'The internet of things' is a relatively new concept, but it is also an increasingly popular one. More and more devices are being linked up to networks and connected to each other - including security systems of all kinds - which is leading to a fundamental change in how they are used. But what is the internet of things?
The term is used to describe the fact that more and more devices are capable of connecting to wireless networks now, enabling them to link up to each other and to computers or smartphones. This means they can be monitored and used in different ways. For example, a user could remotely check the heating level in their house and turn it on or off using the internet, wherever they are.
It is easy to see how the potential for security systems is enormous. The ability to view and control devices remotely allows for a wide range of applications, and has the potential to completely change the way surveillance and access control works.
Security on the go
With the internet of things, security devices such as cameras, intruder alarm systems and smoke alarm devices can all be accessed remotely by the owner. This process allows users to access their own security devices from a computer, tablet or smartphone and be notified of events.
Video analytics can also be utilised to provide notification of unwanted activity. For example, a CCTV System might be programmed to notice human or vehicular movement in a defined area after a certain time. If something is detected, the system can send an alert directly to the user's smartphone. The user can then dismiss this if they determine there is no threat, or take further action.
Many security devices can be rigged up in this manner. Smoke alarms, access control systems, intruder alarms and more can all be used to notify you immediately to any security situation and allow you to take the appropriate actions.
The disadvantages of the new technology
However, this last step is easier said than done and preventing crime and damage is a lot harder than detecting it. "The new technology complements a professional managed service," said Alan Blake, Commercial Director for SECOM. "If you get broken into it's wonderful knowing about it and being able to see it whilst you're on the beach in Spain, but what do you actually do about it?"
This is a major flaw in the new approach to security. It requires you to be responsible for your premises wherever you are, 24 hours a day. If an alert comes to your phone at 4am while you're miles away from your home and business, can you guarantee you will notice it?
There are other considerations as well. "If you're in a 3G or 4G dead spot - such as on the London Underground, for example - and you're relying on a notification to come through to your phone, what are you going to do?" Mr Blake pointed out.
There are many other issues as well. The battery on your device could run out, for example, or you could be in an important meeting and need to have notifications turned off. In these scenarios, there will be little you can do in an emergency.
If you own a business, you can always employ a security guard to physically monitor your premises for you. However, this carries a significant cost with it. The cost of a permanent security guard can easily reach up to £40-50,000 per year.
How you can integrate the old and the new
The internet of things can be easily integrated into a traditional, managed security system, and by doing so you can eliminate a lot of its flaws. Complementing the self-monitored aspect and allowing a third party to manage the response to your security can have real positive results.
"I don't think self-managed security replaces a managed service, I think it complements it," Mr Blake added. "SECOM provides a service that utilises those remote connections, but also provides a 24-hour, year-round service to react and provide a clear response if something happens." With a managed service, SECOM will keep trying to get hold of you or your keyholder and where appropriate will contact the police if necessary.
The future of the security industry will likely see this integration happening more and more. Security guards and key-response officers will be able to respond to events as they happen thanks to alerts from smart video surveillance systems, and homeowners will benefit from security that is proactive rather than reactive. The blend of traditional security with the internet of things will have extremely positive effects for the safety of homes and businesses alike.