a&s Adria: Could you present yourself to our readers?
Grasselli: I am Regional Manager South-Eastern Europe at ComNet. I’m 46. I’m an electronic engineer and my career has grown in sales and sales management. My previous experience was at a security systems integrator where I was in charge of business unit’s management and business development. a&s Adria: Could you present a brief overview of ComNet and its portfolio?
Grasselli: ComNet manufacture transmission and comms equipment across the analogue and digital platforms. This may be in the form of Wired, Wireless or Cellular spectrum – solutions for Infrastructure/ITS, Security and Data Networks. In Brief: Digital IP/Ethernet CCTV, Copper Extenders, Wireless, PoE / Remote-Solar Power Solutions, Analogue Fibre, Industrial and Commercial Ethernet Switches & Media Converters, Hybrid (Analogue / IP mix), 3G/4G Cellular Router. ComNet’s solutions are used globally by many industries across the infrastructure, security and data networks and designed to withstand the toughest environmental conditions and challenges. ComNet’s head office and factory is based in the USA employing in excess of 80 staff across 10 geographic locations including UK, Germany, Italy, Poland, France, Spain, Dubai, India and Singapore supporting customers. A further two R&D sites in New York and California help develop the next generation of innovative solutions.
a&s Adria: What news in ComNet portfolio?
Grasselli: ComNet is a dynamic company that engages many resources in the development of new technologies. ComNet always tries to offer innovative products, aware that competitiveness also depends on the specific architecture of the system and often ComNet offers unique and "peculiar" devices for specific applications. This allows us to construct an economically advantageous solution if it is analysed as a whole.
In these months we are presenting some brand new devices. The new industrial switch Made in the USA with PoE functionality up to real 60W over the extended temperature range, including an 11 Gigabit ports and a 24 ports of which 12 SFP Slots. The "universal" hybrid modular center switches, which can also host modules for "extended" Ethernet transmission on Coaxial cable or UTP cable for distances over 100 meters. Industrial VPN gateways for network backup on the cell line. The new miniaturized Smart Ring Switch models with the "Port Guardian" functionality and much more.
a&s Adria: What do you think about digital convergence in the field of security and CCTV? What are, in your opinion, the main problems, for producers and distributors, on one hand, for installers and integrators of security systems, on the other?
Grasselli: The so-called "digital convergence" is a race towards a compulsory future. The migration to IP standards is a steady process in the video surveillance and access control markets, but all communications in our trade will be gradually involved, and the future is transmitting more and more signals related to security through Ethernet. Some specific regulations for security but above all for safety, are still a limit, but we are sure that manufacturers will push the entire sector to this direction in the near future.
Nowadays, the CCTV market, restricted to some security specialists until a decade ago, has become an interesting market for players with different backgrounds, who see in it new opportunities to increase their business. All this will bring new skills, a rapid technological innovation and the migration of all information to digital networks, TCP/IP protocol and structured cabling. In this scenario, now the major competitors in the video surveillance market are the "traditional" security specialists and also the companies that have always worked in the information technology market, without forgetting the companies of the more "generalist" electric world.
The problems are often concerning the specific knowledge about technical issues. Security specialists, technologically accustomed to plug&play structures and therefore less accustomed to active infrastructures, pay little attention to network devices. Paradoxically, even IT specialists, who are very familiar with network infrastructures, underestimate the need for a dedicated choice of active equipment and follow the system standards they know better. CCTV networks, however, have huge application differences as compared to any traditional computer network, both because the features of a digital video signal are different from the ones of a generic IT network, and because the devices are often installed in unprotected environments and not inside buildings or in datacenters.
The result is that the general quality of a video surveillance system is often heavily impaired by an inappropriate design of the network infrastructure, often due to the need to reach fictitious financial savings. In general, in my opinion, the biggest challenge in the market will be to maintain a high level of know-how while trying to match the peculiar needs of Security with those of the IT networks, and making the most of both aspects.
a&s Adria: Market estimates show that 80% of European companies are hit by cyber attacks. How do you tackle the need for cyber security in Comnet?
Grasselli: Cyber Security must become a cornerstone in the design of Security systems to avoid the paradox that the critical point of failure in corporate cyber security is a company's physical security system.
When introducing network devices in security systems, it is necessary to provide appropriate protection against external cyber attacks. Once again, the characteristics of the security systems go beyond those of the IT networks. By way of example, their network devices (cameras, switches, readers and so on) are often installed outdoors, in physically unprotected locations and above all, they cannot be directly monitored easily.
ComNet has always paid great attention to these aspects. On the one hand, trying to take regular care of the HW and SW development of its field devices with increasingly 100% Made in the USA engineering and manufacturing. On the other hand, equipping the items with cyber security features as complete as possible according to the specific needs. For example, the Reliance range is dedicated to the vertical market of critical infrastructures and so switches and routers are equipped with high level attack prevention systems, authentication processes, encryption and dedicated firewalls.
The latest innovation for field devices is the ComNet exclusive "Port Guardian" feature. This function locks out "Spoofing" accesses by physically disconnecting a port if unauthorized access is detected. The value in Port Guardian comes in situations where network access is attempted by disconnecting an IP addressable device on the edge to connect to the network. When Port Guardian senses this disconnection, a SNMP notification is sent to the head end and the affected port is physically locked out, so that access is prevented. The network administrator can reopen the port again when the threat is eliminated.
a&s Adria: In addition to Cybersecurity, what are the other challenges that the security sector has to face?
Grasselli: Another technical aspect that will involve all the players in the market will be the ever-increasing system integration, also pushed by digital convergence. As in all other sectors, we will see an increasing amount of data to be managed. On the one hand, from the human point of view, the need will be to simplify interfaces, automatic events correlations and "artificial analysis" of the growing quantity of information. On the other hand, from the point of view of the network, the need will be to increase the specialization of equipment, systems and therefore of specialists, whether they are installers or integrators.
Closer to the problems of classical Security, the growing demand of remote systems will require the development of new and more efficient solutions that ensure connectivity but also power supply where there is no reliable electricity network or continuity of service.
a&s Adria: In this scenario, what is the competitive edge for the companies who choose to rely on ComNet?
Grasselli: ComNet is a dynamic company, but with a several-decades-long technological background in the field of signal transmission. The strong attention to market demands allows us to be ready to meet new needs with high capacity for innovation, including the development of tailor-made devices for specific projects. At the same time, the high know-how guarantees highest levels of quality and reliability.
ComNet offers a strong specialization in communication, remaining focused on its skills and trying to offer technologically effective and efficient products and to provide a high level of service. From a technical point of view, some operational advantages of our products are the wide range availability, product longevity, high performance, very low heat emissions, etc. Finally, all products are certified by TÜV and each item is tested in our laboratory in Leeds before being packaged and shipped. Certainly the reliability of our products is summarized in our exclusive industry leading "LifeTime Warranty" on the whole industrial range.
From a commercial point of view, a simple, linear and "orderly" policy with maximum assistance and support to those who choose our products for their projects through a fluid comparison on each need. Moreover, free online training courses, local support, large stocks in USA, UK and locally with very short delivery times.
a&s Adria: How do you evaluate the growth of the security and CCTV market? How does Comnet offer fit in this context?
Grasselli: Surely the security market will continue to have high technological developments with an unavoidable migration of all systems to networks and structured cabling with an increasing integration of systems. I believe that, in order to optimize the efficiency of the networks, there will be a shift of part of the system "intelligences" towards the edge with consequent need for reliable products both from the physical and from the Cyber attacks protection point of view.
The search for cost optimization will continue to be a crucial aspect, as it should be. From the technological and operational point of view, of course, the hope is that the goal is reached as wide as possible as a cost-benefit ratio and also through a truly complete analysis, which also includes the costs for the maintenance of the system during the whole time of its life.
From a commercial point of view, the Balkans are very fragmented market, where the necessary technological know-how is "moving" within the value chain seeking its rightful place between distributors, installers and integrators. We hope that we find a definite road without losing any of the necessary skills. In all this context ComNet tries to do its part by offering product quality, technological innovation, efficiency and security ensured by extended warranties, high level of service and a serious and correct commercial policy with its partners, in the broadest sense of the term.
a&s Adria: Tell us about some important projects you've been working on lately?
Grasselli: Among others, we have been working on: Active devices for the net for the technological upgrade of CCTV systems of all the sites of a National Electricity provider, Active devices for the net for the technological upgrade of Security systems of all the sites of a National Oil&Gas company, Active devices for the net for the CCTV systems for some industrial plants, Active devices for the net for the CCTV systems in Railway stations, Active devices for the net for the Security systems in Oil&Gas Plants, etc.