This is the second article in the “Real Words or Buzzwords?” series about how real words become empty words and stifle technology progress, also published on SecurityInfoWatch.com.
By Ray Bernard, PSP, CHS-III
As use of the Next Generation term grew in the security industry, it created a problem. A company failing to label its next version of products as “Next Generation” risked creating the impression that its research and development efforts were significantly lagging those of competing companies. Thus, nearly all companies showcased “Next Generation” products regardless of how worthy they were of that label. Thus, the term generally became a meaningless buzzword in our industry, but not in all cases.
Next Generation, often shortened to Next-Gen or NextGen, is a term appearing on many published buzzword lists. (Just Google buzzword list next generation.) In the past 15 years or so, the term has been widely applied to products and technologies to imply that the latest version of a product is “new, different and immeasurably better” than the previous version.
The label was intended be taken at face value, and initially it often was. However, as use of the term grew, it created a problem. A company failing to label its next version of products as “Next Generation” risked creating the impression that its research and development efforts were significantly lagging those of competing companies. Thus, nearly all companies showcased “Next Generation” products regardless of how worthy they were of that label. Thus, the term generally became a meaningless buzzword as it had in many other industries.
However, that is not always the case . . .
Next Generation Technology Advances
The term is not always without meaning, and when applied to a class of technology, such as “Next Generation Wireless”, it usually does refer to a significant advance in specific capabilities, sometimes due to a change in the very nature of the technology. A good example is the recently arrived next generation of security video analytics, which has astounding capabilities because the technology has gone truly digital.
A technical paper that I wrote for the Security Industry Association (SIA), describes it in detail: The State of Security Video Analytics. You can read the paper online or download it in PDF format. It clearly defines the differences between the previous generation of video analytics, and the new generation. I am aware of several companies currently providing Next Generation video analytics products. It is a 19-page technical paper, but is fairly easy to read, partly because each aspect of what makes the technology “next-generation” is depicted in illustrations.
The Next Generation Rule
Here is a good rule to apply: a claim of having a Next Generation product is generally just buzzword usage, unless there is also a clear description available of what the previous generation’s technology was, what the new generation product’s technology is, and how the difference between them provides significantly greater capabilities and/or cost reductions, sufficient to justify the Next Generation claim.
For example, on the ASIS 2016 Annual Seminars & Exhibits show floor, at the Bosch Security booth, I saw a demonstration of Bosch’s next generation video analytics technology. I saw how it forever eliminates having to manually create motion masks for tree, shrubbery, cloud motion and so on.The machine learning capability of the camera’s analytics software automatically figures out what is in the scene and distinguishes between objects of interest and “scene background”.
In the demonstrations that I saw, the camera even determined that the heavily falling snow was part of the scene and should not trigger motion events. Self-configuring analytics is a significant technology advancement, worthy of the Next Generation label, both technically and for its valuable security operations benefits. Backing up the validation of “Next Generation” status is a statement in a 2013 Bosch press release, explaining that the Bosch Automotive Group (which provides 90% of the software for Google’s autonomous driving initiative), has been sharing its video analytics technology with the Bosch Security Group.
Applying the NextGen Rule to Products
A manufacturer should be able to describe how its Next Generation product technology came into being, with a factual story that makes sense, whether developed internally, in partnership with another company, or obtained from a 3rd party source. The differences between the previous generation and the new generation of product should be understandable. In the absence of general consensus about a product’s Next Generation status, you can and should make your own conclusion as to whether the claim is valid. However, more important than Next Generation status is the value of the technology improvements to your own risk mitigation goals and security operations objectives.
Hold Companies Accountable for Their Claims
If we want to improve our industry, we should hold companies accountable for Next Generation claims. If what they mean is simply “the next product in our sequence of product development”, they are using the regular definition of “generation”, not the definition of “next generation” as a phrase. Merriam-Webster defines provides an example of the generation definition appropriate to our industry context:
a type or class of objects usually developed from an earlier type <first of the … new generation of powerful supersonic fighters — Kenneth Koyen>
The term Next Generation shouldn’t be without meaning. We should insist if companies are going to use the term to impress or persuade us, that they know what they are talking about, and don’t waste their breath or ink, and our time!
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.