Exclusive: Open platforms are for everyone

April 9, 2021

Neil Killick of Milestone Systems examines how open platforms can improve the innovation and agility of intelligent video solutions.

Since the earliest days of computing, developers and programmers have been sharing their knowledge, best practices and collaborating on software. This culminated in the late 90s when the Netscape Communicator Internet suite was released for free, laying down the source code foundations for SeaMonkey, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

Fast-forward to today and open platforms are needed more than ever to foster innovation, create best-in-breed solutions and adapt to volatile times. Increasingly, companies are seeking ways to become more agile and resilient to change. Open platform technology can help them achieve this.

What are open platforms?

Open platforms are technology platforms – ecosystems, even – developed with open standards, allowing external developers to build applications or platform services that work together. The Internet itself is perhaps the most famous example of an open platform.

Open source is popular among organisations that want a more collaborative, flexible and future-proofed solution. Open platforms are now embraced by the likes of Microsoft (which acquired code hosting platform GitHub) and IBM (which is acquiring open source company Red Hat). So, with the open source market predicted to grow from US$11.4 billion in 2017 to US$32.95 billion by 2022, it has left many asking: “why is open source so popular?”

The benefits of an open platform

Firstly, it provides companies with a way to collaborate on technology that’s mutually beneficial. As the saying goes, many hands make light work; with several developers working on an open platform, it can be developed faster, with fewer bugs (thanks to more people checking its code) and with greater innovation. It can also build greater diversity and perspective as the people working on the platform and its applications can be globally distributed and from different backgrounds.

Greater freedom and flexibility

For organisations considering investing in an open platform, there are further benefits in resilience, flexibility and not having to be tied to a single vendor. With an open platform, organisations are no longer restricted to a single-possibility scenario. Instead, different components and applications can be combined to create tailor-made solutions – this also makes the system more scalable as new devices and software can be added as needs change.

In physical security, for example, using an open platform will help organisations add video surveillance, access control solutions, video analytics and more with relative ease. Having an open security platform also benefits local authorities who can access video and audio feeds more readily when they need to investigate an incident caught on camera. If a new site needs to be protected, this is made easier because the platform is more scalable than a proprietary solution.

Boosting innovation

There is also more freedom to change solutions if needed. If an organisation wants to switch a certain product or piece of software, it can easily do so by switching to another vendor whose solutions work on the same platform. Similarly, they can easily undertake pilot projects, bringing in new technology to work with the platform and removing it once the pilot ends. This can further increase innovation and remove a barrier to experimenting with emerging technology.

Open source’s potential to increase innovation is a benefit that convinced Google to open source its artificial intelligence engine, TensorFlow, in 2015. Companies, researchers and developers were able to build applications using TensorFlow, with PayPal using it for fraud detection, AirBnB improving guest experiences and even a start-up using it to keep their cows healthy. By making TensorFlow open source, Google has cemented it as one of the standard frameworks for developing AI applications and improved the software as outside developers adapted it to their needs.

Future-proofing as standard

With an open platform, future-proofing is built-in from day zero. Because organisations are not tied to one vendor’s offerings, they can take advantage of whatever is new on the market. As emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities develop, an open platform can continually update to take advantage of inventions. In the ever-changing security sector, having the ability to respond quickly to emerging technology and threats is invaluable as organisations can remain a step ahead of malicious attackers.

Is open-source secure?

As for security, there might be concerns that opening a platform (and its code) up to external parties would weaken security – however, the opposite is true. Having a large group of developers working on open source software means that there are more opportunities to spot mistakes or vulnerabilities. Likewise, if a problem is spotted, then it can be fixed relatively quickly by a company’s or partner’s developers compared to a proprietary solution where organisations must wait for the vendor to respond.

An open platform is also more transparent. Everyone can inspect the source code. This also means that no issues can be concealed or passed over and that code becomes subject to genuine ethical examination — the first step towards ensuring a platform is built for the greater good.

Open source is for everyone

The beauty of an open source model is that it is open to all. Any organisation looking to build on an open platform simply needs a development team with the right technical knowledge. Open source technology is best suited to organisations who are not afraid to tailor-make their solutions, who want to innovate and be more agile and who wish to future proof their tech stack against future disruption.

More than a single solution

By participating and contributing to an open platform, companies gain so much more than a single, rigid technology solution. They access a whole community of developers willing to partner on applications, push the boundaries, innovate and who actively work to improve the platform. This extends beyond the limitations of just one development team, to broaden perspectives, best practices and geographical and sector horizons. What may start as an open platform for one facet of your business may soon become integral to your overall growth and success.

To find out more information about Milestone Systems, visit: https://www.milestonesys.com/

This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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