Making Connections

The Internet of Things and the cloud bring new functionalities to the security industry – and new risks

Mitchell Kane, Vanderbilt Industries

Connectivity worldwide is thriving. A report by Gartner forecasts that 8.4 billion connected devices will be in use worldwide in 2017, up 31 percent from 2016, and that number will reach 20.4 billion by 2020. Everything from a house’s microwave and heating/cooling system to cars and TVs is connected, leaving many to wonder: What’s next? Connectivity is a hot topic in the IT world, especially, as more and more devices communicate with each other to streamline operations.

For those in the security industry, the next frontier seems to be incorporating several ideas from the realm of connectivity: the Internet of Things (IoT), the cloud, and web-based interfaces that allow flexibility for users. But how can the industry integrate these tools into the day-to-day security operations of an organization? This article explores the challenges that users face, how those challenges can be overcome, and how the industry is coping with the emergence of these technologies.

IoT

The IoT introduces a new capacity for connectivity that is proving to be a real benefit for enterprises. At its basic level, the IoT is the concept of connecting any device with an “on/off” switch to the Internet and, in some cases, to other devices. So how does the IoT work in the realm of access control technology? Advanced connectivity through smartphones and other devices allows for a much more personalized experience by using mobile credentials, biometrics, and analytics in new and innovative ways. Smartphones and wearable technologies, such as wristbands, can be used for mobile credentials and allow access to certain sections or rooms within a building. More specifically, readers can recognize these types of devices to grant access when authorized.

A benefit of using connected devices for access control is forming a complete picture of an organization’s ingress and egress points, which can increase insight into throughput rates and traffic patterns and provide the ability to look at an individual’s usage.

Additionally, this level of connectivity through network-enabled devices allows enterprise organizations to set “rules” that can be applied depending on the time of day or day of the week, or occurrence of special events, making the possibilities of streamlined access nearly limitless.

One challenge that the IoT presents for enterprise organizations is how access control can best be implemented to encourage security and privacy. Systems integrators, dealers and security consultants play a crucial role in the deployment of access control systems that use advanced IoT-enabled devices, but businesses bear the burden of understanding and communicating best practices to end users to protect organizations from risk. How does an enterprise manage this endeavor? By adopting a user-centric design with scalability, tactical data storage and access with appropriate identification and security features. The connectivity that the IoT represents means that leaders must stay one step ahead of threats to curb their negative impact on an organization’s goals.

The Cloud and Web-Based Solutions

The cloud is a mystery to many, but it is growing in popularity, leading many companies to seriously look at ways they can utilize the tool in their own businesses. Capital investments in hardware that stores data in-house can be costly, limiting an organization’s ability to upgrade to newer, more advanced functionality as it becomes available. One advantage that the cloud offers to these businesses is the cost-effective management of data. For example, in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server that was located in their building. Now, the same kinds of applications can be run on the Internet.

Manufacturers in the security market have found ways to harness the power of the cloud to benefit end users. Cloud technology has made it possible to remotely monitor multiple locations from anywhere in the world, as long as there is an Internet connection. More specifically, cloud-based access control and video management have emerged as a solution that benefits small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that do not have the capital needed to engage advanced security solutions in-house. Instead, they rely on web-based functionality to allow security directors to manage access points, be alerted to problems and monitor ongoing incidents in an easy-to-use manner. For this kind of solution, all that is required is a browser and an Internet connection.

Cloud-based access control and video management has emerged as a solution that benefits small to medium-sized businesses that do not have the capital needed to engage advanced security solutions in-house.

In late 2014, IHS reported that the global market size for access control as a service (ACaaS), such as cloud-based access control hosted and managed solutions, would top $530 million by 2018 and $1.8 billion by 2025. This means the business strategy for manufacturers providing cloud-based services is only expected to grow in the coming years, capitalizing on the demand from end users in this burgeoning market. This is especially true in the SMB market, where many would like to adopt more comprehensive security solutions into their operations but lack the resources. ACaaS offers these entities the ability to get upgrades without having to worry about servers and IT connectivity and compatibility.

Remote monitoring through smart device applications allows organizations to eliminate the need for in-person troubleshooting. Technical queries or issues can be diagnosed and resolved on the go, delivering ultimate control to site security, which allows issues to be dealt with efficiently, minimizing disruption. For these businesses, all of this can be done without having to worry about managing the infrastructure associated with providing this level of capability.

Using a web-based platform allows oversight 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If an alarm is triggered when a security manager is at another location or has already left for the day, or if the location is difficult to access, the manager can simply take out his or her smartphone or other Internet-connected device to view the event on an app, manage the response and turn off the alarm. Remote and web-based monitoring – and the ability to offer this kind of solution in a connected world – boils down to providing ease of use and convenience to end users. Remote monitoring through cloud-based solutions saves businesses time and money while bringing peace of mind to security leaders.

One challenge the cloud faces is acceptance in the marketplace. Many end users have concerns about the security of cloud-based applications. However, the acceptance of the cloud will grow as more businesses experience the benefits of it. Very large enterprise-type users, though, may still feel more comfortable with their access control/security management system residing on the corporate network, as a result of their investment and confidence in the security of that network.

The Importance of Collaboration

With this interconnectivity comes an increased risk of security threats. One of the greatest fears related to deploying cloud-based and IP-centric solutions is their vulnerability to outsiders wishing to do harm to an organization. As a result, cybersecurity efforts can no longer be ignored as organizations continue to integrate physical security products. The possibility and severity of a data breach rises significantly as more devices are added to a network. But, as many leaders know, increased risk does not automatically mean an increase in an organization’s security budget or preparedness plans.

One solution to countering this hazard involves repurposing resources and experts that are already available: the IT department. IT professionals are already well versed in the ins and outs of a company’s computers, network and software, and they share the goal of protecting critical data and keeping outsiders out.

When a company is building or updating its security solution, attention to cyber threats is crucial. Therefore, it is critical that the IT department is pulled in to ensure proper data safety protocols are being followed.

A hack into an organization’s private information can be catastrophic, and oftentimes intruders are looking for sensitive material relating to people’s personal lives, such as Social Security numbers. Employing the help of an IT team can ensure that such data is comprehensively secured.

Additionally, IT departments can assist organizations in keeping up with new technology, such as software updates and patches, so that networks are not left vulnerable to outside threats. Technology and software are advancing every day, which leads to an expansion in the variety and intensity of cyber attacks. It is imperative to utilize a more advanced, exhaustive security plan that helps realize increased situational awareness and business intelligence.

The integration of multiple aspects of a security network into a unified system is very valuable, but it also creates more points of vulnerability. Encrypting communications between devices is therefore paramount. A single insecure structure or poor deployment can make the entire system vulnerable. IT and security teams must work together to protect each facet of a connected network to guarantee that the overall system is secure. The convenience of remote and instant access to security solutions must be weighed against the ability to keep data safe and secure from threats, and the expertise of an IT team can only strengthen the universal security of a business or enterprise organization.

Manufacturers can address the potential risks that the IoT and cloud-based solutions present by continually testing products for security vulnerabilities in order to provide a high level of confidence that the solutions are safe. Doing so bolsters consumer confidence and minimizes risk.

With technology continuing to embed itself into everyday life, it is important for the security industry to prove its agility, adaptability, and dependability in keeping up with consumer needs. Remote and instant – and secure – access to solutions helps to do just that.


Mitchell Kane (mitchellkane@vanderbiltindustries.com) is president of Vanderbilt Industries (www.vanderbiltindustries.com)

Back to Top