The Cyber and Real Worlds of Security

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One of the intriguing elements of this piece, which was posted in The Deal and reposted at CNET, is the subtext that IP tools are leading to a transformation of the physical security industry.


All online security has both electronic and physical elements. The difference is that in the lion's share of cases, an IT department's ultimate aim is to guard the electronic network. Biometric software, for instance, gauges physical attributes. But it most often is used to ensure that the person accessing the computer or network is properly credentialed. This story -- and the trends it ably describes -- focuses on using digital and IP techniques to protect the physical safety of a premise.


The catalyst is the ugly specter of September 11. The crux of the piece is that big telecommunications vendors -- including IBM, EMC, HP and Cisco -- are moving into the sector. The writer says that after a period in which venture capital funding flowed, it appears that an era of consolidation is upon us.


It indeed does seem to be a very active market. An analyst says it is being over-hyped. We are not trained in the financial calculations that distinguish a real but over-extended market from one that is progressing at a more realistic pace. We'd suggest, however, that leveraging advanced digital and IP-based tools to enhance physical security is a horizontal market that will dip down into specific verticals and, overall, be a growing element of the overall security infrastructure.


The writer does a nice job of describing the niches in the sector: high-definition digital cameras; gear that digitizes inputs from the analog cameras that dominate the deployed base; and software that links cameras to various storage, servers, recorders and other devices. Many companies are mentioned. More information on one of the main deals -- Cisco's acquisition of BroadWare -- can be found in this San Jose Mercury piece.


Ironically, some of the most exciting things in information technology seem to be happening on the physical security front. The challenges show why it's such as an intriguing area: How, for instance, can a single image be found amidst days of surveillance video? How can that image be enhanced in order to provide the necessary data? How can important information based on those images be most efficiently and quickly disseminated, perhaps in crisis situations in which the normal telecommunications platforms are compromised?


Cisco, HP and the other vendors are well aware of the money that will be made by those that come up with the best answers. For the rest of us, the most important takeaway is that the world of corporate security will increasingly mix cyber and real-world elements.