Physical Security and the API Economy

Forbes Magazine hailed 2017 as “The Year of the API Economy.” If you’re not following this important trend, what you need to know is that APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have become the new medium of customer interaction in the cloud era. By simplifying data interactions between companies, APIs amplify the benefits of cloud computing a hundred fold. They drive consumption, open new business models, and foster cross-industry partnerships.  

Call it the sharing economy for applications.

And it’s expanding at nearly 20% per year. This growth comes from companies like Amazon Web Services, whose APIs connect millions of virtual servers to the real world and enable AWS to thrive as the largest public cloud provider in the world. It comes from companies like Google and Facebook, whose APIs help capture one-fifth of all global advertising dollars last year. And it comes from the APIs that thousands of smaller companies have built into their products in every imaginable vertical.   

So, how is the API economy doing in physical security?

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Danger, Will Robinson

Sci-fi fans and Netflix junkies across the galaxy have welcomed the 2018 release of a rebooted Lost in Space featuring an all new cast, including a vastly upgraded robot sidekick for young Will Robinson. His signature warning, “Danger, Will Robinson,” has been immortalized in the annals of fictional space travel but really has a home in our own world of physical security.

The nameless robot is, of course, a robot, but what usually escapes mention is that it is clearly also possessed of many skills that look like what passes for AI today: vision, language, deductive reasoning, and more than a hint of cognitive abilities. All of these are, not coincidentally, a prescription for what we would like out of our future security systems.

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Mobile Credentials are the New UX

Smartphones have changed the way we do business in virtually every industry that touches the Internet—which is now virtually every industry on the planet. Commercial security is no exception, but until recently the primary impacts have been on the way that systems are administered, with mobile platforms taking over the functions previously performed from the desktop. With the advent of mobile credentials, smartphones are beginning to change the security experience for those who come and go from the buildings and public spaces we aim to protect.  And as they are changing the products that make this new age of electronic security possible, they will also change the relationships among manufacturers, integrators, and end users.

Mobile credentials are revolutionary not simply because they provide greater convenience and security than cards and fobs—although they do a great job on both counts.  They are revolutionary because for the first time we are placing interactive applications in the hands of the people who use our buildings—tenants, employees, visitors, support staff, and everyone else who walks through a door or a turnstile. This one fact has the potential to dramatically change the dynamics between the securers and the secured.

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IoT in Physical Security

Business and technology analysts are in unanimous agreement that the number of IoT devices will explode into the many 10’s of billions within the next five years. These billions of new computing devices will produce enormous volumes of data about ourselves, our society, and our physical environment.

The security industry is at ground zero of this upheaval. In fact, the single largest group of consumer IoT devices being deployed today is for home automation and residential security.  Gartner estimates that the typical family home could contain more than 500 devices by 2022. Commercial applications are not far behind, and they will dramatically enhance our ability to analyze, predict, and react to conditions in our environment.

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Yes, Cloud Is Inevitable, Even in Security

On February 11, Netflix announced the complete migration all IT infrastructure to the Amazon Web Services cloud. Yes—all of it.  100%. Every single IT function—hundreds of them—including billing, customer and employee data management, analytics, big data, video transcoding, and even their “special sauce” algorithms for user recommendations.

Mind you, Netflix is the single largest bandwidth user on the Internet, accounting for over 38% of all traffic during peak evening hours. If they find it advantageous to use a shared cloud service, shouldn’t security buyers at least be considering this option? Are any of us operating at even a fraction of their scale? Can we achieve better TCO, or cyber security, or staffing efficiency on our own?

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