This is the 12th article in the award-winning “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
On closer inspection, even if we never use the term “state of art” again for sales and marketing purposes, it can a be a powerful perspective for right-setting our own thinking regarding technologies that we’re considering or developing.
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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 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.
More to come about every other week.
On closer inspection, even if we never use the term “start of art” again for sales and marketing purposes, it can a be a powerful (and I don’t use that word lightly) perspective for right-setting our own thinking regarding technologies that we’re considering or developing. It is one way of dealing with a decades-old problem that continues to plague the security industry, to everyone’s detriment. To understand how that works, we have to take a look at the various definitions for “state of the art” and discover why and how “art” is an important part of the picture.
Defining State of the Art
Grammarly tells us (presented below with added emphasis):
“The advertising buzz phrase state of the art began as a noun phrase referring to the current highest level of development in a field, but today it’s also often used as a phrasal adjective meaning at the highest level of development. In the latter use, state of the art is usually hyphenated.”
Thus Grammarly reminds us that the “state of the art” is a noun when you write it without the hyphens (example: “He is studying the state of the art”), but an adjective when you write state-of-the-art with hyphens (example: “This is a start-of-the-art product”).
Then Grammarly describes the real-words-to-buzzwords path that the term has followed:
“In advertising and elsewhere, the phrase has been rendered almost meaningless through long overuse. In using it, one risks sounding like an uncreative salesperson.”
Cambridge Dictionary says: “very modern and using the most recent ideas and methods.”
Collins English Dictionary says: “If you describe something as state-of-the-art, you mean that it is the best available because it has been made using the most modern techniques and technology.”
MacMillan Dictionary says: “state-of-the-art equipment or technology uses the newest and most advanced ideas and features.”
There is a common thread in these definitions that also appears in Wikipedia’s description, which—as you can’t help but notice—brings up the real-words-to-buzzwords phenomenon again:
“State of the art (sometimes cutting edge) refers to the highest level of general development, as of a device, technique, or scientific field achieved at a particular time. It also refers to such a level of development reached at any particular time as a result of the common methodologies employed at the time.
“The term has been used since 1910, and has become both a common term in advertising and marketing, and a legally significant phrase with respect to both patent law and tort liability.
In advertising, the phrase is often used to convey that a product is made with the best possible technology, but it has been noted that “the term ‘state of the art’ requires little proof on the part of advertisers”, as it is considered mere puffery. The use of the term in patent law, by contrast, “does not connote even superiority, let alone the superlative quality the ad writers would have us ascribe to the term”.
The Buzzword Graveyard
So, the official consensus is that start of the art as a term has some meaning, but because it has been misused and overused, it has a negative impact and should be avoided. It has arrived in the buzzword graveyard.
But I don’t think that it’s a useless term. I think it can serve an important purpose, if we look closely at the definitions and focus on their glossed-over aspects. Here is a small list of the “start of the art” concepts that the security industry has ignored, and which—had they not done so—would have put the industry on a different and better path:
- Ideas and methods
- Level of development
- Advanced ideas
I have often said and written that the security industry is 5 years or more behind in adopting information technology, but 10 to 15 years behind in adopting the related IT practices. This results in poor implementations of the technology, as occurred with the transition from analog to digital communications for security systems and devices—in other words the adoption of standards-based networking.
Most companies only partially adopted the standards, or even neglected them. This is why it was a not uncommon customer experience for the IT department to run an Nmap scan of the network (a common practice), and have the IP cameras go offline. It’s why major brand name access control systems were still stuck communicating at 9600 baud (an old hard-wired communications speed) over an IP network connection, when the network was at least 10 times faster than that, even as late as 2005. It’s why the industry put devices on the network starting in the late 1990’s that didn’t support Simple Network Management Protocol, and the industry didn’t develop a standard for a physical security device MIB (SNMP management information base data file) until 2015.
A Useful Concept for State of the Art
State of the art for any technology is not just the physical and electronic bits and pieces—it’s the set of advanced ideas, methods, and techniques involved in the highest level of development for a particular technology. That’s why the word “art” is involved. As Max Kanat-Alexander, the Technical Lead for Code Health at Google and former Chief Architect of the Bugzilla Project, has said on his blog, “The application of any science is an art . . .”
Here is how to apply the concept of state of the art, in a way that will never fail you. There are questions listed below that are applicable to manufacturers and security integrators as well as consultants and specifiers.
When developing a product and incorporating specific pieces of technology, ask these questions:
- Where did this technology come from?
- What advanced ideas, methods and techniques were involved in the development of this technology?
- What ideas, methods and techniques are involved in its application?
- What guidance should be provided to customers, system designers, and installers for its use, based upon best-practices in application and deployment?
- How can we assure that the results we get represent the highest level of development for this technology?
- What standards are involved for the use of technology, and what how can we maximally apply them consistent with our product’s scope and purpose?
- What is the larger technology context for what we are working on? What are the best development techniques and practices that apply?
If you don’t ask these questions, you can’t have a state-of-the-art product.
When selecting a technology, especially given the rapid state of technology advancement, it is important to know where the product stands relative to the highest level of development in that area of technology. One example is the new generation of security video analytics, which is generally not well understood. The Security Industry Association has a technical paper on this that explains why it is such a big deal. To understand the state of the art in video analytics, you must to know the concepts in this paper. The current generation of video analytics came out of heavy research into self-parking cars and autonomous vehicles. There are many advantages to this new digital technology that don’t exist with analytics developed for analog video systems.
That’s not to say you can’t deploy a previous generation video analytic. Their value did not disappear. However, for the sake of obtaining an appropriate return on investment, regarding both security-effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, you should know where the product stands with regard to the current state of technology.
When evaluating or selecting a product, ask these questions:
- Where did this technology come from, and when?
- What ideas, methods and techniques are involved in its application?
- What guidance is being provided to customers, system designers, and installers for its use, based upon best-practices in application and deployment?
- What standards are involved for the use of technology, and how do those relate to our use of the technology?
- How can we assure that the deployment results we get represent the highest level of application for this technology and achieves a state-of-the-art deployment?
When used by marketers and sales people, the term state of the art is of little value. When the concept is applied by product designers and engineers, and also be designing and specifying consultants, the concept can help assure a high-value deployment.
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). He is the author of the Elsevier book Security Technology Convergence Insights available on Amazon. Mr. Bernard is a Subject Matter Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council (SEC) and an active member of the ASIS International member councils for Physical Security and IT Security.