This is the first article in the award-winning award-winning “Real Words or Buzzwords?” series by Ray Bernard about how real words become empty words and stifle technology progress, also published on SecurityInfoWatch.com.
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Real Words or Buzzwords?
The Award-Winning Article Series
#1 Proof of the buzzword that killed tech advances in the security industry—but not other industries.
#2 Next Generation (NextGen): A sure way to tell hype from reality.
#3 Customer Centric: Why all security industry companies aren't customer centric.
#4 Best of Breed: What it should mean to companies and their customers.
#5 Open: An openness scale to rate platforms and systems
#6 Network-friendly: It's much more than network connectivity.
#7 Mobile first: Not what it sounds like.
#8 Enterprise Class (Part One): To qualify as Enterprise Class system today is world's beyond what it was yesterday.
#9 Enterprise Class (Part Two): Enterprise Class must be more than just a top-level label.
#10 Enterprise Class (Part Three): Enterprise Class must be 21st century technology.
#11 Intuitive: It’s about time that we had a real-world testable definition for “intuitive”.
#12 State of the Art: A perspective for right-setting our own thinking about technologies.
#13 True Cloud (Part One): Fully evaluating cloud product offerings.
#14 True Cloud (Part Two): Examining the characteristics of 'native-cloud' applications.
#15 True Cloud (Part Three): Due diligence in testing cloud systems.
#16 IP-based, IP-enabled, IP-capable, or IP-connectable?: A perspective for right-setting our own thinking about technologies.
#17 Five Nines: Many people equate high availability with good user experience, yet many more factors are critically important.
#18 Robust: Words like “robust” must be followed by design specifics to be meaningful.
#19 Serverless Computing – Part 1: Why "serverless computing" is critical for some cloud offerings.
#20 Serverless Computing – Part 2: Why full virtualization is the future of cloud computing.
#21 Situational Awareness – Part 1: What products provide situational awareness?
#22 Situational Awareness – Part 2: Why system designs are incomplete without situational awareness?
#23 Situational Awareness – Part 3: How mobile devices change the situational awareness landscape?
#24 Situational Awareness – Part 4: Why situational awareness is a must for security system maintenance and acceptable uptime.
#25 Situational Awareness – Part 5: We are now entering the era of smart buildings and facilities. We must design integrated security systems that are much smarter than those we have designed in the past.
#26 Situational Awareness – Part 6: Developing modern day situational awareness solutions requires moving beyond 20th century thinking.
#27 Situational Awareness – Part 7: Modern day incident response deserves the help that modern technology can provide but doesn’t yet. Filling this void is one of the great security industry opportunities of our time.
#28 Unicity: Security solutions providers can spur innovation by envisioning how the Unicity concept can extend and strengthen physical access into real-time presence management.
#29 The API Economy: Why The API Economy will have a significant impact on the physical security industry moving forward.
#31 The Built Environment: In the 21st century, “the built environment” means so much more than it did just two decades ago.
#32 Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: Hyper-Converged Infrastructure has been a hot phrase in IT for several years, but do its promises hold true for the physical security industry?
#33 Software-Defined: Cloud-computing technology, with its many software-defined elements, is bringing self-scaling real-time performance capabilities to physical security system technology.
#34 High-Performance: How the right use of "high-performance" can accelerate the adoption of truly high-performing emerging technologies.
#35 Erasure Coding: Why RAID drive arrays don’t work anymore for video storage, and why Erasure Coding does.
#36 Presence Control: Anyone responsible for access control management or smart building experience must understand and apply presence control.
#37 Internet+: The Internet has evolved into much more than the information superhighway it was originally conceived to be.
#38 Digital Twin: Though few in physical security are familiar with the concept, it holds enormous potential for the industry.
#39 Fog Computing: Though commonly misunderstood, the concept of fog computing has become critically important to physical security systems.
#40 Scale - Part 1: Although many security-industry thought leaders have advocated that we should be “learning from IT,” there is still insufficient emphasis on learning about IT practices, especially for large-scale deployments.
#41 Scale - Part 2: Why the industry has yet to fully grasp what the ‘Internet of Things’ means for scaling physical security devices and systems.
#42 Cyberspace - Part 1: Thought to be an outdated term by some, understanding ‘Cyberspace’ and how it differs from ‘Cyber’ is paramount for security practitioners.
#43 Cyber-Physical Systems - Part 1: We must understand what it means that electronic physical security systems are cyber-physical systems.
#44 Cyberspace - Part 2: Thought to be an outdated term by some, understanding ‘Cyberspace’ and how it differs from ‘Cyber’ is paramount for security practitioners.
#45 Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning: Examining the differences in these technologies and their respective benefits for the security industry.
#46 VDI – Virtual Desktop Infrastructure: At first glance, VDI doesn’t seem to have much application to a SOC deployment. But a closer look reveals why it is actually of critical importance.
#47 Hybrid Cloud: The definition of hybrid cloud has evolved, and it’s important to understand the implications for physical security system deployments.
#48 Legacy: How you define ‘legacy technology’ may determine whether you get to update or replace critical systems.
#49 H.264 - Part 1: Examining the terms involved in camera stream configuration settings and why they are important.
#50 H.264 - Part 2: A look at the different H.264 video frame types and how they relate to intended uses of video.
#51 H.264 - Part 3: Once seen as just a marketing term, ‘smart codecs’ have revolutionized video compression.
#52 Presence Technologies: The proliferation of IoT sensors and devices, plus the current impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have elevated the capabilities and the importance of presence technologies.
#53 Anonymization, Encryption and Governance: The exponential advance of information technologies requires an exponential advance in the application of data protection.
#54 Computer Vision: Why a good understanding of the computer vision concept is important for evaluating today’s security video analytics products.
#55 Exponential Technology Advancement: The next 10 years of security technology will bring more change than in the entire history of the industry to now.
#56 IoT and IoT Native: The next 10 years of security technology will bring more change than in the entire history of the industry to now.
#57 Cloud Native IoT: The next 10 years of security technology will bring more change than in the entire history of the industry to now.
#58 Bluetooth vs. Bluetooth LE: The next 10 years of security technology will bring more change than in the entire history of the industry to now.
More to come about every other week.
Oops! Did I forget to mention best-of-breed, value-added offerings for high market synergy?
Every industry has its buzzwords, but the physical security industry appears to have suffered more than other industries from the misunderstanding, misapplication and general misuse of buzzword terms. This is provable, and we’ll provide that proof in this article.
What is a Buzzword?
The terms “buzz word” and “buzz phrase” were first used by Harvard students in 1946, to represent key terms in lecture or reading materials which, if used in test answers or discussions, would give the impression of being familiar with the subject matter. Over time, the term has been variously defined to reflect the different ways that people use impressive-sounding words—usually without clearly defining them. Most of us have experienced the buzzword phenomena:
- A keyword; a catchword or expression currently fashionable; a term used more to impress than to inform, esp. a technical or jargon term (Oxford English Dictionary)
- A word or phrase, often sounding authoritative or technical, that is a vogue [popular or fashionable] term in a profession, field of study, popular culture, etc. (Dictionary.com)
- An important-sounding usually technical word or phrase often of little meaning used chiefly to impress laymen (Merriam-Webster)
- Trite, empty words that may sound good to your ear but say almost nothing (LinkedIn)
Michael Johnson, then editor of the prestigious European business journal International Management, wrote the book Business Buzzwords, published in 1990. In it he explained how business buzzwords develop, and described the phenomena that has been the cause of several security industry setbacks over the past decade. A buzzword doesn’t start off as such. A buzzword arrives when a specialist in a technical field or an area of business practice discovers that a new term is needed to represent an important concept or idea. The term is useful and has a precise definition in its original area of application, before it comes into use as a buzzword.
Then it becomes fashionable among non-specialists as a way of impressing others, and simultaneously loses its precise meaning among the broader audience. People try to figure it out its meaning from the context in which it is used, and it becomes a foggy concept that people equate with other terms they know, or they decide that it’s really a meaningless term being used to hype something up. Either way, they are cut off from the fruits of knowledge, and don’t get the true and original message of the term. Thus, the term’s original purpose is thwarted, and understanding is replaced by a confusion, a partial picture or a wrong idea. That’s the buzzword cycle.
Buzzword Cycle Antidote
This article series is intended to be the antidote to buzzword cycles in the security industry. What follows is the proof promised at the start of this article about how this has impacted our industry.
Convergence, the Progress Killer
One of the most severe buzzword impacts in the security industry came from the word “convergence”. The long story can be found at this link; the short story follows below.
The convergence of physical security and information technology was introduced to the physical security industry in the early 2000s, got picked up by folks who didn’t really understand it, who then threw the term around at every opportunity, attempting to show that they or their company were “IT-savvy”. By 2006 convergence had become a popular buzzword. On the show floor of the 2008 ASIS Annual Seminars and Exhibits conference, most technology companies proudly displayed the word “Convergence” at their booths. Yet there were few real stories of substance behind it. Many people thought it just meant connecting systems over an Ethernet network. Thus, when customers couldn’t see any new security benefits in it, they stopped asking about it, and in 2010 trade magazine articles declared that convergence was now over, done and dead.
Convergence, the Progress Enabler
However, other industries—such as the automotive and medical device industries—have a different convergence story. First, in neither industry did they make convergence a buzzword. No one in the industry breathed the word “convergence” to end-user customers. You never heard it on an auto dealer showroom floor or in a TV commercial. But, believe it or not, the auto industry had their first convergence conference back in 1974. And they’ve held that conference every two years since. In 2014, at its 40th anniversary, over 8,000 engineers descended on Detroit to define the customer driving experience using a 40-year look-ahead. They didn’t kill convergence, they embraced it.
Thus, by steadfastly working to use emerging information technologies to improve the customer experience, we now have safer cars (a 25% reduction in auto-related deaths in the U.S.), self-parking cars, and even self-driving cars. Did the security industry achieve at 25% reduction in security incidents? No. In fact, after the video system failed to record the Dallas police shooting last year, the city manager in Dallas told the city and the press that having 80% of the cameras recording properly at any time was to be expected, given the states of technology and funding.
In no other technical industry, would an 80% rate of functionality be acceptable for any product. But in the security industry, thanks to the buzzword convergence replacing the real word, substantive progress on convergence just didn’t happen. A huge gap exists between the security industry’s state of technology and the state of technology in IT. This is well known in the industry; see the explanations by BluBØX and Brivo (scroll down to see Brivo’s diagram).
So, history records that the buzzword convergence seriously stifled progress in the security industry, while in other industries the real word convergence was the enabler of amazing progress. What can we do to keep history from repeating itself? That’s what this article series is about. Watch for the article announcements every two weeks in Security Frontline.
Ray Bernard, PSP CHS-III, is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities (www.go-rbcs.com). Mr. Bernard is a Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council and an active member of the ASIS International member councils for Physical Security and IT Security.