The devil is in the details. The broader implications of the U.S. Government ban on Chinese video surveillance manufacturers are being clarified in the federal rule-making process, and a public hearing in July gave the industry a chance to speak up about the impact of the law.

Ban on equipment

The hearing centered on Section 889 of Title VII of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) for FY 2019, specifically paragraph (a)(1)(B). The paragraph "prohibits agencies from entering into a contract (or extending or renewing a contract) with an entity that uses any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system."

“Covered equipment” refers to products and services from Huawei, ZTE Corp., Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua

“Covered equipment” refers to products and services from Huawei Technologies Co., ZTE Corp., Hytera Communications Corp., Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Dahua Technology Co. Hikvision and Dahua are two of the largest manufacturers of video surveillance equipment, and Huawei manufactures HiSilicon chips widely used in video cameras.

‘Chinese ban’ provision

The public hearing was part of the rule-making process for paragraph (a)(1)(B), which the industry has informally referred to as the “blacklist” provision of the NDAA. However, the “Chinese ban” provision [Paragraph (a)(1)(a)] is not at issue, was not covered by the public hearing, and is already scheduled to go into effect a year after the law was signed by President Trump (August 13, 2018).  

There were seven presentations at the public hearing. Presenters included the Security Industry Association (SIA), two Hikvision integrators, a representative of communications manufacturer Hytera, an economist and an attorney on behalf of telecommunications company Huawei, and Honeycomb Secure Systems, a federal contractor. There was no livestream or transcription of the meeting, although PowerPoint summaries of the 10-minute presentations were published.  

SIA emphasizes on clarity

In its presentation, the Security Industry Association (SIA) emphasized that contractors need clarity, i.e., that paragraph (a)(1)(B) applies to an entity's use of covered equipment or services in the performance of federal contracts, but NOT to non-federal sales or use of covered equipment by a contractor that is unrelated to federal work.

SIA also focused on the distinction (and contrasting risk profiles) between video surveillance equipment, which are endpoint devices that may or may not be on the Internet, and telecommunications equipment. In contrast, telecommunications equipment is essential to Internet infrastructure and manages all data on a network, encrypted or not.   

Fully-compliant video surveillance products

Security equipment suppliers and integrators doing federal work can offer fully compliant video surveillance products"

SIA's presentation included the following "outcome" statement: "Security equipment suppliers and integrators doing federal work can offer fully compliant video surveillance products in the federal market, while offering other products tailored to technical requirements, price points and specific customer needs that vary widely for non-government commercial sectors – e.g. malls, banks, convenience stores, etc.

In other words, involvement in government contracts should not restrict an integrator’s flexibility to offer any and all products and services (included those from the listed Chinese companies) to non-government customers. The two integrators made similar points, specifically about their business with Hikvision. One presenter was Rick Williams, General Manager of Selcom, a systems integrator in Selma, Ala., with 10 employees. They have been a Hikvision partner since 2012 with a year-to-date revenue from Hikvision products of approximately $400,000.

Hikvision integrators speak out

A second integrator at the hearing was Mark Zuckerman of Clear Connection Inc., a security company in Beltsville, Md., with 32 local employees, that focuses on electronic security, telecommunications and IT. Clear Connection designs, installs and services systems throughout Metro DC and Baltimore, including commercial entities, schools and non-profit organizations. They do about $120,000 a year in business as a Hikvision partner and have over $500,000 in business awaiting federal NSGP [Nonprofit Security Grant Program] approval.

In two almost identical presentations, the integrators sought clear guidance on how to comply with the language of the law as written, specifically confirmation that Section 889 of the NDAA does not apply to non-federal sales or use of covered equipment. "This is critical to my company as I provide integrated security solutions across multiple government and commercial markets, using a mix of products from different manufacturers tailored to the technical requirements, price points and customer needs that vary widely for each sector," said Williams.

Hytera speaks at hearing

It is not clear what Section 889 means, who it applies to, or how far its prohibitions extend"

"It is not clear what Section 889 means, who it applies to, or how far its prohibitions extend," commented Zuckerman. "If interpreted broadly, some of my customers would be barred from entering into a federal contract because they have covered products installed in their facility to protect their property and staff.

Also presenting at the hearing was Hytera, a manufacturer of open standard digital mobile radio technology. The presentation emphasized that Hytera does not sell to U.S. telecommunications carriers, and does not supply 5G components or video surveillance equipment. Hytera equipment is used by federal customers such as the National Gallery of Art, National Archives, National Zoo and the Holocaust Museum.

Impact on clients and commerce

"These federal entities do not play a role in national security, and the Hytera systems do not connect to any critical systems," says the company. "However, the lack of clarity in the implementation of the NDAA has a significant impact on Federal, state and commercial clients, impacting competition and choice."

Hytera's presentation continues: "Hytera has never been informed by any U.S. government entity that its equipment posed a national security risk and as such has not been given the opportunity to respond to any concerns. The result of Section 889 is the creation and circulation of misinformation in the marketplace." Hytera also said that the federal proposed rules and regulations should exempt federal agencies that do not include a national security component, and equipment not interconnected with the public network.

Impact on cybersecurity

Consolidating the number of equipment suppliers hinders rather than helps cybersecurity"

James E. Gauch, an attorney with James Day speaking on behalf of Huawei, offered a global argument that could be applied to any of the banned companies: “Virtually all equipment manufacturers rely on a global supply chain and face security risks from a wide range of sources, excluding may be one or two vendors based on their national origin will not address these risks.

He adds, “However, consolidating the number of equipment suppliers hinders rather than helps cybersecurity. Creating a small number of dominant suppliers, regardless of national origin, reduces the incentives of those suppliers to embrace industry-leading standards and creates greater exposure to vulnerabilities of a single supplier.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, &

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SecurityInformed's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities
Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities

Growth is accelerating in the smart cities market, which will quadruple in the next four years based on 2020 numbers. Top priorities are resilient energy and infrastructure projects, followed by data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation. Innovation in smart cities will come from the continual maturation of relevant technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) and edge-to-cloud networking. AI and computer vision (video analytics) are driving challenges in security and safety, in particular, with video management systems (VMSs) capturing video streams and exposing them to various AI analytics. Adoption of disruptive technologies “Cities are entering the critical part of the adoption curve,” said Kasia Hanson, Global Director, Partner Sales, IOT Video, Safe Cities, Intel Corp. “They are beginning to cross the chasm to realize their smart city vision. Cities are taking notice and have new incentives to push harder than before. They are in a better position to innovate.” “Safety and security were already important market drivers responsible for adoption of AI, computer vision and edge computing scenarios,” commented Hanson, in a presentation at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) 2021. She added: “2020 was an inflection point when technology and the market were ripe for disruption. COVID has accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies in ways we could not have predicted last year.” Challenges faced by cities Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018 Providing wide-ranging services is an expanding need in cities of all sizes. There are currently 33 megacities globally with populations over 10 million. There are also another 4,000 cities with populations over 100,000 inhabitants. Challenges for all cities include improving public health and safety, addressing environmental pressures, enabling mobility, improving quality of life, promoting economic competitiveness, and reducing costs. Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018. Other challenges include air quality – 80% of those living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits. Highlighting mobility concerns is an eye-opening statistic from Los Angeles in 2017: Residents spent an average of 102 hours sitting in traffic. Smart technology “The Smart City of Today can enable rich and diverse use cases,” says Hanson. Examples include AI-enabled traffic signals to help reduce air pollution, and machine learning for public safety such as real-time visualization and emergency response. Public safety use cases include smart and connected outdoor lighting, smart buildings, crime prevention, video wearables for field agents, smart kiosks, and detection of noise level, glass breaks, and gunshots. Smart technology will make indoor spaces safer by controlling access to a building with keyless and touchless entry. In the age of COVID, systems can also detect face mask compliance, screen for fever, and ensure physical distancing. 2020 was an inflection point when technology and the smart cities market were ripe for disruption, Kasia Hanson told the MIPS 2021 audience. Video solutions Video workloads will provide core capabilities as entertainment venues reopen after the pandemic. When audiences attend an event at a city stadium, deep learning and AI capabilities analyze customer behaviors to create new routes, pathways, signage and to optimize cleaning operations. Personalized digital experiences will add to the overall entertainment value. In the public safety arena, video enables core capabilities such as protection of people, assets, and property, emergency response, and real-time visualization, and increased situational awareness. Video also provides intelligent incident management, better operational efficiency, and faster information sharing and collaboration. Smart video strategy Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security Video at the edge is a key element in end-to-end solutions. Transforming data from various point solutions into insights is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Cities and public venues are looking for hardware, software, and industry expertise to provide the right mix of performance, capabilities, and cost-effectiveness. Intel’s smart video strategy focuses around its OpenVINO toolkit. OpenVINO, which is short for Open Visual Inference and Neural network Optimization, enables customers to build and deploy high-performing computer vision and deep learning inference applications. Intel and Milestone partnership – Video solutions “Our customers are asking for choice and flexibility at the edge, on-premises and in the cloud,” said Hansen in her presentation at the virtual conference. “They want the choice to integrate with large-scale software packages to speed deployment and ensure consistency over time. They need to be able to scale computer vision. Resolutions are increasing alongside growth in sensor installations themselves. They have to be able to accommodate that volume, no matter what causes it to grow.” As partners, Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security. In effect, the partnership combines Intel’s portfolio of video, computer vision, inferencing, and AI capabilities with Milestone’s video management software and community of analytics partners. Given its complex needs, the smart cities market is particularly inviting for these technologies.

What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?
What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analyzed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021
New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021

Organizations faced a number of unforeseen challenges in nearly every business sector throughout 2020 – and continuing into 2021. Until now, businesses have been on the defensive, reacting to the shifting workforce and economic conditions, however, COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans. This is now giving decision-makers the chance to take a proactive approach to mitigate current and post-pandemic risks. These long-term technology solutions can be used for today’s new world of social distancing and face mask policies and flexibly repurposed for tomorrow’s renewed focus on efficiency and business optimization. For many, this emphasis on optimization will likely be precipitated by not only the resulting economic impacts of the pandemic but also the growing sophistication and maturity of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), technologies that are coming of age just when they seem to be needed the most.COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans Combined with today’s cutting-edge computer vision capabilities, AI and ML have produced smart cameras that have enabled organizations to more easily implement and comply with new health and safety requirements. Smart cameras equipped with AI-enabled intelligent video analytic applications can also be used in a variety of use cases that take into account traditional security applications, as well as business or operational optimization, uses – all on a single camera. As the applications for video analytics become more and more mainstream - providing valuable insights to a variety of industries - 2021 will be a year to explore new areas of use for AI-powered cameras. Optimizing production workflows and product quality in agriculture Surveillance and monitoring technologies are offering value to industries such as agriculture by providing a cost-effective solution for monitoring of crops, business assets and optimizing production processes. As many in the agriculture sector seek to find new technologies to assist in reducing energy usage, as well as reduce the environmental strain of modern farming, they can find an unusual ally in smart surveillance. Some niche farming organizations are already implementing AI solutions to monitor crops for peak production freshness in order to reduce waste and increase product quality.  For users who face environmental threats, such as mold, parasites, or other insects, smart surveillance monitoring can assist in the early identification of these pests and notify proper personnel before damage has occurred. They can also monitor vast amounts of livestock in fields to ensure safety from predators or to identify if an animal is injured. Using video monitoring in the growing environment as well as along the supply chain can also prove valuable to large-scale agriculture production. Applications can track and manage inventory in real-time, improving knowledge of high-demand items and allowing for better supply chain planning, further reducing potential spoilage. Efficient monitoring in manufacturing and logistics New challenges have arisen in the transportation and logistics sector, with the industry experiencing global growth. While security and operational requirements are changing, smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye, but have a significant impact on the overall customer experience. Smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye. Video analytics can assist logistic service providers in successfully delivering the correct product to the right location and customer in its original condition, which normally requires the supply chain to be both secure and ultra-efficient. The latest camera technology and intelligent software algorithms can analyze footage directly on the camera – detecting a damaged package at the loading dock before it is loaded onto a truck for delivery. When shipments come in, smart cameras can also alert drivers of empty loading bays available for offloading or alert facility staff of potential blockages or hazards for incoming and outgoing vehicles that could delay delivery schedules planned down to the minute. For monitoring and detecting specific vehicles, computer vision in combination with video analysis enables security cameras to streamline access control measures with license plate recognition. Smart cameras equipped with this technology can identify incoming and outgoing trucks - ensuring that only authorized vehicles gain access to transfer points or warehouses. Enhance regulatory safety measures in industrial settings  Smart surveillance and AI-enabled applications can be used to ensure compliance with organizational or regulatory safety measures in industrial environments. Object detection apps can identify if employees are wearing proper safety gear, such as facial coverings, hard hats, or lifting belts. Similar to the prevention of break-ins and theft, cameras equipped with behavior detection can help to automatically recognize accidents at an early stage. For example, if a worker falls to the ground or is hit by a falling object, the system recognizes this as unusual behavior and reports it immediately. Going beyond employee safety is the ability to use this technology for vital preventative maintenance on machinery and structures. A camera can identify potential safety hazards, such as a loose cable causing sparks, potential wiring hazards, or even detect defects in raw materials. Other more subtle changes, such as gradual structural shifts/crack or increases in vibrations – ones that would take the human eye months or years to discover – are detectable by smart cameras trained to detect the first signs of mechanical deterioration that could potentially pose a physical safety risk to people or assets. Early recognition of fire and smoke is another use case where industrial decision-makers can find value. Conventional fire alarms are often difficult to properly mount in buildings or outdoor spaces and they require a lot of maintenance. Smart security cameras can be deployed in difficult or hard-to-reach areas. When equipped with fire detection applications, they can trigger notification far earlier than a conventional fire alarm – as well as reduce false alarms by distinguishing between smoke, fog, or other objects that trigger false alarms. By digitizing analog environments, whether a smoke detector or an analog pressure gauge, decision-makers will have access to a wealth of data for analysis that will enable them to optimize highly technical processes along different stages of manufacturing - as well as ensure employee safety and security of industrial assets and resources. Looking forward to the future of smart surveillance With the rise of automation in all three of these markets, from intelligent shelving systems in warehouses to autonomous-driving trucks, object detection for security threats, and the use of AI in monitoring agricultural crops and livestock, the overall demand for computer vision and video analytics will continue to grow. That is why now is the best time for decision-makers across a number of industries to examine their current infrastructure and determine if they are ready to make an investment in a sustainable, multi-use, and long-term security and business optimization solution.