Open source technology: why the security industry must embrace a more open approach

President of AMAG Technology, a G4S company, Kurt Takahashi, explains why it is vital that the security industry embraces open source technology. 

Open source technology has been around for a while but not everyone who works in security has the same definition. 

The theory is that an open system provides more choices and end users can easily change their security systems and integrate with the best technology needed to secure their people, property and assets. But it is important to understand what open source technology is. 

What is Open?

Open source technology is defined as when a manufacturer makes their application programme interface, or API, available to any company who wishes to integrate with their products.

In contrast, a proprietary system is a closed system that only works with a manufacturer’s own hardware and software and, crucially, cannot be shared. 

For example an open source control room system can integrate with any access control software once the API is provided. By operating this way, it means that even the biggest competitors could become technology partners if the end user chooses to install a rival system. Imagine partnering with your biggest competitor?

Some companies claim to be open, but beneath the surface these providers actually require you to partner with them exclusively and then to select from only a small number of third party providers. 

AMAG Tewkesbury

Assuring Openness 

The global consortium of security companies, the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) introduced new specifications in 2013, the Physical Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI), which provides a vehicle to challenge those who claim to be open but are not. G4S became a member of the PSIA in early 2018 as a way of sharing our vision of open source technology and its importance for the future of the industry. With our Vice President of Enterprise Solutions, Stuart Tucker a board member of the PSIA, we have been at the forefront of shaping these industry standards. 

AMAG’s Transformation to Open

Since 2015 we have been transforming our products from proprietary systems to open source technology. We recognised that although our systems were state of the art, because they were proprietary systems we were in danger of being left behind by a dynamic market place that valued open source solutions for their flexibility.

Over the past four years, we have developed all our products, hardware and software, to include an open API. Meaning we can give clients the services that they need without restricting them to working with us exclusively. 

Three years ago, we released Symmetry CONNECT. Symmetry CONNECT is a policy-based identity management platform that helps organisations of all sizes to manage the identities of their employees, visitors and contractors and operate more efficiently by meeting compliance requirements, reducing operating costs and providing a safer environment. Operating in the cloud, this system is particularly useful for companies with high turnovers of staff, where keeping track of the on and off boarding process is crucial. 

When manual processes, such as HR, IT, facilities and physical security all have different policies, procedures and compliance challenges, Symmetry CONNECT allows organisations to streamline them into one process. By connecting separate systems, allowing them to interact with one another, CONNECT eliminates security irregularities and enforces company policies to maintain compliance.
Today, other security companies refuse to provide their API to Symmetry CONNECT to allow our systems to work together. However, under the new PLAI standards, this will allow CONNECT to work with those companies who want to be truly open.

 
Open Source infographic

The future of open source technology

Our commitment to providing open source technology is based on a desire for more transparency and competition within the security systems industry. With businesses demanding a more nimble approach as well as the rate of technological advancements only increasing, we owe it to our customers to be as dynamic as the market place in which they operate.

Open source technology allows our customers to pick and choose from our range of products, what is right for them and integrate them with their existing systems. We are always on hand to advise and guide, provide innovative and efficient solutions for our customers.  

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