If 2013 was the year for grappling with a slow economy, 2014 will be the year where security technology makes a resurgence, and not just for what it can do in the control room, but in a number of other ways. Here’s my prediction for nine critical physical security trends for 2014.
1) PSIM – the Next Wave of Adoption
Airports, utilities, mass transit, seaports and cities have all been early adopters of PSIM. In 2014 I believe we’ll begin to witness the next wave of PSIM adoption, especially in higher education and banking. A rash of deadly shootings at college campuses and schools in recent years has placed security in the spotlight. The mention of "security technology" usually conjures up images of video cameras, intercoms, access control points, mass notification and blue light phones. But according to a recent research report from IHS, the next big thing in campus security won't be any one particular technology. Instead, it will be about merging these various technology pieces together for a comprehensive integrated approach to security management. By their very nature, campuses and schools are open and accessible. It’s impossible to prevent every threat. But PSIM can save time and help campuses and schools better prepare and respond when threats materialize. Banks are also starting to catch onto to the idea of PSIM.
With hundreds or even thousands of branches to secure and protect, banks invest in all types of technologies, from security video and access control to fire alarm and vault management systems. Monitoring and managing these systems across the enterprise can be costly as well. Mergers and acquisitions (which are commonplace in banking) create new complexities, as the parent bank needs to absorb the other bank’s legacy security systems or rip and replace them. PSIM addresses these problems and also improves operational efficiency and response times, as well as reducing costly false alarms.
Experience shows that results are best achieved through collaboration, between public and private sectors, among agencies, and across city departments. Threats can be identified and mitigated faster, investigations can be resolved quicker, and money can be saved. Through its inherent openness and ability to connect siloed groups and technologies, PSIM is a great collaboration-enabler. I think we’ll see more organizations (particularly in the government/public safety sector) embrace PSIM for this very reason. For example, large cities have video surveillance networks with thousands of cameras. But there are many more thousands of cameras outside retail businesses and critical infrastructure, on campuses and roadways, in subways, etc., that are not part of that network. Using PSIM these different camera systems can be linked together. In addition to linking siloed systems, PSIM can be a foundation for information sharing among agencies. If an incident requires a multi-agency response, local, state and federal authorities can all work off of the same incident alerts, video feeds and coordinated response plans.
Another form of collaboration involves leveraging shared technology and resources, a message that resonates with cash-strapped cities. For example, a security operations center for a city public utilities department could leverage PSIM to extend security monitoring services to other city departments, such as Park and Recreation Centers, libraries, etc., without having to invest in additional infrastructure and resources.
Collectively, the public and private sectors spend billions of dollars annually on security technology. They are now starting to think about how to extend these investments outside the walls of the control room into the hands of field personnel. We live in an age of instant situational awareness. Knowing where to go and the best way to get there is right at our fingertips. Shouldn’t the people whose job it is to help and protect us expect the same level of instant situational awareness?
For example, in a recent episode of the Travel Channel’s TV series “Airport 24/7,” an airplane service vehicle crashed into a wall on the jetway. Behind that wall there just happened to be a major water pipe. The pipe burst and water rushed out like raging rapids. To make matters worse, water began accumulating in the electrical room. It was a race against time. They were inches away from having to shut down the electricity for the entire concourse. The responders radioed each other while frantically searching room-by-room for the pipe shut off valve. “Not in here – over”…“Not over here – over”… This went on for what felt like an eternity. Eventually they found the valve, and the nightmare was over. But what if they were equipped with a smartphone or tablet that had a situation management application that not only notified them of the incident, but showed them the best way to get to the scene, and the exact location of the closest shut off valve? This isn’t just wishful thinking. It will someday soon be a reality, and of course, the applications and benefits of such a solution will extend to many other environments.
Is it any surprise that terms like “VMS-plus” and “PSIM-lite” are now part of the security vernacular? While some would make the case that they are just naming conventions, I think they signal a shift on the horizon for the physical security industry. What organizations really want is the ability to pick and choose the security capabilities they need and get them for a palatable price. There are cases where VMS is not enough and PSIM is too much. Take, for example, an electric utilities company with several remote sites that uses VMS. An alarm is triggered when something, or someone, touches a fence at one of the sites. In the central control room, the security operator on duty first has to look for the relevant camera in order to figure out the location of the incident and then dispatch a responder to the scene. Now, consider how this response would improve with enhanced visualization of security assets (cameras and personnel) from GIS mapping. The security operator would instantly see the location and video of the breach and be able to pinpoint the nearest field personnel. In 2014, I predict we’ll begin to see more hybrid solutions that allow organizations to pick capabilities according to their specific needs.
In 2014, I predict we’ll also see increased crossover of security tech into other business areas. Advancements in video analytics and system integration have transformed security technology into a business insight tool that can yield a greater ROI for the entire organization. For example, by integrating an in store security video system with POS technology and people counting analytics, the marketing arm of a retail organization could determine the percentage of people entering a store who also made a purchase. Also, the same video cameras and analytics used today to detect overcrowding conditions in airports and subways can double marketing tools (in a retail environment) by generating heat maps that show where people are congregating and shopping at different times, on different days. With this information, organizations can improve store layouts, marketing campaigns, even optimize staff scheduling decisions, which all have an impact on the bottom line.
This coming year will bring about some interesting innovations for video surveillance. The industry is entering video’s next evolutionary stage: real-time forensics. “What’s real-time forensics?,” you may ask. Well, consider this scenario. You know a suspect entered your facility 10 minutes ago, because you can see him breaching the front gate when you play back the video. But does that information help you know where the suspect is right now? Of course not. Real-time forensics is the ability to use recorded video to determine what’s happening right now.
A step beyond rewinding video to an incident and drawing conclusions from the scene, rapid forensic utilization of recorded video is about using technology (sophisticated video analytics) to analyze an image and provide forensic feedback in a matter of seconds. It’s differentfrom merely rewinding video to an incident and drawing conclusions from the scene. For example, if we go back to the suspect example, the analytics would take into account certain characteristics of the suspect and search for the suspect in video recorded on cameras throughout the entire building to track the intruder’s current whereabouts in real time.
Transit agencies strive to keep passengers safe and secure, but with large fleets to manage and millions of annual riders, things can and do go wrong. That’s why onboard video surveillance is so essential. In addition to deterring crime, video is an invaluable tool for investigating vandalism, fights, robberies and assaults, and for refuting costly liability claims. Most transit agencies use Mobile DVRs to record video on their bus fleets. If the transit operator needs to retrieve video for an investigation, they need to literally send an employee out into the field to remove the hard drives or DVRs from the bus.
So how can transit operators buck the Mobile DVR status quo, save time, and boost investigative efficiency? An innovative new video recording and investigation technology for bus fleets may well hold the answer. It can be implemented on a myriad of ruggedized mobile DVR hardware platforms, allowing video recordings to be remotely and securely downloaded, and delivered right to an investigator’s desktop.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say a passenger is assaulted and robbed on a bus. The bus driver radios the incident into the command center. Back at the command center, the investigator keys in a download task to retrieve the specific video segments. When the bus reaches the depot, the video is securely and wirelessly transferred to a server and then uploaded to a case management file for the investigator to view. From the same system, the investigator is also able to pull up audio recordings (radio, dispatch) associated with the incident, even fixed video recordings if the suspect got off the bus and entered a bus station, and assemble them all in one incident timeline. This new technology will surely put mobile video surveillance in the fast lane.
Many firms are latching onto the “Big Data” buzzword, so don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more about it in 2014. But on the flipside, I think 2014 will be the year where people start to figure out where the hype meets reality. The fact is Big Data, at least in the physical security realm, is still very much in the infancy stage. Just because a specific technology uses or touches vast amounts of data does not mean it’s a Big Data solution in the purest sense of the word. Take for example security video. In just a single day a security video system can record many terabytes of camera video data. But the mere fact that the security video system captures a lot of data does not classify it as a true Big Data solution, because Big Data solutions don’t just generate data – they extract patterns and insights, and even help predict future events.
Big Data is real and is already part of our lives – Google, Amazon and others use it to predict our desires and actions. However within physical security, Big Data exists only at a foundational stage. What Big Data is and isn’t in the context of physical security will be a big topic of discussion in 2014.
A final trend I want to point out was on my list last year too – and that’s the need for continued education, especially around the concepts of PSIM and Big Data. Here I am speaking from experience, having moderated a few dozen PSIM workshops this past year. These are vendor-neutral workshops where security professionals can gain an understanding of the concepts of PSIM to decide for themselves whether and how PSIM can make a difference in their organizations. It’s true that PSIM is beyond the early adopter phase, but I find that many people still equate PSIM with integration. Far fewer understand the complex operational and compliance challenges that PSIM can address. The workshops are a low-pressure way for various stakeholders get in one room and participate in a visioning session where they can walk away with a clearer understanding of what PSIM can do for them. These types of educational workshops will continue to be in high demand in 2014.