December 5, 2023
Najave Software Utility

Why IoT Matters in Physical Security

What is IoT and why does it matter? Getting a right answer to this question means understanding how cloud, cybersecurity, unification, and AI can impact the success of your IoT journey.

Source: Genetec, E-mail:

Did you know that there will be a projected 30 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices in use by 2030? That’s nearly a threefold increase from the IoT installed in 2020 – and that’s a conservative estimate according to others in the industry who believe it could happen sooner.

When it comes to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Precedence Research says the global market will reach a value of $1.74 trillion USD by 2030. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 20.47% from 2022 to 2030.

Connecting sensors and systems from all areas of business, whether physical security, operations, or building infrastructure, has become the catalyst for big efficiency gains and new business insights. Because of this, implementing IIoT devices has not only become a critical business strategy, but a launchpad into a digital transformation journey.

In this article, you’ll discover the top trends that are making it easier and safer to bring all your data together and generate meaningful outcomes. And you’ll learn some real-life examples of how organizations today use their connected Industrial Internet of Things sensors to get more from their investments.

What is IoT?

The Internet of Things, or IoT for short, represents the convergence of various sensors, devices, software, applications, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with each other over the internet or other networks. IoT is a networked ecosystem of physical objects that are embedded with capabilities to communicate, sense, and interact with other connected technologies in the environment.

 What’s the difference between IoT and IIoT?

While IoT generally relates to consumer-based connected devices, Industrial IoT (IIoT) is focused on device connectivity across a business to gain efficiencies and support operations. In this article, we’ll be focusing the discussion on IIoT and how connected systems and devices are benefitting businesses.

Today, many organizations are implementing IIoT strategies to achieve specific business outcomes. For example, some businesses are merging video surveillance and access control systems with lighting and HVAC solutions to enhance automation, reduce energy consumption, and meet sustainability mandates. They’re looking closely at building management systems and building automation.

What is Industry 4.0?

Smart manufacturing and IIoT are also paving a strong path forward for what’s now termed the Internet of Things Industry 4.0. It’s a concept that marries production and operations with intelligence devices, big data, and artificial intelligence models to create a more holistic view of the business and drive smarter decisions.

Other organizations are also unifying various systems to gain more insights into their security, services, and daily operations. With that information, they’re finding new ways to become more resilient, improve processes, and enhance their customers’ experience. While these IIoT initiatives seem more prevalent today, forward-thinking organizations have long understood the value of bringing their systems and IIoT devices together.

How the cloud and other key trends move IIot forward

Though IIoT has always been steadily growing, the recent health crisis accelerated digital transformation on a global scale. As more people began working from home, businesses needed to enable greater connectivity to applications and secure access to information from any device or location. They needed to pivot fast and implement new connected technologies to keep business moving forward.

At the same time, the launch of 5G and the growth of cloud infrastructure set the stage for more widespread IIoT initiatives. Where 5G delivers a faster, more efficient transfer of data, cloud applications offer powerful computing, data processing, and storage from the get-go. This provides an easier and more affordable pathway to expanding existing systems, launching new applications, and sharing data across departments and sites.

Even today, the cloud continues to broaden opportunities for businesses that want greater connectivity across their Internet of Things devices. And there’s so much more flexibility in deploying new solutions while bringing all their existing investments into the IIoT environment.

For example, new cloud-connected infrastructure appliances are streamlining the transition to a hybrid-cloud architecture. This allows IT and physical security professionals to upgrade their security infrastructure and expand connectivity to various devices, data, and locations, all while keeping legacy sensors.

So where legacy equipment may have held organizations back from launching new IIoT strategies, these plug-and-play cloud appliances are bridging the gap and helping them modernize their installations. Today, cloud solutions are making it simpler, more affordable, and even more secure to bring systems and data together, and make all of it accessible from any location.

Is cloud the best way to reinforce IIoT cybersecurity?

One of the biggest concerns for organizations is IIoT cybersecurity. Why is strong cybersecurity essential for IIoT? Because as the number of connected devices increases, so do the risks for cyberattacks and data breaches. There’s no question that an organization’s main goal is to extract as much value from all the connected sensors. But the most successful outcomes also depend on how well they can build and maintain strong cybersecurity and data privacy.

Though the cloud is a main catalyst in IIoT, the long-held belief that the cloud isn’t secure simply isn’t true. In today’s world, keeping systems safe from threats is costly and complex. Usually, it requires dedicated resources, large budgets, and relentless diligence. With the right cloud solution, organizations can get many built-in cybersecurity features and tools that help automate processes and stay on top of threats.

Choosing solutions built on tier-one cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure can enhance cyber resilience. These cloud service providers invest significant amounts of time and resources in cybersecurity, upholding various standards and certifications around the world. Dedicated teams also monitor the latest threats and initiate regular third-party penetration testing and auditing. This means organizations can get a more cyber-resilient foundation across their IIoT applications.

With cloud-connected solutions, IT and security professionals get immediate access to the latest version updates and fixes. You’ll also get many built-in cybersecurity features such as encryption, authentication, privacy controls, and various system health monitoring tools. All of this helps to quickly address issues and strengthen the organization’s cyber posture.

Migrating to cloud platforms also helps IT and physical security professionals streamline maintenance. For instance, your team no longer needs to travel to various locations to manage infrastructure, handle updates, or check system health. Using the cloud, you can centralize connectivity to all your devices, systems, and sites. This allows you to monitor IIoT cybersecurity and ensure everything is hardened and running at peak performance.

How unification and advances in analytics help businesses make sense of the data

Connecting hundreds or even thousands of sensors in your environment can only benefit your team if they have the tools to make sense of the data coming in. This is why investing in an open architecture platform is critical. With an open and unified platform, you can bring data from various types of sensors and systems into one single solution. This creates a solid foundation on which you can keep expanding your IIoT initiatives.

For instance, you might start by combining your video, access control, and intrusion systems into one platform. Doing this will provide your security personnel with a clearer picture of events and enable them to quickly respond to threats and incidents within the environment.

From there, you might bring in other business systems such as intercom, building management, point-of-sale, or automatic license plate recognition. Having all these sensors drive data into one single platform gives your team a better understanding of what’s happening across your business. You’ll also be able to achieve higher levels of automation by setting up event-to-actions, scheduling weekly and daily reports, or using built-in APIs to build custom applications.

Built-in analytics and artificial intelligence methods such as machine learning and deep learning are also shaping new possibilities in IIoT. Choosing a unified platform that includes AI-powered analytics can open the door to endless business opportunities. From motion detection and directional flow analytics to people counting and crowd estimation tools, there are countless ways these AI tools can help you gather more insights about your security and business processes.

More than that, these new AI methods can go beyond alerting your team to crowds gathering in a specific location so they can take action. They help qualify all the data coming in and weed out probable false alarms so your team stays focused on the most pressing situations. And depending on what’s unfolding, an AI-powered platform can also guide them through response to resolution, ensuring they can confidently handle any situation.

Think this sounds too good to be true? Now, let’s look at five examples of how real businesses are making use of their connected IIoT environment to enhance their security and operations

Automating HVAC airflow in airports based on crowd levels

Airports welcome millions of passengers through their facilities every day. And depending on daily flight schedules, crowds can form quickly in certain areas. Ensuring proper airflow throughout the airport is critical, especially when lots of people are condensed in security lines, at gates, or in specific terminal wings. The challenge is that running HVAC systems at full throttle all the time isn’t cost or energy efficient.

At an airport in Canada, the operations team was able to leverage video surveillance and crowd estimation analytics to better control airflow in various areas throughout the airport. For example, if their unified security platform detected a crowd forming in a specific area, the system would trigger the HVAC airflow in that zone to increase. When the crowd would subside, so would the airflow. This has not only helped to reduce energy costs and keep sustainability practices in check, but they’re also ensuring better quality air for their passengers during busier travel times.

Using sound detection in restrooms to monitor safety and operations

Video surveillance is very helpful to detect threats across university campuses, schools, or offices. But for obvious reasons, cameras cannot be installed in sensitive areas such as bathrooms. Some schools have found that implementing sound detection in bathrooms solves that problem.

For example, sound detection IoT devices can detect certain keywords such as ‘help’. Within the unified platform, this would alert operators to a possible incident. They could then dispatch security personnel to check in on the situation. Janitors completing cleaning rounds in bathrooms can also say ‘cleaning done’. The unified platform would then log the completion of cleaning, digitizing janitorial processes.

Detecting illegal dumping across a city

Cities often have trouble managing illegal dumping activities. It’s difficult to detect the actual dumping incident and even harder to deter or identify suspects. Recently, the City of New Orleans (NOLA) took an innovative approach to address illegal dumping. NOLA’s Sanitation Department and Real-Time Crime Center worked in partnership to install cameras at known dumping sites, but the cameras alone weren’t enough.

The team also set up an event-to-action rule in the Security Center platform which processes motion detection in a defined zone of the camera’s field of view, and then immediately takes a snapshot of the video and emails it to specific people. Within two days of setting this event-to-action up, NOLA was able to identify and arrest a repeat offender.

Identifying temperatures in server rooms or hospital medicine rooms

Many organizations are managing large server rooms which house critical systems and data. Keeping these server rooms cool ensures investments are protected and business runs as usual. Hospitals face similar requirements in keeping certain medication rooms cool to ensure critical drugs don’t spoil.

One way to track temperatures for these specific applications is by installing air temperature sensors in these rooms. So if a cooling system fails and temperatures begin rising or even reach a specific threshold, your team will be immediately alerted.

In some cases, this might have nothing to do with an HVAC failure but because someone accidentally left a door propped open. This is where having all data unified within one platform comes into play. The system would be able to quickly detect, both the door ajar for too long and a rise in room temperature, and quickly identify that it’s likely an urgent situation and push all that information to an operator. They can then investigate and remediate the situation. They can also quickly identify who was last in the room based on cardholder information, and follow up with additional protocols.

Automating building controls to enhance sustainability efforts

Building management systems and building automation are important components in IIoT. According to new sustainability research in physical security, 42% of organizations have their access control system linked to their building management system. Another 35% use the data from their access control system to drive greener operations.

For instance, customers can use standard protocols in Security Center to automatically activate heating, cooling, lighting, and other building functions at the tap of an access control card to a reader. So when the first employee enters the building or office using their mobile credentials or access card, the unified platform would trigger the heating or cooling to reach the desired temperature and the main lights to automatically turn on.

An automatic license plate recognition system can also be set up in the same way. So when the first vehicle is detected entering a parking lot, the building functions are activated.

Start bringing all your IIoT sensors together

 Organizations have so many IIoT devices in their environment, so it only makes sense that many are exploring new ways to leverage the data. But with cybersecurity top of mind and endless possibilities to offer, it’s not always easy to find the best path forward.

Working with a vendor that you can trust is critical. Not only will they offer your organization the tools to keep your data private and protected; but they can also help you assess your current environment, build a phased roadmap, and guide you through the process of achieving your IoT objectives.

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