Dan DunkelWhy Network Advancements Will Kill the 7 Year Product Cycle

by Dan Dunkel - President, New Era Associates

Published in Today's Systems Integrator

I recently picked up an interesting book titled "50 Years from Today; 60 of the World's Greatest Minds Share Their Vision of the Next Half Century" by Mike Wallace. It is a quick and interesting read that touches on everything form global population trends to nanotechnology. For example, Ray Kurzwell, a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, said, "You can't predict the future, but the overall progression of information technology is remarkably predictable." This started me thinking about the next 3 to 7 years (never mind the next 50) and how the integrator channel can position their businesses by studying one indicator: network technology.

The accelerating rate of bandwidth capacity, speed and lower pricing is a trend that will never reverse. (Just look at the home market in the last few years.) As this technology progresses, more and more security applications go digital and interoperate. These "networked" solutions will morph into "software as a service" models. The recurring revenue plan is where we are headed as an industry. Simultaneous to this happening, some integrators (and old school manufacturers) make the mistake of "staying the course," heads in the sand. They continue supporting their "valued" customers by mistakenly selling only proprietary products with 7-year life cycles.

The problem is the pace of technical change is proceeding so fast that it will overpower the economics of their customers' next buying decision. Integrators will become victims of their own 7-year product cycle. By 2014, the buying criteria will have changed to network-centric operating efficiency and ROI. Unfortunately for the old-school integrator, those proprietary products were not protected from falling price points, eroding margins or mass-market competition. This trend accelerated also. They did not get "network religion" fast enough through education and cross-channel partnering.

Looking ahead, mass deployments are on the horizon. One new advancement with a lasting impact will be IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), which brings the benefit of improved mobility with secure auto-configuration of addresses. This makes seamless communication between networks a reality. Network addresses, or lack thereof, is the reason for IPv6 in the first place. IPv4 addresses will become exhausted in the next 2-4 years. Sensors in networks will embed intelligence into materials and devices that populate our environment to quickly share information. RFID tags will increasingly monitor shipments and individual items (people) and leverage GPS. Web 2.0 advances and social networking collectives will promote new security solutions all driven forward by this advancing intelligent network engine.

The network dynamic is changing the entire business model for the integrator community (physical security and IT). In order to embrace the new security solutions that intelligent networks will require, integrators in both camps need to embrace cross training efforts. The network is moving faster then our individual abilities to keep pace.

I recently asked over 100 integrators, manufacturers and end-users what skills both IT and physical security integrators need to provide the converged security solutions customers would demand in the future. Scott Schafer, senior VP of Pelco, made an interesting point,
"Partnering will accelerate as more real enterprise and multi-location systems are requested and deployed. Broader use of wired and wireless networks in these security applications will bring cross channel partnering faster."

Faster - now that is something I hope innovative integrators in both camps can agree upon. The security industry needs to accelerate cross training. The network will not wait, the days of 7-year product deployments are behind us, and end-users now demand cost effective open and networked security solutions.

Can you provide them?