waiting to be shaped by the brilliance of solutions sculpted to meet tomorrow’s nebulous needs.

At least the topology of the future is becoming clearer. The modular nature of WANs mirrors the nature of LANs – comms, processing, storage and software, and as 5G wireless is implemented in support of improving cabled network services, things will really begin to hop. When you’ve got 20Gbps wireless comms with 1 millisecond of latency almost everywhere, there’s little you can’t do – from automating buildings and vehicles to augmenting reality. If you can apply sensors and cameras to anything and use advanced software to analyse and manage dataflow, then everything conceivable becomes possible. And 5G is not an if but a when.

As well as federating and presenting solutions in new ways, future networks are going to allow security people to do something they have never been able to do – deliver the entire performance of devices like high resolution cameras – wherever required, whenever required – to enhance situational awareness. This is vital if security solutions are going to break out of the current local system model, in which an integrated solution orbits a network room in support of a handful of local workstations.

Integration is going to be lateral in many ways – not just between sub systems but between business partners, and even business models – security departments, risk managers, insurers. And there will also be new business models as system owners leverage the capabilities of security devices to undertake multi-tasking on behalf of third parties – for instance, through the application of multi-stranded analytics to the data streams of existing surveillance cameras. Something else the future is certain to bring us is an increased level of automation.

The future is going to present electronic security people with opportunities, as well as serious challenges around issues like cyber security. Something to keep front of mind is the open-ness of global networks. In the U.S. the FCC is planning to roll back net neutrality, a move that would disadvantage smaller firms by allowing paid prioritisation and throttling of services – not appealing if you’re streaming video as a service.

Is the future really so uncertain? Simon Torok and Paul Holper’s book, Imagining the Future, predicts invisibility, immortality, robot servants and flying cars. It also makes some cogent points. In 1900, human knowledge doubled each 100 years, now it nearly doubles every year and by 2020 it may double every day. On the strength of these projections, Torok and Holper argue that when today’s primary school children hit the workforce they will be using technologies that have not yet been invented.

So, what might our future be? What’s certain is that the future of electronic security will be magnified and constrained by the underlying technologies that support it and those technologies are undergoing almost unimaginable expansion. Simply, the solutions of the future will be near zero latency, blindingly fast and managed from anywhere using any secure connected interface. They won’t be constrained by location – the concept of a corporate enterprise solution will become redundant as users of all sizes seek to federate the core technologies in their lives.

By John Adams