Cyber and Physical security have been growing much closer together in what’s referred to as security Convergence. This merging of two previously independent industries is changing how businesses are evaluating their risk potential. Security Convergence, paired with the COVID 19 pandemic, has created an environment that will force system integrators to improve their offerings as the market evolves. Exclusively focusing on installing security cameras, access control and intrusion systems will not be enough. Security integrators will need to adapt and include value-added services beyond projects and break/fix service.
Today’s businesses have such a reliance on networks; its no wonder why the focus is shifting to cybersecurity as the primary protection for the company. With thousands of attacks attempted every day, organizations need to protect their intellectual and employee data from exposure. Thus, the focus has changed from protecting the building to safeguarding the network from intrusions.
ASIS recently released an article titled The Problem with Patrolling that reviews how the FBI is monitoring for suspects online long before an incident occurs. Cyber monitoring allows the FBI to get far ahead of threats and stop them before making their move. This does not mean that physical units and controls are not in place; instead, they are used to deter and apprehend phases of an investigation. Security experts know the sooner you can detect a threat, the better you can delay and respond. Cyber monitoring has become the first layer of identifying possible threats, and physical security systems will act to delay those threats.
Additionally, the access control and video surveillance systems are now moving to the cloud, giving customers increased system reliability and uptime. Customers are also better educated on system setup, and hardware manufacturers are making devices simpler to install (Hanwha modular cameras). Many customers are now choosing to take on the more basic tasks like device installation or replacement. With advances to hardware and easy access to software, the traditional integrator’s services will begin to diminish as technology continues to advance.
These changes shouldn’t surprise anyone seeing that this happened in the early 2000s as IT repair companies gave way to managed service providers (MSPs). Did this hurt a lot of businesses, yes, but those that adapted, continued doing business albeit with a very different go to market strategy. The new MSP business model helped smaller companies keep up with their larger counterparts with a fraction of the IT budget. This created avenues for companies to strengthen their network, and to get access to technologies and services. By removing the costs associated with hiring, training, outfitting, and managing a team of network engineers, they were able to hire skilled specialists to help as their infrastructure grew.
The COVID 19 pandemic has moved this transition up significantly for the physical security industry. Numerous companies had to layoff or furlough employees, including those tasked with protecting the facility. As business starts the slow journey back toward normal, companies will be looking to mitigate as much risk as possible. Budgets will be scrutinized; companies will have to decide on what is essential to their operation. Tasks like replacing a camera or card reader can now be carried out by the security or facilities teams. For these reasons, I see the security industry moving toward the managed services business model. As the security systems we use become more complex, customers will need help keeping up with the management of these systems. Providing fractional or contracted labor will help companies reduce their employment costs and risk of overstaffing.
We saw the rash of canceled projects at the onset of the pandemic that caused many integrators to lose millions of dollars in business. Strict project base work is risky; building reliable recurring revenue will be necessary for continued growth. These changes will cause pain for many of today’s security integration companies, but the market is changing, and companies need to be prepared to change with it.