Predicting future technology and consumer trends is an inaccurate science, even more so than predicting the outcome of elections! What makes it harder is the fact that the best solutions don’t always survive and prosper in the evolution of technology. Adam Stroud of Paxton gives us his thoughts on the current hot-topics that are forming the product development direction at the company.
Smartphones and wearable technology
Those clever little things we carry around in our pockets now have the ability to transform the way security systems work. More specifically, the way we are ‘identified’ at various locations around a building in order to make things happen. Whether that be opening a door, or something much more fancy.
Using smart devices as user credentials, opens up a world of opportunities for reader technology. Firstly, because you have a battery powered credential, you don’t necessarily need power at the reader, flipping convention on its head. This gives rise to the possibility of extremely low cost, easy to install ‘readers’ that can be used in ways not currently imagined. There are a great many places in a building where it may be useful to identify people but the current high cost of RFID readers (including installation) means they are only used when absolutely necessary, in places such as access controlled doors. Secondly, Bluetooth Smart technology has a variable range and so a tiny battery powered reader can be configured to work at close proximity (20cm), or over a long range (10m) for entry into a car park for example.
Another interesting development in smartphones is the ubiquity of biometric fingerprint scanners. Rather than force customers to pay for expensive fingerprint readers outside every door, security manufacturers can utilise the technology users are already carrying.
The big energy sappers in most buildings are heating, lighting and air conditioning. To ensure maximum efficiency we have to tackle this challenge in two ways. Firstly, ensure that appliances are switched off when not required. Secondly, ensure that we have energy efficient equipment installed in our buildings (LED lighting for example, represents a massive saving).
Whilst changing existing infrastructure like lighting or heating can be very costly, making sure things are turned off when not required doesn’t have to be. Employing a building intelligence system can control the lighting level, temperature and much more based on the presence of people. Rather than relying on clumsy mechanisms such as PIR detectors, a building intelligence system can utilise information fed directly from the movement of people through access controlled doors. This offers a high level of control and flexibility that can be simple to install and very cost effective. In many cases, the system can pay for itself in just a couple of years, based on the savings in energy consumption.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT simply refers to a wide range of electronic devices being connected to the internet. This includes light bulbs, door locks, security cameras, thermostats, radiators … the list goes on – if it’s installed in a building and uses electricity, there’s likely to be somebody somewhere making sure it’s going to be connectable in the near-future.
What’s the point? This is surely the most relevant question. The more devices talk to one another and share information, the more intelligently they can act. If an appropriate building intelligence system is employed, to make sense of all the data, then the future building will be far more secure, convenient for the people within, and energy efficient. There are various apps available today to control lighting, heating, alarm systems etc. These tend to be single function apps that, while interesting and useful in some cases, tend to lose their appeal after a few days. I believe that, as the ubiquity of connected devices increases, this will further the consolidation of security and building automation systems in the residential and mid-market. This new wave of building intelligence systems will unleash the true potential of a fully connected world, giving exceptional benefits to customers.
The user experience – simplicity always wins
The internet has made the acquisition of knowledge (and pseudo-knowledge) incredibly easy, in fact YouTube is now one of the most popular instructional search tools.
One of my favourite examples of technology providing greater, un-asked for, levels of simplicity is in relation to television. The humble Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) was a fantastic and very successful product. Rather than the nation having to tune in all at the same time to watch their favourite programme, they could record the show, go about their business and watch it at their convenience. Then along comes Sky+ and instantly makes VCR redundant. No more tapes, no more complex programming, just find what you want on the schedule and click record. Sky+ and others like it represented a step towards simplicity for the user whilst achieving exactly the same root requirement…but there was another development just around the corner. Internet based on-demand services like Netflix now make the world’s TV available to us whenever we want. The same user requirement is being fulfilled but advances in technology (originally developed for purposes other than the broadcast industry) have allowed for a far more convenient and elegant solution.
All of this leads to the unassailable fact that in times of rapid technical change there are countless opportunities to radically improve how we meet the core-requirements of building security. Customer expectations change very quickly and unless manufacturers innovate and re-invent, we’ll find ourselves trying to sell VCRs in a world of on-demand streaming.
Don’t you just love a good buzzword? Talked about a lot, understood less, buzzwords can take on a life of their own and become a goal in their own right.
Having said that, cloud hosted systems have a lot going for them. By hosting the customer’s data on the internet, it is backed up and available from anywhere (as long as you have internet connection). This makes remote management easier and is also a good architecture for systems with many sites. In the US, cloud-hosting is regarded with much less suspicion than in the UK. In the same way that we have all become comfortable with internet shopping, I believe that over time, cloud hosted systems will be become a fully embraced and mainstream architecture for security systems. Customers will be offered the choice of cloud or local hosting, dependant on their requirements.