With the launch of the INTEOX open camera platform, Bosch is also introducing a renewed cloud infrastructure. In this interview, Robert Haase, senior product manager, responsible for Bosch Video Systems end-to-end security and device management, discusses the importance of remote device management and how it benefits installers and system integrators in today’s mainly offline security industry.
What is remote device management?
Let me, first of all, set the stage for the topic. After moving from analog to IP cameras, our industry is now transitioning from CCTV to the internet of things (IoT). Increasing connectivity in the age of IoT yields many benefits and opportunities. However, managing and maintaining many devices, sometimes across multiple dispersed sites, is challenging and costly, especially if you want to keep your system up-to-date and secure. You need to manage updates, certificates, device lifecycles, and more, which is time-consuming and repetitive.
In addition, we see two new trends. The first is that our products have become more powerful and sophisticated in terms of software and firmware, e.g. artificial intelligence (AI), but also more complex. With cameras, we are talking about “computers with a lens.” The second is that cost pressures increase for our customers who need to manage and maintain their video systems with an onboard expert.
In light of these trends, we, as Bosch, strive to support our customers with a state-of-the-art secure device management solution. Remote device management is a combination of Bosch tools and services for secure, transparent, and cost-effective video asset management along the lifecycle of our products. In the future, remote device management will become essential to every security system’s foundation, bringing customers peace-of-mind.
Bosch has been offering Remote Portal for a few years, right? What is different now?
We have been offering Remote Portal for all Bosch IP cameras since 2016. Early on, we realized that the digital age will change the way our customers and we work. Having a free, cloud-based service offering complements our products and establishes an end-to-end solution to address any new needs. This is why we started to invest in that field years ago. We were ahead of the curve when we started. As the environment has significantly evolved and matured, we now benefit from the experience gained from starting early.
Parallel to developing our new INTEOX platform, we started to modernize our cloud infrastructure to benefit from all the technological progress made and to stay ahead of new challenges. The difference with INTEOX is that we evolved from single firmware file updates to modularized updates of complementary system components, consisting of operating system patches, firmware functionality updates, and application updates, to name a few. These changes make it easier for our customers to stay up to date and secure while reducing the risk of breaking integrations, since a security patch in the OS does not affect the firmware functionality. This implies, however, that update intervals will be shortened and to effectively manage costs you eventually need to consider remote services, to automatically take over certain uncritical tasks, avoiding time-consuming trips on site.
Also, a connected device is a more secure device as you have an immediate benefit from new updates and patches that we provide as Bosch. The Remote Portal allows continuous health monitoring. Online statistics and alerts provide actionable data for fast response time and will allow for predictive maintenance in the near future. We will see more and more hybrid setups where on-premise components of a video system interact with counterparts in the cloud – going beyond device management – to a world of custom-made solutions built on data that creates new value.
Is the cloud infrastructure from Bosch the same as the online environment from Security & Safety Things (S&ST)?
The two infrastructures are independent of one another and complement each other. Remote Portal focuses on Bosch devices and offers corresponding services that only we, as the vendor, can provide for our entire portfolio.
S&ST focuses on our INTEOX cameras only, because they are based on the joint open platform approach with the Open Security and Safety Alliance (OSSA). S&ST specializes in offering remote services regarding third-party app management, enabling our customers to tailor our products to their specific use cases.
What exactly can you do with online device management?
Well…a lot to be honest. Basically from anywhere in the world, you can organize and monitor the status of your devices across sites and check if they work properly and securely after they were deployed. If there is an issue, you get a notification. You can act immediately to try to troubleshoot the problem by accessing a camera’s web interface from the portal or logging in to your Remote Portal account from your Configuration Manager to interact with the devices, as if you are on site. You can also receive notifications when a new firmware version is available, which you can then easily deploy to multiple devices at once with just one click.
Of course, there is more to come…and the best thing is that everything I just mentioned is free of charge.
Does the security system always need to be connected?
Being connected comes with having the most convenience and the greatest transparency on device status, including notifications, and subsequent verification can be triggered and acted upon immediately. Every remote access event is tracked and logged in the portal and can be reviewed for full transparency.
However, customers who want more control over their system can connect it on demand. For example, if the end user faces an issue, the system can be reconnected so a technical expert can access the system remotely, if the end user allows. This can be as simple as plugging in a network cable when it is needed.
Beyond that, we also work on solutions that cater to customers where no external connectivity is allowed.
Will customers be able to manage all their Bosch security devices?
Yes, the IoT is not only relevant for cameras. It essentially stands for Internet of Things. We will thus see more and more integrated solutions in video and across (security) domains, especially in the context of a connected building. This is a clear strategy we have as Bosch Building Technologies as a whole.
Bosch has some software offerings like Project Assistant and Configuration Manager that make our customers’ life easier, how do they work together with remote device management?
Since the introduction of the free Bosch Project Assistant app in 2018, we have made significant progress with increasing the efficiency of deploying video projects. This year, Project Assistant 1.4 allows you to register your cameras to the Remote Portal during the commissioning phase and connect cameras to the cloud, with only the basic settings completed. The remaining fine-grained configuration of, for example, Intelligent Video Analytics, can be done remotely via the Configuration Manager at a later time.
In recent years, we have seen many large security and data breaches affecting millions of users. What is your perspective? How does Bosch handle data security?
Cyber and data security is always an important topic and has to be taken more seriously, if you ask me. Too often, we hear comments like “never change a running system” in the industry and when talking to our customers.
This mindset needs to change. Breaches caused by “black hat hackers” look for the weakest link in a system, which they infiltrate until they find what they want. These weakest links are, in most cases, characterized by outdated software. This is why you should keep the software and firmware in your entire system up to date, as it mitigates attack vectors caused by vulnerabilities a hacker can exploit. The answer often is that “we have a CCTV system,” so it is air-gapped from the outside world. However, as the latest breach at Twitter has proven, the greatest threats or weakest links are actually humans in the organization. Social engineering is in fact the most common cause for breaching a system. Only then can the attacker start looking for outdated software.
What do you say to someone who is reluctant to manage projects and customer cameras online and prefers the offline way of working?
The future is online and it’s time to get on board. Integrators can work with customers remotely to perform service when they can’t meet face to face, which is especially important during the current pandemic. Integrators want to limit time on a customer site and remote device management is ideal. Some of the benefits include keeping people safe, minimizing contact, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and ensuring the highest security using strong encryption and certificates on the device and in the cloud.
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