Honeywell’s Drew Aitken explores the shift towards connectivity


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International Security Journal hears from Drew Aitken, Senior Sales Manager, Europe, Honeywell.

Intruder alarms are a staple of modern buildings; so much so that the idea of a standalone alarm is quickly becoming archaic.

Today’s intrusion systems are integrated into the infrastructure of smart buildings, where they can benefit security professionals with a wealth of new security data.

In this exclusive interview, Honeywell’s Drew Aitken speaks to International Security Journal about how the market is shifting to connectivity.

How has intruder alarm technology been developing in recent years?

Due to the increased use of connected devices, manufacturers have been continuously developing more cloud connected solutions.

This movement away from standalone intrusion devices is one of the biggest shifts the industry has experienced in roughly 20 years.

However, the terms ‘connected’ and ‘cloud’ can still be interpreted very differently.

It is easy for companies to say they have a cloud connected solution if their product connects to a server or an app, but this does not necessarily mean the solution is reliable, secure or even scalable.

As a result, it can be challenging for some in the industry to deliver reliable solutions that also stand out from those falsely marketed as cloud connected.

It can also damage the perception of the cloud as a tool to support security systems.

The uncertainty towards the cloud is demonstrated in many markets.

For example, I visited an experienced customer outside of the UK who expressed their hesitation towards a cloud connected solution, due to their perception of the cloud’s insecure nature.

Even though cloud connected solutions have the potential to be amongst the most secure and reliable, the customer felt negatively towards this approach as they did not want to be associated with others who have not properly integrated with the cloud.

As such, it became clear that one issue the industry is facing is not pertaining to cloud technology or architecture, but rather the way some companies are adopting a cloud-based approach.

Unfortunately, if unreliable solutions continue to be introduced, end user’s expectations will not be satisfied and, perhaps more seriously, their organisation’s IT infrastructure would be susceptible to cybersecurity breaches.

For this reason, it is important that we are not only delivering secure solutions, but from an industry standard perspective, we also need to be setting an example of what a secure, connected solution looks like.

What are the main challenges that security professionals are facing in terms of intruder detection?

One of the main challenges professionals are facing in today’s industry is that the products that have been sold in the past have not been designed for a connected, cybersecure world.

Compared to organisations’ IT infrastructures, many intrusion systems have not been updated in line with developments in the latest technology and advanced cyber-attacks.

As such, this transition is perhaps the most noticeable transformation the industry has experienced in a long time.

From an installer’s perspective, they are facing issues in that they need to change many of their employees’ skill sets – from traditional experience involving physical tools to that of digital experts.

As with many other industries, the availability of skilled labour has become increasingly challenging for companies to source.

Another challenge the industry is facing is the capability of new solutions to be able to connect to an organisation’s existing infrastructure, from a software and IT point of view.

Historically, security systems such as intrusion detection and access control operated independently to fulfil distinct functions.

As such, it was often not a consideration for manufacturers or end users whether or not the systems could exchange information or interact. That’s no longer the case.

Security infrastructure must now be able to communicate data effectively, which involves open communication protocols and compatible data formats.

Over time, we will reach a point where interoperability is the norm, but we are currently still in the transitory stage.

Additionally, given the steep increase in ransomware attacks over recent years, organisations are finding it challenging to deliver intrusion solutions that meet their cybersecurity requirements.

How can security professionals get the most out of their intruder alarm systems?

Intrusion technology is still important; however, it is now a more integral part of a smart building rather than a standalone solution.

Through intrusion systems being integrated as part of a smart building’s larger infrastructure, there are multiple benefits for security professionals.

When arriving at a building, facial recognition technology, frictionless access or mobile credentials will enable employees to be granted access to the parts of buildings they require.

Similarly, when an employee leaves, the building will have the capability to re-secure itself.

Once this technology is integrated and can work without any interaction, the system is learning and becomes intuitive to what’s happening around it.

This will enable managers to run buildings much more efficiently as less people are needed for the building to function.

As such, intrusion technology is becoming an important part of how smart buildings operate daily.

Rather than a standalone intrusion system, we are seeing a shift towards intrusion technology that can be integrated, which is something security professionals should have in mind when considering their buildings’ overall security.

With more security systems digitising, how are they integrating into the broader security mix?

With standalone intrusion systems becoming obsolete, solutions now need to be compatible with an enterprise’s entire infrastructure, ideally with the cloud as an intermediary.

This is the fastest and most secure way to develop an integrated, reliable solution for the end user which meets their expectations.

For example, the security system now needs to be compatible with the environmental control system, the access control system, and, in some cases, even HR systems.

If you have a system in place whereby employees need a card to access the building, offices or even to arm the building when they’re leaving, it is important to have a system in place where everything is linked together in one accessible place.

Ideally, end users would present their phone which would grant them access to disarm the building and allow them entry into parts of the building, without setting off alarms.

From a cybersecurity perspective, it is important for systems to be integrated with one another.

Where intrusion systems used to be installed and left to do their job, systems now need to be installed, connected to the cloud and updated on a monthly or annual basis with a cybersecurity patch or update.

It is important that intrusion systems are maintained regularly so they remain correctly integrated with the cloud and secure from security breaches.

Cybersecurity is a moving target and systems that are integrated in an IT infrastructure need to be able to evolve. This is a key element of the evolution of the intrusion system.

Which trends do you expect to emerge in the market in the coming years?

Within the intrusion industry, there is a trend towards connected solutions.

Commercial customers, such as offices, retail outlets and hospitals, to name a few, are becoming ever more interested in being able to gain access to their information anywhere, at any time.

This need for remote management has been highlighted faster due to COVID-19, which left many businesses without the means to control their sites from home.

The lack of connectivity put a lot of pressure on businesses as they were not able to grant access to utilities personnel without an employee being physically on-site to let them in.

Although this issue would have been recognised eventually, the pandemic brought the problem to the surface at a much faster pace.

The industry is also seeing a shift in end user expectations because of consumer expectations.

Most consumers now expect to receive data immediately through smart devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

Due to the evolving digital landscape, with virtually everything we touch generating some form of data, consumers have been conditioned to expect instantaneous information through their devices at any time.

As a result, commercial end users now also have these same expectations.

Whereas an intrusion system would previously have consisted of an alarm that could be set each day and notify the police if triggered, users now expect something entirely different.

Commercial end users now want to know an array of information such as when their sites have opened, if they are secure and if deliveries have been made without breaching the site’s overall security.

They want all of this information to be delivered to them, remotely, within seconds of opening an app. No longer is a standalone intrusion system the expectation of end users.

The end user’s expectation has now shifted to wanting an intrusion system that is part of a bigger security infrastructure that provides them with relevant information, helping them to manage their business and premises more efficiently.

As manufacturers, we now need to develop secure solutions that can not only be integrated within an organisation’s existing infrastructure but solutions that meet each user’s differing needs.

These emerging trends for connected solutions and quick access to information go hand in hand with one another.

Manufacturers now have to develop a solution that is connected to the cloud if they are to provide end users with the data they need.

1-ISJ- Honeywell's Drew Aitken explores the shift towards connectivity
Drew Aitken, Senior Sales Manager, Europe, Honeywell
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