While at the ASIAL Security Expo in Sydney’s Darling Harbour in June 2017, HID Global conducted a high-level roundtable discussion with some of Australia’s top security consultants, in an effort to better understand the top-line issues facing our rapidly-evolving industry. Hosted by John Bigelow from Security Solutions, the forum covered a wide range of current topics in an attempt to harness the group’s critical thinking on pain points, solutions and proactive approaches to cutting-edge issues in the security world.
Among a host of valuable discussion points, talk kept coming back to the drive towards smart buildings and cities, and the need to be proactive rather than reactive towards emerging technologies driven by big data.
Looking first at the emergence of Smart Buildings, discussion focused initially on the definition of the term “Smart Building”, and what this phenomenon means to security professionals. A consensus was formed that, while smart buildings as a separate entity is a fairly recent term, intelligent buildings have been around since the 1990s when the need arose for greater levels of automation – and the subsequent means to achieve it.
Shane Norton from ARUP states: “Now we are using that term ‘Smart’ ubiquitously with most buildings that we’re coming across. The design requirements that we see these days requested by clients are all smart and innovative ideas, and it’s just a matter of how do we actually progress that thinking further in this day and age.”
As to what is driving the growth of the modern smart building, the equation turns to environmental factors, such as a reduced energy requirement and smaller environmental footprint. From the perspective of a security professional, the role is all about integration, and how a flexible security solution blends seamlessly across all levels of an automated, connected building.
On what needs to take place in order to achieve a seamless integration, Levi Chayboub of WSP suggested, “What we need to see is systems being able to integrate with other systems, being open and being at the cutting edge of integration. They have to be able to provide whatever security events occur in a format that is clear and understandable to a building management system that is also capable of achieving those energy reductions.”
This in turn plays into the hands of the Internet of Things (IoT) as Chayboub explains, with a rapidly increasing number of elements in building design able to ‘talk’ to one another, share data across platforms and departments, and build up a much larger, more focused picture on the liveability, security, safety and general functionality of a building or space.
“That information is seen as an asset to help building owners better manage their business, better manage their building, manage their tenants. All those things come from having that information available within those systems out there. Probably in the past it didn’t really interrelate in any way, so we find it’s just a natural evolution of the systems being able to interoperate.”
Paul Graves from Jacobs highlights the issue of open platforms not being adopted by customers due to members of the security industry being locked into proprietary systems which need to be maintained and serviced by their own company.
“This has been a roadblock for the operation of smart, integrated, truly open platform buildings and systems,” suggests Graves. “Customers want to implement new innovative platforms that can do things that their old systems can’t do, but they have to make a big decision financially to basically rip out those existing systems and put in open platform systems, which is where us, as independent consultants, can say, ‘well here are the advantages of maintaining a fully proprietary system, and on the other hand here are the advantages of opening it up, and here’s a list of products which you can get multiple companies to install, service, and maintain’.”
Big data continues to expand the ways in which systems can call on statistics and learn from the various hardware touchpoints inside a building to draw out better, safer, more environmentally efficient ways of managing a building. As described by Serra Luck from HID Global, having a connected building adds value for the building owner as well as the tenants.
“Now what we are looking for is connection. Why do we need this? Because people are looking for a service. And why do we need service? Because the building owners have realised that they could get more out of the building rather than just having the building and renting it out. Can I get more asset value out of what I have, and be more attractive to my tenants because I have a connected system that can work for them, like booking their parking place, booking their room, finding out if they are able to order food or whatever in advance. Now we see new people coming in with their applications, plugging into building management systems with services around that.”
Interoperability remains an interesting challenge to the security industry however, which is really still a long way behind the IT industry in terms of its evolution. Security is still very much working off proprietary systems, which makes a truly smart building difficult to achieve. Unless the lift controls are talking to the security system, which in turn is talking to the environmental HVAC system, which is talking to the access control system, functionality is going to be impaired. An open platform is necessary, one that allows other diverse systems to not just connect, but really work in as part of a sophisticated technology stack with each piece of the solution working in tandem, sharing data and driving proper ‘smart’, connected outcomes.
Levi Chayboub of WSP agrees: “The data, especially in the past, has generally been more reactive, then as things have evolved it allows us to become proactive. And I think with more data you can actually become predictive and really get a feel for what might be happening in the future based on trends for data. I think that’s where you’ll see those systems being interconnected, providing that benefit to the asset owners.”
Looking back to the nineteen nineties when the concept of smart buildings first began to emerge as a biproduct of the telecommunications industry, Shane Norton from ARUP recalls that circumstances, including the Global Financial Crisis, conspired to transform the smart building into a smart city, then focus in more detail on the smart occupant concept instead.
“My observation is that the vendors that were able to keep up with it saw some benefit, but as the market continued to develop you now have a scenario where those vendors must become a vendor that sits halfway between telecommunications and the security space. I think the ones that can breach that are the ones that are going to be around in the next ten years. The ones that don’t breach that and react to what’s happening in the telecommunications industry will probably be left behind.”
The concept of adding value to a building – whether that is by reducing the environmental footprint, monetising certain parts of the building’s functionality or by saving money through predictive maintenance and so forth, is not new. Saving money on certain aspects of a tenant’s occupancy or simply by streamlining essential services can increase the profit margins that a building is able to provide. However, there are more complex issues at play as well.
“I think the security function in an intelligent building or a smart building, whatever you’d like to call it, will just become an integrated piece of the architecture – of the systems that are embedded throughout the building core. It won’t be talked about in this way where we’re discussing about security needing to integrate with itself with different subsystems, and needing to integrate with other building management systems. It will already be intrinsic to the design that we embark upon,” said Chayboub.
Afiz Jabbar of NDY agrees that increased profits are not necessarily driving the rise of connected buildings: “I also think that with security, it’s difficult to put a figure on what it can save you sometimes because it’s basically an essential business function for some businesses. I think that’s where some of the change is coming through. We’ve seen security as a service through cloud, where we start moving away from cap ex investment to security becoming op ex expense. I do see security as something that does pay for itself over time. It reduces risk, and if you put a dollar figure on the risk that it reduces then, depending on the organisation’s protocols, security has a finite value.”
While IoT, connected devices and smart buildings are contributing to the sophistication and complexity of a security design brief, there is still an overriding understanding that security’s role is to act as the buffer between a building’s integrity and the business objectives of the management and tenants within.
Shane Norton concludes: “Security remains an ingredient in the bigger business resilience and business continuity that we contribute to in a small part. It’s not just about providing protective security. It’s about ensuring that those organisations that are carrying out business legitimately are able to do so and continue under a whole range of different disruptions, not just from security threats, but a number of different threat sources.”