Cash will always be king, but data can be golden. Most companies have considerable proprietary data at their disposal, spread across their enterprise. To make that data golden, an ever-increasing number of firms are deploying business intelligence (BI) systems.
What is a BI system? Wikipedia defines it as “computer-based techniques used in identifying, extracting and analyzing business data.” Two other terms common in the BI world are data warehouse and data mining. A data warehouse is basically a central repository used to store data from a company’s varied business systems. Data mining, in an overly simplified description, is a method of examining data from a plethora of sources, searching for nuggets of valuable information that under normal processes would not likely be revealed. So, you may ask, what does all this have to do with physical security systems?
Systems integrators install card access, video and intrusion detection systems. All of those systems are large networks of sensors that are continually collecting data. One of the most valuable data-capture capabilities involves the movement of employees and customers. The value of the people tracking data increases as you add other statistics such as time and date, and job title. Video analytics available today can tell how many people are currently at a location, as well as how many people passed or loitered at a selected spot.
A measureable return on investment (ROI) based on an intangible metric such as “preventing bad things from happening” can be a challenge to calculate. That is because security systems are historically implemented as a physical or psychological deterrent to hinder those with bad intent. How often an access, intrusion or video system actually prevented a mishap is subjective at best.
However, as data from security systems leads to measurable business efficiencies, the ability to show a real ROI emerges. This is made possible by BI data-mining techniques and their unique ability to delve deep into disparate databases, looking for those nuggets of valuable information. It is a given that large volumes of data, from all available sources, increases a BI system’s impact. So, it is not a large leap of faith to appreciate that physical security systems have greater value once a BI system has access to their data.
The possibilities go much further. Businesses of all types are subjected to audits, be them regulatory, compliance or internal business practices. Investigations of failed audits identify the circumstances that led to the failure. BI systems excel at taking data from a forensic review and automating the process of looking for indicators that predict a future failure, enabling preventive measure to be taken proactively. Physical security sensors can be a valuable data source when a failed audit is the result of business associates not being present and performing a required task.
Video analytic technology adds even more value to the equation. Analytic systems generate metadata, or data about data. The underlying technology of video analytics systems is the processing of metadata. Give a BI system access to that metadata and a video system transforms from a forensic tool to a system that has a positive impact on the bottom line. That will be the Holy Grail.
BI systems need to get access to physical security databases, databases that are not known for being open. Given their growing list of interfaces, physical security information management systems (PSIMs) will serve as valuable middleware to accomplish this. Looking forward further, once radio frequency identification (RFID) proliferates, the data available to business managers will explode. Savvy systems integrators will be right in the middle of it.
Jay Hauhn, Chief Technology Officer at ADT Security Services, has more than 30 years’ industry experience and is a member of SSI’s Hall of Fame.