When it comes to smart buildings it is all too easy to collect so many “toys” (technology products and solutions) that you can’t possibly use them all at once. With children this problem is easily solved. Simply put them away for a while and when you bring them back out they will be “new” and interesting again. But with security solutions this is not feasible — you paid for it and it solves a problem you had. So how do you maximize it?

“What we found happens a lot is we end up with a lot of ‘things,’ said Heather Warner, head of global security operations technology at Amazon at a recent Securing New Ground conference held in October in New York City. One of three panelists for “Security Leaders Speak! Insights from Top Security Practitioners” Warner and the others lamented the challenges they faced with so much technology. “There are a lot of applications and different ways to slice a bigger problem,” she added. “I am looking to not do that. I want to make it very, very easy for our users to get exactly what they want by going to fewer places.”

Another panelist, Jonathan Aguila, global security director-systems and technology for Meta, said it is a huge effort to normalize and aggregate all this data. “Now we have too many toys in the toybox and our parents are saying, ‘You have to play with these toys.’ But how do you organize all that data?”

“Big data” and the Internet of Things can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand more data integration is great — but only if you can use it. The good news is technology advancements such as machine learning, or artificial intelligence are starting to make things easier, albeit slowly.

“The big data piece for me, when I think about using it, COVID-19 for all the good and bad really shined a light on the physical security space and the vast array of things you can do with it,” Aguila said. Security is a small — but critical — piece of big data, he added.

“Our organization looks at data on the business side,” said Jeff Stonebreaker, senior vice president, safety and security for Major League Soccer. “We are trying to find the integration sweet and balance that with the appropriate level of security at our events.”

Warner said artificial intelligence helps her organization. “For us there is so much data. We have to leverage a lot of AI to glean information. Whether it is entrances to buildings, throughput, or hiring patterns, what we are trying to do with all that data is just make sense of it. You can’t just look at one thing. … We try to use the data through machine learning to create applications to make sense of it all. When we do that is when we get the magic, where we can see holes in our security.”

None of this is a fast or easy solution, but Aguila advised patience and staying focused on the end goal.

“There are a lot of areas you can go, but it’s about knowing that the journey you are going to go on and defining it really well. It is a slow process, but it’s a foundation. You are not going to boil the ocean.”