The push for standards

Will the WTC project affect the future of standards development, and other enterprise projects?
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Monday, September 12, 2011

NEW YORK—Will a marquee security project like the World Trade Center affect how enterprise-level projects are designed and implemented in the future? Or, will this project, which involves multiple manufacturers working together, translate to momentum for establishing standards in the security industry? Several of those involved in the project believe that may be the case.

“From an industry perspective, I think this project will have a major impact. It spans multiple vertical market applications,” said Kevin Engelhardt, VP and GM, Diebold Enterprise Security Systems. “It has extremely scalable, replicate-able functionality,” he added.

The project is singular in how it brought together applications that were never built to work together that were not constructed with the same protocol to operate together. “Facets of this job will be relevant to commercial Fortune 1,000 companies,” he said, who have multiple locations and multiple systems, (security, building infrastructure and more) and have need for “more than a command and control center—an enterprise wide security system.”

Engelhardt said the complexity of this kind of project will limit the competition for companies like Diebold. “Only people who understand the network capabilities and protocols will be able to succeed in this environment.”

On the question of the standards, Engelhardt believes the WTC project may have “taken down the walls a bit” in terms of some potential concerns among manufacturers about standards. When manufacturers have to “exchange playbooks” there’s naturally concern about giving away intellectual property. However, he noted that the WTC project involved lots of cooperation (perhaps an unprecedented amount of cooperation) among manufacturers and yet “the level of information they needed to share to pull off this project is not as deep as they may have thought—you don’t have to get into the bits and bytes of their applications and give away intellectual property knowledge.” And the reward of that kind of cooperation is a much more powerful security system.

Lenel, a division of UTC Fire & Security, provided enterprise-level integrated access control for the WTC project, said Christy Haycraft, national integrator manager for UTC Fire & Security. “However, many of our other divisions are providing critical pieces to the project as well. Our EST group is providing the fire alarm protection at the site,” she added.

This project differed from other projects in that “we were truly united in our strategy and processes and assisted each other in the best solution and resolution for the project,” Haycraft said. “There is tremendous power in partnering. Great things can be accomplished when resources are pooled to solve challenges.”

Haycraft said UTC Fire & Security is active in many aspects of standards development. She’s hopeful that the “experience of collaborative efforts at this site will develop more concise security standards for the future.”

Bill Eckard is Verint’s director of sales, Enterprise & Critical Infrastructure Group. He’s worked with the Port Authority for many years, and Verint has been a video surveillance vendor for the Port Authority for 10 years.

Eckard said the security industry would love to stagnate on standards. “They’ve been proprietary from day one and they would still be that way if they had the opportunity,” he said. But he believes the standards movement may in fact be pushed forward by large enterprise projects like the WTC.

Like other large enterprises, the Port Authority created standards for itself with the types of manufacturers it worked with 10 years ago, he said. “They recognized that you can’t improve business operations if you have 10 or 12 different manufacturers of access control.”

“Large end users are the early adopters when it comes to creating standards within their business and their systems,” he said. Internal standards help them “take advantage of new innovative platforms and to get more out of products.”

The WTC project stands out because competing manufacturers collaborated by sharing SDKs, and because manufacturers of complementary products that don’t compete also collaborated. This is precedent setting for both.

Eckard said that, since the security industry is weak on standards at this point, large enterprise customers use products that adhere to IT standards. “They use conforming products that conform to IT standards and best practices,” he added.

He believes that end users know, or will learn, that deploying “products that don’t have standards-based SDKs to allow others to easily integrate ... is a mistake in the long run, because it’s too proprietary.”

And that collective experience may help push standards forward, he said.