Cloud: Are we getting too smart? – OPTEX

February 2, 2023


Gen Graham, Visual Solutions Business Development Manager at OPTEX Europe, says the industry must do more to help businesses match solutions to demand

In recent years, there has been an explosion of new technologies in the security industry; intelligent visual monitoring software, video analytics with Artificial Intelligence (AI), thermal cameras, biometric scanning and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming the way we work.

The level of security businesses can achieve today is unprecedented. The question is, are they choosing the right level of security for their needs?

Current climate

Whilst our streets were empty during lockdown, over a quarter of UK retail and a third of wholesale premises installed additional security measures, according to the UK Government statistics.  With UK unemployment expected to reach 5%, those numbers will keep rising, if past record is anything to go by. Burglary climbed 4% during the 2008 recession.

But new technology can be expensive. Balancing the need for additional protection against the cost of installing new systems is a question the security industry should be helping UK businesses to answer.

In 2021, UK Home Office crime data shows that almost 40% of wholesale and retail premises were victims of theft or burglary, and 10% experienced a serious financial loss. In rural areas, the theft of valuable farm machinery, fuel and livestock has risen by over 40%, according to NFU’s 2022 rural crime report. Given such statistics, it is no wonder many businesses are looking to use the latest technology to upgrade their security systems this year.

Advancing technology

Thanks to software developments and edge-based devices, installing the most advanced technology is now much easier.  Cloud-based technologies have enabled the wider adoption of remote security monitoring, supporting the automation of security processes and helping the industry to tackle on-going labour shortages and the rising cost of labour.

Integrated technologies and cloud-based monitoring software can create a wide security ecosystem, where devices communicate with each other to provide an even more reliable and efficient security solution. Sensors can detect movement and trigger cameras for video verification and recording of events, it can also activate audio systems or release fogging to delay and deter all but the most determined thieves without having to call the police. Receiving centres can be notified and alerts can be sent to mobiles, allowing to keep the security teams and customers focussed on what really matters.  

Pro-active monitoring through the use of integrated/intelligent sensing technologies to an event and filter out false alarms. 

Deep learning analytics, facial recognition and ‘man-down’ software can ensure alarms aren’t triggered by a worker returning to the office but do raise the alarm if a person rather than a plant falls over. 

Technology has now become so sophisticated that intelligent video technology can zoom in and search for minute details, such as someone with an orange backpack through 10,000 security cameras, and it will find them.

But do all businesses need such sophistication when it comes to their security? Government security services may need intelligent video to find a suspected terrorist; a large football stadium may need facial recognition to identify a thief or a thug in a crowd of thousands.

But for a smaller premises on a UK high street or a remote farm in Cumbria, that level of technology is potentially taking a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut.

Finding the right solution

With such an extensive array of available technologies and products, finding the right solution can be a real challenge. The individual security and operational requirements need to be considered to define the right level of security and what will be the most suitable technologies.

There are many specialists who will provide very sophisticated solutions to meet the needs of almost any situation from a retail store on the high street to a remote farmer protecting their livestock, from a warehouse filled to the rafters with expensive stock, to an NHS Trust protecting its staff. Each is a different situation with different needs, different budgets and different legacy systems that need to be considered.

Designing the right security solution involves choosing the right sensing technologies and associated devices. Back to our example of the retail store, PIR-activated cameras along with foggers, could provide the right solution. 

Dark car parks and rural lanes may need LiDAR or infrared technology to detect unwanted intruders at night and distinguish between friend or foe.

On the other hand, in a busy high street, AI cameras may be the right choice. It is all about understanding the threats and the requirements to identify the right features and devices that the system needs.

An alarming realisation

Even more costly to budgets and the environment is to rip out all the old systems and replace them with new ones, as many businesses are being encouraged to do so. To upgrade security, they are being told they need a completely new system, including new cameras, new alarms, new access control panels and new software.

But there is no need to make all that existing security hardware obsolete. There are available software solutions which can bridge all those different technologies together into one coherent and integrated system. Better yet, these solutions can be extremely cost effective and can be tailored to each location.

Cloud cover

Cloud-based software solutions can provide upgrades to existing security hardware quickly and cost-effectively. One such system, OPTEX’s CHeKT solution, for example, uses open protocol software which integrates with multiple third-party video and sensor technologies. It is both backward and forwards compatible, creating an IoT solution that doesn’t require infrastructure upgrades.

CheKT works with multiple camera and sensor types on a single site because it uses ONVIF standards created to enable devices to communicate with each other.

It enables businesses to retain existing hardware and creates a completely bespoke security solution. Smart technology can also be integrated into existing security systems if required.

Such cloud-based technology can also grow as the business grows. All the current on-site technology can be updated remotely and replaced over time as it becomes outdated or as sites expand and needs change. 

Through the cloud, multiple sites across multiple geographies can be optimised individually, at a reasonable cost and without disrupting day to day activities.

More and more companies are offering a subscription-paid software-as-a-service solution which increases the security system’s flexibility and the choice of the customer.

The level of security that is potentially available today is incredible. It is where the industry is headed.  But for 90% of businesses in this country, that journey has barely begun, and the road is long.

Not every business needs a hugely expensive system today.

Not every business can afford it. It is analogous to when Tesla launched the electric car.  It was state-of-the-art and had all the latest gadgets, but the cars were too expensive for most people.

Yet some businesses are being held hostage to security, being told they cannot upgrade to an intelligent visual system without changing all of their hardware. They are being enticed into buying a closed-loop system, locking them into a costly system with features they may never use. In this current economic climate, our industry has a responsibility to ensure that people are not oversold security solutions.

Securing the right systems

Ensuring organisations are sold the right solution for their needs is the industry’s first responsibility. The second is to train the engineers and consultants about the cloud-based solutions and tech that is now emerging.

The introduction of IP and cloud technology has accelerated and expanded the applications within and outside of security.

Although cloud software is making the adoption of the newest security technologies easier, the exponential rate of development of camera and detection technologies has meant that a constant training is required to keep up with these innovations.  

It is an enormous task to train thousands of engineers to become experts in cloud-based technology, to know and understand the different specialists, or how to align an alarm with a panic alarm and visual verification and entry and exit points, all supplied by multiple firms.

The industry needs to upskill all front-line staff to meet people’s needs rather than encourage them to buy something they do not use. It is far easier to sell a packaged solution to one and all. But the cost will be both the supplier’s and the industry’s reputation.

Enabling companies to keep their existing cameras to be able to use their existing alarm panels and codes is the smart sell.

There is a debate to be had in the industry about when complex solutions are needed and when reliable, effective and uncomplicated systems will offer the right level of protection.

Critically, suppliers and installers have to believe that just because a technology is ‘new’ does not make it essential.  Protecting businesses does not have to come ‘at any cost’.

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