Tackling the Power and Data ‘Capacity Crunch’: “Security sector must play its part”

John Davies

John Davies

Physical security has become firmly intertwined with logical security, sharing considerable benefits but also the potential drawbacks of IT integration. One of the key obstacles facing the IT sector has been dubbed the ‘Capacity Crunch’, referencing the concept that there’s only a finite amount of energy and bandwidth/data storage available to meet increasing demands. As John Davies asserts, society as a whole must address this issue, but equally the security sector needs to be aware of the limitations involved and respond accordingly.

The ‘Capacity Crunch’ problem was highlighted earlier this year by Andrew Ellis, Professor of Optical Communications at Aston University. Addressing an audience at The Royal Society, Professor Ellis suggested that TVs, PCs and assorted IT systems are already consuming at least 8% (and up to 16%) of the UK’s power generation. Disturbingly, this usage level is likely to double every four years.

Astonishingly, 8% of the UK’s power generation equates to three nuclear power stations, in turn illustrating the practical implications of this energy consumption.

The bottom line is that, by 2040, current generation will be insufficient to cater for these needs, let alone the rest of the nation’s power requirements. We’re all consumers of this technology (more so given the trend towards ‘hyper connectivity’ with online services) and, as a society, we’re not always efficient at using resources to their fullest potential. Think for a moment on all of the mobile devices and appliances that require power but spend a lot of time dormant with the ubiquitous ‘standby’ mode highly visible.

Naturally, this extends to security systems as well. While a surveillance system needs to be constantly alert, and particularly so during out-of-hours periods, it doesn’t need to be constantly on full power. One highly useful solution is switched-mode power supplies and intelligent, energy-saving operational dynamics. These measures ensure that security technology runs on minimum power when it’s not needed, in turn conserving resources. The technology will still activate at a moment’s notice.

Data storage as a resource

Perhaps less visible, but none the less capacity-limiting, is the question of bandwidth and data storage. While power generation directly affects the general populace, storage is less dramatic to the casual observer but is still crucial.

With the aforementioned widespread use of ‘hyper connectivity’ to online services, data storage and Big Data has become a phenomenon and is rapidly moving towards being an essential service for businesses and consumers alike. This issue needs to be addressed by all sectors. That includes the security industry.

A blanket reduction of data consumption is unrealistic and impractical in light of wider technology trends. However, increases in demand can be offset by the smarter use of data. This needs to start with the devices at the edge of the network, among them the latest integrated security solutions.

Data needs to be seen as a commodity which is finite and has an attached cost. As is the case with power consumption, the design and implementation of devices that require data storage needs to have economy firmly in mind.

Now within IT’s sphere of influence as well as that of the Security Department, physical security and access control technology needs to be a key part of the IT network strategy and resource management. This is dependent on the needs of the organisation and its IT systems resources, of course, but it makes sense to minimise the requirements on power and data transfer traffic for all parts of the network.

Put simply, the security industry needs to concentrate on providing systems which are well integrated but also work independently whenever possible in order to reduce the burden on the wider IT network.

Security solutions manufacturers also need to be aware of their own power and data resources usage which is just as important as it is for our customers. Using intelligent production lines reduces wastage. We need to think carefully about the data required to support our products and customers.

Its all-too-easy to duplicate data for fear of losing it forever, but the importance of this information diminishes after a period so why fill your everyday servers/online storage with old data that’s unlikely to be reused?

Finding the right balance

The term ‘data for data’s sake’ is a good one to consider. Just because data can be collected and stored doesn’t mean it has to be. Similarly, if security data is stored much of it will never be needed, so it makes sense to delete unwanted information (particularly if the organisation’s needs and legislation don’t require it).

The Internet of Things trend has brought this issue to the fore. With all the data being generated, it’s important to ensure good housekeeping of storage resources.

Using well-designed analytics and considered decision-making will help everyone to be more conservative of power and storage resources. Progressive security systems will make sure the data is sensibly stored or discarded as appropriate, making certain that processing in core business systems is not unduly disturbed.

All the signs are that the ‘Capacity Crunch’ is looming. It’s an issue that desperately needs to be addressed. It’s also a problem that will effect every part of our lives, both commercially and on a personal level.

Given the increasing IT resources being consumed by the security sector, it’s only right that we recognise our contribution to the problem and focus on solutions that will undoubtedly play their part in averting a potential technology crisis.

John Davies is Managing Director of TDSi

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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