Smart security

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Published in Features

The security industry has seen the dawn of a host of innovative new technologies in recent years which are improving the way security services are provided.  However, it is in the data that these new devices are beginning to generate that the industry’s future truly lies, says Terry Hanley, director of security at Interserve.

Our industry is in the midst of a technological revolution. An exciting mix of new devices and techniques have come to the fore in recent years which have the potential to transform how services are provided, and security teams are rushing to get up to speed.

For the most part this new equipment has been focused around enhanced monitoring and surveillance capabilities. Camera technology has become more and more sophisticated. The development of smaller, wearable devices has also continued apace with patrol teams now able to transmit real-time imaging as well as information about their location and well-being back to a central control centre.

Meanwhile, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for security purposes is beginning to expand. Able to remotely monitor large areas of land and survey otherwise hard-to-reach locations, they are proving a cost-effective alternative to traditional monitoring techniques for teams responsible for the protection of large, expansive estates.  

The advances that these new systems can offer are impressive – not only improving the quality of service provision but also making it more efficient by freeing up employees to carry out more complex tasks. However, it is the information which these systems can gather that offers the most tantalising opportunities for our industry and its customers.

A smarter approach

Remote monitoring devices such as advanced camera systems and UAVs have the potential to generate a huge amount of data about a facility and its users. This mix of information has an important role to play in helping teams to identify possible breaches, assess the threat posed, and coordinate a suitable response. It can even be used to populate real-time smartphone apps so that operatives on the ground have access to minute-by-minute intelligence as well as guidance and instruction from a central control team on how best to react.  

At a strategic level, this information offers exciting possibilities when it comes to our understanding of the assets we protect and how to plan for their long-term security.

Our industry is finally starting to embrace the concept of big data. By integrating the output from these new devices into wider data analytical systems, security professionals are able to develop a more holistic picture of the assets that they are responsible for.

No longer having to wait for retrospective reports and information, security teams can take a proactive rather than reactive approach to security management, identifying activity hotspots and taking pre-emptive action to address any gaps in security provision before breaches or loss can occur. Rather than assigning physical guards to an entrance area simply because it is an access point, security teams can use the information to deploy their resources more intelligently, focusing on the most vulnerable locations and the real-time needs of an asset.

With security technology continually evolving, it can be hard to know which systems offer the best return on investment. Collating data about a facility will help security teams to make a more informed choice. For example, if analysis shows one area of a site to be particularly vulnerable but unsuitable for manned guarding, security teams can choose to invest in smart cameras. Integrated with geo-fencing technology to demarcate this area as an ‘at risk zone’, these cameras can trigger automated alarms if unauthorised activity is detected within the restricted space.

The bigger picture

This more intelligent approach to security management has the potential to transform the way we think about manned guarding, with significant benefits being realised for customers.  

By focusing on the most vulnerable areas of a facility, security teams can reduce their physical presence where it is not needed. For industry sectors such as retail and leisure, this is having a positive impact on the end-user experience. In these kinds of environments, a high-visibility security presence can make visitors feel uneasy – customers do want to feel secure but they also want to focus on having an enjoyable experience.    

We have recognised this trend and are now working with our customers and other facilities services teams to explore how we can best meet the needs of a facility’s users, while maintaining appropriate levels of safety and security. In the commercial offices sector, for example, occupiers and owners want their front of house space to create an engaging and positive experience for visitors and employees from the moment they walk through the front door – and technology is playing a key role in supporting this. By using automated visitor management and access control systems to remotely process and track people through a building, we have been able to reduce the number of guards physically present in the front of house space.

Applied in the correct way, this does not result in any reduction in the perimeter security of the building – in fact, automated systems are helping us to reduce the risk of security breaches through loss or theft of ID cards. Nevertheless, we recognise that maintaining eyes on the ground is still important. It is much easier to develop people’s security awareness than it is to develop their hospitality skills. To ensure that a good user experience is maintained without compromising on security, therefore, we are now training front of house employees in basic security techniques to help them stay alert to potential threats.  

Unlocking the potential 

Making data analysis a standard part of the security role will present challenges. Additional training will be required to ensure security teams are up to speed with the new systems and can administer them properly, while data protection protocols will need to be continually reassessed and updated to protect the information generated. Integrating new analytical programmes with a variety of information sources also remains problematic and more work is needed to develop common platforms and systems with open protocol integration in mind.

However, the benefits of getting this right will far outweigh the difficulties. By embracing a big data approach and using this knowledge to deploy resources more effectively, security teams will be able to provide a more intelligent service – keeping people safe while also ensuring the best possible customer experience.

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