Looking back on 2018’s security market activity – and the potential influence on 2019

Ray Mauritsson

While Axis is a company that always aims to look forwards, sometimes it is useful to pause for a moment and reflect on the recent past. As we near the end of 2018, it seems like a good time to take a look at some of the most significant activities and trends that have shaped the security industry over the past year, and which we feel will have an impact moving into the 2019 and beyond.

A developing and consolidating industry

The pace of change in the security sector continues to accelerate. Axis itself was only formed in the mid-1980s, and created the world’s first network camera just 20 years ago. In two short decades the industry has moved from being entirely analog to being almost exclusively digital. The quality and power of cameras has grown exponentially and looking ahead the potential for artificial intelligence and machine learning will open avenues of innovation previously undreamt of. Such a rate of change places demands on incumbent market players to keep up, and many look to broaden their product portfolios or international footprint through acquisition.

At the start of the year, Motorola’s acquisition of Avigilon was one example, with the former adding video surveillance to its traditional offering of public sector communications technologies. More recently, UTC – best known as a manufacturer of HVAC and refrigeration systems – has completed a buyout of S2 Security.

I don’t see consolidation in the market slowing in 2019, as more companies recognize that a broader portfolio of products and services is the route to growth, and acquisition can be a faster way to innovate than through in-house development, if the challenges of merging two companies with different systems and cultures are quickly overcome.

While mergers and acquisitions can quickly help organizations expand their portfolio, bringing these separate products together into a coherent, single solution can present an additional challenge. The extraordinary growth in consumer technology in the past two decades has had an impact in expectations of business technology. Ease of use and management are paramount: after all, why would anyone expect a security solution to be less easy to use than their mobile phone? From system specification, through installation, use and management, we’re seeing a demand for good design and intuitive interfaces.

Privacy: erosion and protection

It’s been impossible to ignore the heightened focus on privacy over the past 12-months, particularly in relation to personal data. What has also been striking is how the cultural and geographical differences in attitudes and approach have been highlighted, both positively and negatively.

Europe is probably the world’s most sensitive region when it comes to concern for their personal data. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it was the European Parliament that created the world’s most stringent regulations that define how personal data can be collected, processed, stored, shared and used, in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While every company in the security industry that holds personal data of EU citizens will need to adhere to GDPR, of course, the regulation has specific implications for those using video surveillance (as can be explored in our white paper).

Outside Europe, attitudes are different. In the US, for example, there seems to be a greater concern about cybersecurity than privacy, in comparison to Europe at least. US citizens seem more willing to share their personal data (as long as they’re confident that the companies holding it will keep it secure from cybercriminals) and to allow access to their data by government bodies. A state-sponsored surveillance program such as PRISM – which allows the United States National Security Agency to access personal online data from internet companies when a court allows – would likely cause uproar if implemented in Europe.

In many ways, the different approaches simply point to different priorities: put simply, the US prioritizes the protection of the state, while in Europe the protection of the individual is paramount. And in other regions and countries across the globe – from Canada to China, from Brazil to Russia – attitudes, activities and laws will differ again. More specific approaches are needed than ever before: in this area at least, the world is actually becoming more regional than global.

Cybersecurity: growing vulnerabilities

We will never, unfortunately, stop talking about cybersecurity as an issue. Wired UK magazine keeps track of many of the major security breaches and it’s concerning reading, particularly when you consider that these represent only the most high-profile, public data breaches. The fact is that incredibly well-funded, skilled and organized cybercriminals are innovating at a pace that is difficult to keep up with (unencumbered as they are by any national or regional regulation). In addition, there is increasing evidence that nation states are undertaking sophisticated cyberattacks against other states, commercial and public organizations and critical infrastructure.

As devices become ever more connected, so too do the potential end-points through which a cybercriminal can aim to access an organization’s systems and data. Without effective cybersecurity measures, any connected device can present a vulnerability: a printer, a smart home device or, indeed, a network camera. And with worrying evidence that in some countries products have been compromised at the manufacturing stage, having total confidence in the provenance of any products you are connecting to your own systems is essential.

Ethical implications

It certainly feels as though we are moving towards a world where increased state-sponsored surveillance is being attempted (and achieved) in more areas and countries than ever before. It’s a growing issue, and one that should be high on the agenda of every company, especially those in the security industry (and, indeed, of every organization purchasing solutions from these companies). Every organization should be explicit about how it wishes its products to be used (both technically and ethically) and work with its partners and through its marketing to make this clear. In some instances, this may also mean making decisions about who you will and (more critically) will not sell products to, if you can’t be certain that their use will fall outside your own ethical boundaries.

Technology has brought enormous benefits to society and continues to do so. Certainly, here at Axis, we still fundamentally believe that our vision for a smarter and safer world will be delivered through more advanced technology. But with greater innovation and progress – and particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning – the ethical questions will increase significantly. Just because we can do something, doesn’t always mean that we should. But has every organization got the essential controls in place to ensure that these questions are being asked and answered? While this is largely an internal question, supporting initiatives such as The Copenhagen Letter, is an important public commitment.

Ultimately, it’s a question of trust

Trust has always been a critical aspect of a business relationship, but traditionally the elements of trust have been more tangible: did you deliver what you said you would, by the deadline and at the agreed price? Today – and certainly over the past year – we’ve seen the ‘softer’ elements of trust come to the fore. Do I trust you to look after my data? Are our values aligned? Are you supporting companies or countries that act in honest decent ways? And a hundred other aspects.

Trust will increasingly be seen as a genuine corporate asset, with real value. Certainly, in those instances where trust has clearly been breached, it’s clear that it has a detrimental effect on fundamental measures of an organization’s value and performance.

While business doesn’t stop, the end of one year and beginning of the next is a logical point for reflection and planning. Though I will enter 2019 knowing that there will be new and as yet unforeseen challenges to deal with, I’m an optimist at heart. I’m confident that the vast majority of people, organizations and governments are aligned with our own view that we can make the world a smarter and safer place for everyone.