Online Exclusive: ‘Integrated Security’ – Not Just an Industry Buzzword
With so many business functions becoming integrated through networked devices or systems, it is no wonder that one of the newly re-introduced buzzwords spreading throughout the physical security industry is integrated security services.
- By Cale Dowell
- Apr 10, 2015
As the evolution of the “Internet of Things” reaches its zenith, the world demands that anything that can be connected should be connected. In this new age, technology has become the raw material that makes up the foundation of nearly all of our most precious business functions.
With so many business functions becoming integrated through networked devices or systems, it is no wonder that one of the newly re-introduced buzzwords spreading throughout the physical security industry is integrated security services. What comprises “integrated security?” An internet search might lead you to a few companies; however, like many other marketable phrases in our industry, “integrated security” doesn’t retain a standard definition. And it shouldn’t.
As the marketable phrase might suggest, “integrated security” implies an assimilation of different security services. And that definition would be correct, albeit incomplete. Depending on which organization you’re engaging with, the security services offered may vary from company to company. So how do you determine what services to integrate, and who to speak with about it?
Initially, one must understand the benefits of any type of integration. Your smartphone is an excellent example. Today, a typical smartphone provides an array of services. Its primary function is to provide a working mobile phone solution for calls and text messages. As a secondary function, it provides a slew of other uses. Access to apps, email, Internet, and a camera just to name a few. It incorporates many useful tools into one efficient device that can be more easily accessed, maintained, and controlled than if they were separate from each other. It offers an integration of useful tools in much the same manner that the multi-tool delivers to the outdoorsman. The strategy of pairing services together to create efficiencies isn’t new. But as technology improves it becomes more and more effective.
The data most imperative to recognize is the method by which organizations can begin to integrate different security services into their overarching physical security blueprint. As with all technology, there are two primary components: the user and the tool. Many organizations make a mistake by only focusing on the tool (i.e. – what inherent value will this bring our security function?). But it is just as important to respect users, and how technology will affect their role and daily operation. This applies not only to executive oversight, but also to the part-time security officer. When commencing a strategy to integrate security services, it’s essential to understand what services yield the most value through assimilation.
What to Integrate
Determining what to integrate is like catching a ball: it’s important to keep your eyes on the objective. At the same time, it’s valuable to keep your mind open to new solutions you may not have considered or otherwise known of. Physical security is generally comprised of two key elements: manpower and technology. I recommend the first area every organization should examine is how technology may impact its manpower. Something as simple as remote managed door access control can save an organization with a national footprint millions of dollars in labor that would otherwise be physically inspecting and locally controlling access. Thus, it’s valuable to consider where technology can impact or augment security labor. Second, maximize your understanding of the core technologies: video surveillance, access control, intrusion/fire & life safety/smoke alarms, incident management, situational & risk awareness tools, and managed remote monitoring.
The aim should be to understand the fundamental value each piece of core technology can bring to your entire security design. Identify areas where the technologies benefit from each other, specifically in their real-time application. For example, video and access control nearly always work in tandem. When monitored, the two become a more effective tool than just the one. Layer in two-way audio, and you can completely control an access point in real time without the need for a full-time officer. Real-time incident reports coupled with a full security operations center creates an improved capability to modify security protocols in real time on a national or global level. GPS fleet or asset tracking combined with a risk visualization tool and managed remote monitoring grants real time, actionable intelligence for modification to any security risks that may arise.
Identify Duplicate Services
Perhaps most significant is to pinpoint areas where core security technologies can integrate with manned security operations for enhanced responsiveness. To use an example, imagine an office complex that deploys several dedicated security officers throughout the day—one of which is fully devoted to oversight of their video and access control monitoring. This example is one our organization has encountered several times. Through integrating cameras with video analytics and access control, together with a well-designed, remote security operations center, and deploying the remaining onsite security officers with smartphones, we were able to increase our client’s situational intelligence and responsiveness to incidents while also yielding cost savings to the customer’s annual spend. On demand reports, such as incidents that occur on property (place, date/time, protocol initiated) or number of visitors to the building became valuable resources for both onsite security personnel and operational oversight to make adjustments proactively. Many core technologies when properly deployed are duplicates of some day-to-day security officer operations. When duplicate services are identified, eliminate or reduce the technology or manned security operation that can be replaced.
Making the Right Connection
With ISC West just around the corner, end users and security organizations alike will be on the lookout for new innovations and compatible partnerships. While each year produces additional technologies and recommendations, take the time to also gather information on how existing services can be paired with like services. In many cases, it won’t require a complete redesign of security operations or the need of a fancy operations center. As mentioned earlier, sometimes it can be as simple as changing the locks.
As a rule of thumb, use the size of your operation as a good gauge to determine what type of security organization to examine for integrated services. Are their multiple properties in multiple states under your leadership with a need for strategic implementation of security services? If so, I would recommend looking for a provider that can offer blended services, hybrid solutions, and a multitude of integrated services. Within these organizations should be subject matter experts or consultants that spend their time specifically working with large customers on maximizing the effectiveness of security operations through integrated services. This isn’t to say that smaller providers or one-off vendors cannot be of value to larger operations. They certainly can. However, for most large organizations there is an intrinsic value in having “one throat to choke” by consolidating vendors.
On the other hand, smaller organizations have more flexibility to play the field. The large, one-stop shops will add value, but with so many customers, they sometimes lack the ability to provide dedicated service to smaller companies. Small business owners know only too well the gentle dance of balancing your commitment to safety, and your commitment to your balance sheet. But the bottom line always starts with first understanding your needs.
Overwhelmingly, security decisions are no longer being made solely by the security division of an organization. Corporate departments collaborate more on decisions about security – and it’s no longer just the accounting department, but procurement, human resources, legal and operations. In many corporations decisions pertaining to security will impact each one of these departments. Thus, with so many cooks in the kitchen and so many dollars on the table, it becomes imperative to eliminate duplicate services to maximize efficiency. End users should focus on the opportunities that will best allow them to systemize their security process and leverage current resources. Likewise, security organizations need to broaden their conversations with end users. It isn’t just selling a camera or an hour of operation per week anymore. It’s being able to assess the big picture and cast a strategy that multiple departments can understand and evaluate. If the organization you’re engaged with cannot provide that level of discussion, don’t make a decision. Keep looking. Your balance sheet, and the safety of your people and assets are worth it. In the context of making a decision, integrated security is summarized in two key points: increasing capabilities, and improving ROI. That is the ultimate objective.
*Cale Dowell and the Universal team will be available at ISC West at Booth 24123.