If there is anything the security industry has learned over the past few years, it’s that this industry is not static. There are constant changes in technology and threats which can range from worrying about a possible break-in to employee theft or protecting a facility, its assets and employees. Security professionals are having to stay up to date with the latest and greatest security system technologies and adapt existing solutions quickly in order to keep their assets and information safe.

In recent years, the industry has seen increased consolidation in solutions with the rise of integrated security systems. Video surveillance and access control are two examples of traditional security systems that are continuously being connected to other security and building systems to help strengthen security strategies. According to Johnson Controls second annual Smart Cities Indicator, systems integration is expected to have the biggest impact on the implementation of smart cities and buildings over the next five years. This shows the importance of systems integration in relation to not only the security industry, but also how it’s becoming a crucial component for buildings and cities to operate more efficiently. However, there is a new security issue that is plaguing systems and causing a $3.2 billion industry issue – false alarms.

False Alarms: A Rising Industry Problem

Since the first network alarms and central station were established in the 1870s, security professionals have continuously sought improvements in their systems to prevent loss, maximize safety and increase operational efficiency. In a national survey of police chiefs, officers and sheriffs, more than 90 percent acknowledged that alarms help deter burglary attempts and assist in apprehending suspects. It’s clear that when executed correctly, alarm systems work well, but as they start to play a more critical role in integrated security systems, many are finding that these traditional alarm systems are actually doing more damage than good with the increase of false or redundant alarms.

Traditional alarm systems are growing increasingly outdated when integrated with other IoT solutions. With the increased intelligence and data processing these alarm systems are actually creating a lot of irrelevant noise – both literally and figuratively – in the form of false or redundant alarms. It is estimated that over 90 percent of notifications are false alarms. This enormous rate of alarm activity can be caused by a variety of sources including policy updates, new system configurations, product changes, employee turnover, sensor functioning and even external influences like weather. For example, a lingering balloon after an office party can trigger a motion sensor, and result in having facility managers come to work after hours or call emergency responders to the scene wasting public resources time and energy. On top of that, hefty fines can be issued to organizations that are repeat false alarm offenders. Today, for example, Minneapolis charges $500 for the fifth false alarm within a year, and other cities are following suit with setting up fines and even legislation to hold organizations more accountable.

Its clear false alarms are having real implications on the function of today’s security systems. The stress they create is causing an unnecessary burden for facility owners, managers and building occupants, but also law enforcement and emergency responders. On top of that, these false alarms also can result in system overload and decreased function, impacting the overall safety and security of occupants and facilities while driving up operating costs.

What’s the Solution?

With more and more organizations completing digital transformations and adopting Internet of Things (IoT) platforms, security professionals are starting to realize that they can use data to improve their security systems and increase the efficiency of these systems. With these new platforms, there is a huge opportunity to implement new analytical software to decrease the number of false alarms that are currently plaguing security systems across a variety of industries including banking, retail, and energy, to name a few.

Enter analytics and machine learning. With a software solution that leverages these two technologies, the data these systems are collecting can be processed to identify alarm patters and provide insights and recommended actions to security professionals on how to prevent false alarms or de-trigger them once they’ve occurred.

While some of the benefits may be obvious like saving emergency responders time and energy, reducing false alarms also saves security professionals time, energy and money leading to increase productivity and operational efficiency since they are no longer bogged down with false alarms. As these technologies are integrated with existing security systems and adopted on a broader scale, public and private resources will be utilized more effectively, increasing safety and decreasing security costs. It will also help organizations transition from a reactive model to a proactive and preventive one.


Scalability and the Future of False Alarm Reduction

As more comes to light about this industry problem and the associated cost savings and ROI of data analytics in relation to false alarm solutions, increased adoption is bound to follow. Additionally, with more organizations continuing to implement digital solutions and IoT platforms, it will be crucial to educate security professionals about false alarms and the costliness of this industry problem. While no organization wants to hear that they have to rip and replace existing technology there are existing vendor agnostic solutions that can help achieve a smarter, safer workplace

It is important for facility managers to prioritize employee and asset safety, both physical and digital, and take steps now rather than later to bring their security into the 21st century by implementing digital solutions. It is an exciting time in the security and buildings industry, to be in the midst of such an important transformation. We can only go forward from here.