Industry Analysis Section

I purposely avoided Shakespeare at school all those years ago because it seemed irrelevant to me and my adolescent dreams of a career at the cutting edge of technology. But now I find myself turning to his works for a shortened quotation that feels appropriate here.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…..On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures."

Let's take his metaphor a little further and appreciate why the security industry needs IIPSEC right now.

As ever, we should expect that a few of the folks who battle the winter weather to come to Birmingham are only here to escape the drudgery of the office for a day. Notwithstanding barflies, we should be very excited about the fact that the vast majority of visitors, exhibitors and conference delegates are here because they are keen to see this rising tide for themselves. I guess that many are concerned about missing a place in the next flotilla of pioneering ships that are about to set sail with their friends, colleagues and competitors on board. Not surprisingly, their hesitation is born of a natural fear of setting off into unknown waters where today's best cartographers and futurologists know no better than to write 'Here be dragons' on the charts.

Christopher Columbus probably had dragons marked on the edges of his charts too, but they didn't dampen his enthusiasm for pressing on to discover fertile new territory. However, we IIPSEC visitors should not delude ourselves into thinking that all fearless pioneers are triumphant and are celebrated with bronze statues. Far from it. The majority perished ignominiously because they were ill-equipped, unfortunate or just misguided by the hypnotic call of the World's next gold rush.

It is my contention that IIPSEC deserves to flourish because of the vast vacuum left by the industry hype that preceded its conception. I do not apologize for using the word 'hype' as we have seen this form of frenzy creation in other tech spheres whether it be for Digital Broadcast TV, WAP and 3G telephones, interactive TV shopping or any other 'be there or be square' aspect of modern life. It will be hailed a success because people have a genuine curiosity about the ability of the IP technology to deliver on promises that are being made by those who wish to profit from it and float higher on Shakespeare's tide.

It's part of human nature to harbour fears, uncertainties and doubts when tasked with making decisions of great consequence. Some people prefer to 'go with the gut' while others suffer the paralysis of analysis and defend it by calling it due diligence. It should not escape our attention that the big-guns from the previously separate IT sector envisage possibilities so numerous that they are coming to see it for themselves. To touch, hear and smell it too, and to see competitive solutions lined up side-by-side, and to discuss these with other people whose opinions they respect while the thoughts and impressions are fresh in their minds.

Here is a chance to gather useful knowledge beyond the isolation of a one-on-one sales presentation or a press article read over a lunchtime sandwich. Decisions about digital technology should surely be logical, like the machines themselves, but we've all seen Betamax/VHS and Windows/Mac wars enough to know that backing the right horse is like trying to predict the weather three years from now.

Most of us mere mortals are not consistently capable of such feats, and it is of concern to me that a great number of people seem to simplify the conundrum by accepting the longstanding marketing team chant "Digital good. Analogue bad." It seems today that anything without 'Digital' plastered on the case or the accompanying glossy brochure is laughably old-tech and only useful for wedging the door open on a hot day. Analogue cameras and vcr's now rarely hit the marketplace without this requisite label adhered with tenuous justification. Mobile phones, televisions, hi-fi all get the same marketing boost. Digital kettle anyone?

The reason that this riles me is because the valuable differentiation between Analogue and Digital techniques is being eradicated by the marketing men for no reason that contributes to a better understanding by the customer. In fact, it is to the ultimate detriment of the digital technology shown at IIPSEC because our now jaded palettes are desensitised to some of its genuinely unique attributes and capabilities. Let's not forget that some things are better implemented in analogue form. Your dog for one. Can you honestly say that you'd rather have a silver plastic one that eats four AA-cells a day? Most blokes would be rather embarrassed to tell you that they have a digital girlfriend. The D-word doesn't always attract admiring glances. Let's not delude ourselves into thinking that IIPSEC contains the only viable solutions to your security needs but, for sure, the digital techniques do offer possibilities hitherto uneconomic in the analogue world.

The work that I carried out last year to investigate Total Cost of Ownership specifically for common CCTV systems showed that the advantages of the 'competing' analogue and digital techniques are shared between both camps and that a choice of a solution should only be made after all factors have been summed and the results weighed against each other. Unless your planned application has a particular overriding constraint that simply precludes one of the technologies, the answers to the Finance Director's questions about long-term cost of ownership can only be addressed after all contributory factors have been evaluated. That's what my software (freely distributed by IndigoVision and featured on CCTV Today magazine) was designed to take the sweat out of doing. It does not pretend to be rocket-ship science, merely a help with the donkey work that deters most folks from completing this particular leg of the journey.

Most of us have grown up and learned our trade in the analogue world and our gut feel has developed accordingly, but my studies showed that the old wet-finger-held-in-the-breeze estimates can be surprisingly off in some circumstances, and valuable opportunities can easily be overlooked by those stalwarts whose experience is longer than the period through which I've been consuming hot dinners. While the work carried out was a preliminary study, and many refinements have been recognized since its creation almost a year ago, it can still be put in the hands of a suitably trained person and used to show where the brave new world on show at IIPSEC can compete with the comfy old slippers of the 'traditional' analogue world that will be with us for many years to come.

Let's not forget that the old and the new should not be having to battle it out. Surely we're all looking for the best way to get the job done, and we'll choose the best elements to do it. Now let me hear you all chant, "Digital good. Analogue good." Things are evolving as the tide swells before our eyes. The security industry cannot hold back change. The only place on this Earth you won't get change is from a pay & display machine in a car park. Have a great show, and prosper from it.

Simon Lambert is principal of Lambert & Associates, independent security consultants, and will speak at the IIPSEC conference. He is a council member of the Association of Security Consultants. Contact

© Simon D. Lambert 2003