High-Tech Security – Finance and Commerce


Source: Finance and Commerce

high-tech-security-finance-and-commerce-fullThe public storage facility in Mesa, Ariz., had a security system, but it wasn’t catching the thieves.

The problem: Customers using valid security codes would enter their own storage unit and, while inside, cut through adjacent walls to steal other people’s belongings, then leave the area unnoticed. Roaming security guards and closed circuit TV cameras would see the person enter and leave, but because the individual had a legitimate code, it would not appear that he or she was doing anything illegal.

Storage facility owners solved the problem by adopting the power of the Internet to monitor premises real-time. They had four of eight analog cameras converted to Internet protocol capability, so feeds could be monitored through the Web remotely, on a 24/7 basis, by an IT video-surveillance firm also based in Arizona. As suspicious activity was observed real time and passed on to the cops, more arrests followed.

Today, St. Paul-based American Security LLC is partnering with that Arizona IT security firm – Iveda Solutions – to offer a high-tech makeover for clients hiring American Security guards. Customers can get real-time camera surveillance over the Internet, allowing access to multiple cameras in-building from any location around the world.

The partnership is an example of an overall trend, though nascent, of increasing collaboration between the physical security world and the IT world, said Steve Hunt, founder and CEO of Hunt Business Intelligence, an Illinois-based security research and advisory firm. Hunt added that the physical security industry is witnessing a “tectonic shift” toward the IT world, and that global revenue from this convergence will likely exceed $22 billion by 2010.

“They have taken baby steps, but huge baby steps, in the last three years. And the tectonic shift means that the entire physical security industry – $170 billion – is looking for ways to do their jobs faster, better and smarter using IT,” Hunt said.

American Security is hoping to cash in on this very convergence.

Tim Kinglsey, director of special projects and government affairs at the company, said that a labor intensive company such as American, which has hundreds of security guards on its payroll, is always looking to leverage technology that enhances the efficacy of those officers.

American Security offers security services in nine states including Illinois, Arizona, Nebraska, Tennessee West Virginia and Minnesota.

In Minneapolis, the Baker Center and the IDS Tower hires security guards supplied by the firm, which has annual revenue of $33 million and around 1,250 employees.

So what advantage can the partnership offer to building operators and those concerned with physical security of their properties?

Basically, it’s all about real-time access from any location in the world over the Web to video feeds of multiple cameras on one or many properties. The Iveda system creates a video infrastructure of multiple IP (internet protocol) based cameras linked to an existing local network and manages the video data at a remote data center. That data center hosts the video feed, which can be then accessed in real time by any Internet connection through a Web-based interface, explained David Ly, president and CEO of Iveda.

Such technological enhancements, while very passé in the IT world, is spanking new in the physical security industry.

“Remotely hosting data streams and data access – that’s old news in the IT world,” said Hunt of Hunt Business Intelligence. “The only thing that is new is that the physical security world – the guards, the guns and the crew-cut kind of guys – are for the first time using their computers to do their physical security jobs and that’s what the buzz is all about.”

Part of Iveda’s offering is also a human component. Ly calls them “intervention specialists,” – Iveda employees who monitor the data and determine whether any suspicious activity is occurring on the premises.

One of the major benefits of the system is the reduction in the number of cameras, Ly said. For instance, one Iveda client has120 locations nationally and each location has anywhere from eight to 20 cameras. With the new Iveda system in place, the total number of cameras can be reduced to just five to eight per location.

“In the old days, you needed to put a bunch of cameras there because you are relying on cameras for after-the-fact investigations, but now, employing real time monitoring … you need to watch (just) the ‘hot zones,’” Ly said.

Each intervention specialist can watch 35 to 60 camera feeds simultaneously.

The partnership between Iveda and American Security means that when American Security is hired to provide consultation services to develop a security-management program and provide security guards, it can also pitch the Iveda option. Over time, this option can save companies thousands of dollars annually, Ly and Kingsley said.

That’s also because businesses can reduce the number of guards they hire are at a site. Using a handheld tablet PC, a security guard can move from one place to another and still see what is happening at another end of the building, Ly said, instead of having multiple security guards stationed at various points in and around a building.

Kingsley added that in some cases, the technology may remove the need for having a security guard altogether.

“If you have hired one person 24 hours a day, we might say with this technology you don’t need it,” Kingsley said. “And with some upfront costs of hardware improvement – like purchasing IP cameras and putting in the system – over time we can save you (money) and we believe you will have a more holistic solution.”

The hope is to use IT technology to reduce the total number of guards a company or property may need to hire for 24/7 surveillance, Hunt said.

Asked whether this technology will essentially lead American Security to reduce the number of guards it employs because clients will opt for the cheaper, more efficient technological option, Kingsley declared there is no plan to do so because the technology is meant to enhance the officers’ abilities, not necessarily replace them.

“American Security is a security guard company first and foremost, and will continue to be,” he said. “The need for the human element will never go away.”

Security guards employed at American Security are members of the Service Employees International Union. David Zaffrann, a spokesman for the SEIU Local 26, said that more than 200 members work at American Security, but only in Minneapolis, St. Paul proper and not in the suburbs or in other states. In total, the company employs 1,200 security officers, 80 percent of whom are full-time.

Arundhati Parmar


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