Technology leading the change in security

Technology is having an enormous impact on our lives. It is changing how we work, how we socialise and how we communicate. There can be events occurring on the other aside of the planet and we can watch them unfold in real time on our tablets and smart phones.

Technology is also having a significant impact on the security industry; in a positive way. If you keep up to date with market forecasts, the electronic security market is forecast to experience double digit growth until 2020 and beyond.  It is as much about IP communications and systems integration today as it is about alarm inputs and outputs.

Business is learning that security technologies can bring efficiencies in areas outside of security and even generate some return on investment. This was unthinkable not so long ago.

Technology versus people power

A large part of a security consultant’s role is helping Business overcome their security challenges, whatever they may be. A review conducted late last year for a council property had all the usual challenges that most council depots experience. They were losing vehicles, parts and equipment on a semi-regular basis and realised their current security practices had failed.

When a security review is undertaken, there are generally a lot of questions; this is to not only understand what does and doesn’t work from a security perspective, but also to challenge convention. However, the security industry is, by nature, a pretty conservative group.

During the review process, it was apparent that a couple of key issues had to be managed better than they were currently. These were; alarm events could not be verified quickly enough and alarm responses were too slow to influence the outcome. The client explained that the typical alarm patrol response would take up to 45 minutes or more, which meant that alarm verification also took that long. Until the patrol officer arrived, there was no understanding of what, if anything, had actually occurred.

Has the security industry been caught napping?

Patrol and alarm-response services have been popular with businesses for 80 or so years, and not much seems to have changed. Men in cars driving to and from premises, night after night diligently checking that doors and gates are locked and all-is-well.

In the event of alarm activation, the patrol car will leave the patrol route and investigate the alarm event. If the patrol officer holds keys, they will often do an internal inspection of the premises, but for many buildings it will be just be the outside of the building that is checked.

The client also explained that they would on average have three or four alarm events, and the subsequent patrol attendance, each and every week. They also contract the same alarm response company to undertake regular patrols of their depot and other council buildings.

What was clear was that their investment in security patrols and alarm-response services was in the tens of thousands of dollars a year. Every year.

Every client is different in terms of the required risk management strategies. Patrols and alarm response for some applications may add enormous value. In this case they were proving quite futile, particularly when something like 95 per cent of all alarm attendance are associated with false alarms.

Is deterring crime good risk treatment?

The arguments for patrol services is that they provide a deterrent to criminal activity because their routes are somewhat ad hoc, meaning they don’t arrive at the client premises at the same time each night. Great in principle, but how do you measure it? How do you know if it is an effective risk treatment or not?

The word deterrent comes up a lot as well with CCTV. Experience and industry knowledge tells us that if you put the right camera in the right place with the right lens, the outcome is a given. You know exactly what you will get.

The deterrent factor is virtually impossible to qualify. Is having a CCTV camera looking at a doorway going to stop somebody from breaking in? It probably comes down to the motivation and confidence levels of the individual rather than the presence of a CCTV camera or an ad hoc security patrol service.

The alarm verification and response process is problematic, particularly when it takes as long as it does. From a risk management perspective, 45 minutes or more is a very long time and unlikely to provide any real value, other than give the client a trained resource to investigate on their behalf.

Many alarm attendances are false alarms; this is across the industry. This particular council had nearly 200 alarm response attendances over the last year associated with their council depot. Just seven of those attendances were for genuine intrusions.

Solutions are not as expensive as you may think

Technology can have a positive impact and start to add some value in this given application. It comes down to establishing a reliable intrusion-detection system that includes real-time alarm verification capabilities. If the event can be confirmed as genuine, send patrolman and notify Police.  Police will usually attend if a perpetrator is confirmed to be on site.

If it’s possible to remotely investigate the alarm and verify it as a false alarm, there’s no need to send the patrol guy; saving the $80 attendance fee in the process.

To achieve this, it may mean some investment in strategically placed CCTV cameras to provide the level of coverage required. The beauty of modern CCTV cameras is that the Video Motion Detection (VMD) that now comes with many systems is of a really high standard. It allows the cameras to not only witness and validate intrusions, but will provide additional detection capability as well.

Using CCTV, virtual fence lines can be established that will allow detection inside the building perimeter, but can be programmed to ignore pedestrian and vehicle traffic outside the facility.

Remote monitoring services are not expensive either. There are any number of graded control rooms that have the infrastructure in place to provide high quality, remote CCTV monitoring. The actual cost of the service would be recovered in six weeks of alarm attendances for this particular council client.

Remote video monitoring allows operators to know within 90 seconds if the alarm event is genuine or not and if it requires escalation. Ninety seconds is a whole lot better than 45 minutes.

There may be some capital expenditure required to achieve the appropriate level of CCTV coverage. But again, when the combined costs of patrol and alarm attendances add up to what they can each year, an ROI period of two to three years is probably not unrealistic. For sites that have existing CCTV systems as many do, the financial return could be much faster.

Technology is getting smarter and cheaper

Technology, market growth and the enormous number of CCTV vendors in this country means the real cost of CCTV is coming down. CCTV systems are also getting smarter, with added features like License Plate Recognition and Biometrics becoming common in even the volume segment of the market.

It’s no longer necessary to buy full-blown Video Management Systems to get features that can really add value, from both a detection and investigative perspective. VMD, Left Object, Removed Object and People Counting are commodity features of CCTV platforms that cost just $3000 or $4000 today.

Many include mobile applications, enabling remote monitoring of the security and CCTV systems from anywhere there is mobile or Internet coverage.

About the author

Luke Percy-Dove

Luke is one of the most respected and highly regarded Security Advisers and Security Design Consultants in Australia and has been a trusted key player in the security industry for more than two decades, delivering security solutions for hundreds of businesses and organisations nationally.