Chip shortages affect the supply of physical security products
Chip shortages have affected the supply chain for many industries including physical security devices used for video surveillance or access control. Originally blamed on Covid-19 the shortages are not only due to a drop in production capacity but an increasing demand for smart, networked devices set to continue in some sectors up to possibly 2024. Inevitably we are finding lead times are being extended by distributors as they struggle with satisfying customer orders with the stock they have available or scheduled for delivery. The dates we are offered are typically met but we would at this stage advise our clients to make their capital purchases early to meet project deadlines even if the finer details of the project are still being planned.
A survey here by Avnet, one of the world’s largest distributors of electronic components and embedded systems, looked at how various electronic engineers were dealing with the problem.
The various adaptations to products found:
- Circuit board redesign
- Pin compatible replacements with better specifications or more functionality
- Drop in / compatible replacements
- Pin compatible replacements with fewer specifications and or less functionality
- Firmware changes
- Functionally compatible components not pin compatible
- Changes to software
So, what does this mean for new devices purchased for our physical security systems? Typically, we are finding full compatibility with existing drivers and security products. Many products may not even follow any of the adaptation pathways suggested and may be 100% compatible with previous products or simply evolved with additional specifications or functionality. In other cases, driver updates may be all that is necessary and as such updates are good practice for the in-life management of a security system.
Tempting as they may be grey imports or products sourced from outside of the UK may not be built to the same specification, may have different firmware and features or even significant hardware differences to products you are struggling to procure currently in the UK. Even though these products may appear to be the same make and model, albeit with slight change to the suffix on the model number, these differences put your investment and potentially your business at risk.
If you are installing a small business system, as long as you source all of the components from the same source, these grey imports could work sufficiently albeit without the same support or guarantees as a locally sourced item and possibly with a few extra features you are not aware of.
If you are purchasing cameras or an access control device for example, to add to an existing enterprise system, can you be certain the drivers are compatible with these products and will they work correctly? Will the menus be in English or is English even supported? Will you be able to obtain firmware updates to patch vulnerabilities? and can you be sure that the attractive price is because an interested party has put a backdoor in the device that could either be used directly or as a proxy to cyber-attacks on your network?
Unsupported firmware in grey imports additionally may not have a supported upgrade path so for example attempting to turn a grey import into a supported model via the firmware may simply ‘brick’ the device because the underlying hardware is not compatible.
At Check Your Security we only supply genuine components to our security projects purchased through authorised UK based distributors or directly with manufacturers this offers us both a managed supply chain and support in the case of faulty items early life failures plus collaboration when it comes to integration of their products into complex environments.
Kevin King – Head of Technical Services' Check Your Security