How Interface Security Systems Maximizes ROI for Clients
Leadership for commercial monitored and managed service provider Interface talk leveraging AI to deliver smarter security, network and operational solutions.
During the lockdown period and slowing of the economy, can you speak to the fortuitous business model that had more than 90% of your clientele tied to recurring revenue services that helped keep cash flowing?
Duncan: Yes, that allowed us to hunker down a bit. That’s the beauty of an RMR-driven organization. It allowed us to turn our focus toward customers and understand what they needed from us and be in constant communication as it was evolving. It was a brave new world when this hit. We were in a good position to deal with it and help.
Aside from that, as a business model, our customers love the predictability. There’s a flat rate monthly fee that’s all-inclusive of the services we deliver and manage. For them it’s a highly predictable OPEX expense, not capital intensive. It allows bringing all of these products and services together in a financially appealing manner.
What is growth looking like for 2022, and how does that compare to pre- and post-pandemic years?
Duncan: In 2020, we had reimagined our go-to-market organization and how we aligned the teams, making sure our brand and value proposition was clear. We did a lot right before the pandemic to put that in place. We launched a new tech stack, new CRM platform, lots of tools to enable the go-to-market org. Then in March, everything shut down.
We at least got that in place ahead of the pandemic. In 2021, we saw a significant rise in customers adding managed services as well as a 37% increase in sales. This year we’re forecasting a 55% increase in sales. We’ve seen two consecutive strong quarters and we expect to exceed sales targets by roughly 25%. We’re forecasting meeting or exceeding our growth numbers in 2022.
Looking deeper into Interface’s solutions and services, to what extent are you implementing artificial intelligence? Is it augmenting or even replacing human monitoring personnel?
Foley: We are actively incorporating AI into our guard monitoring operation; it’s going to be a game-changer. You’re either incorporating analytics and AI into your solutions or you’re falling back at this stage. We’re at an inflection point with AI, both in terms of general AI capabilities at the video level, Cloud computing, and most importantly, processing power.
Those three things are coming together for us and allowing us to offer a whole new suite of solutions to our customers and, most importantly, solutions that contain actual data that either they can act upon or that we within our monitoring operations can act upon.
That can be as simple as in our monitoring operation, whether a person is present as opposed to an object that should not be there at such and such a time. Is there a vehicle present that should not be there as opposed to, say, just a dumb motion detection type of technology? Can we identify a shoplifter by their facial features or a VIP customer using the same technology? Incorporating that into our solutions is and continues to be critical. We think it’s going to be a big part of our offerings to go forward.
AI is already incorporated into the business analytics solutions where we’re doing everything from monitoring footfall to traffic count to point of sale exception reporting, which is a big one for our customers. A lot of them are reliant on POS exception reporting with video integration, which integrates AI capabilities and machine learning to analyze vast sets of data. AI has proven very effective in that and a huge help to asset protection clients in assessing where loss is occurring in the organization.
Use examples are: What are my stores needing right down to the employee? Where is loss occurring in my company? What locations have $50-plus voided transactions or no sales during the past 48 hours? They can get down to that level of granularity. They can click on a transaction and video pops up. It’s a robust solution to figure out how fraud is occurring or realizing a corrective measure needs to take place in order to stop loss at a particular location.
What vendors does Interface partner with and rely on for that AI technology?
Foley: We work with a number of different partners. All of our camera manufacturers are building in AI at the edge level, and that ranges from Axis to Hanwha, good partnerships there. On the solution side, we’ve partnered with Prism, a Silicon Valley-based former startup on the cutting edge in the AI space. Through both partnerships and native integration, we are bringing those solutions into the products we go to market with.
How realistic are manufacturers about what AI can truly do today? We’ve seen a lot of bleeding-edge solutions before; what’s real and what’s not regarding AI?
Foley: That’s why a solutions provider/integrator like Interface must have a solid product and design team. We get pitched just about every AI-based technology you can imagine and separating the wheat from the chaff is not an easy exercise. You need talented people to do that. We are constantly assessing those new products and technologies. We believe we’ve found some really good ones and have great partners in that space, but we’ve seen some false starts for sure.
A good example was the push for AI-based temperature recognition cameras early in the pandemic. While a lot of integrators pushed that like hotcakes, we said, “Time out.” After a lot of testing, we found many of those products didn’t perform up to what our clients would expect. So we decided to step away from that.
Duncan: As a technology and service organization we understand the need to constantly evolve and have our eye on the next thing. We must evaluate those things to determine if there is a benefit and take a measured approach. To Sean’s point, in 2021 we made the personnel investment by adding a chief technology officer. We’ve also recently added a new head of products and reimagined the way we evaluate products. Sales, account management and our customer-facing teams are a big part of that.
We plan to soon launch a customer advisory board to get important feedback we can incorporate into our product evaluation and roadmap. We’re very careful when we decide to add a product. We have to be incredibly thorough in operationalizing that product to ensure we’re properly setting up our support organization and able to correctly deploy and monitor it. Our customers look to us as a leader to help guide them on what’s new in the space, with our mutual desire for Interface to act as their single, multiple technologies partner.
You talked about retail and a few other markets. Is there another one Interface plays strongly in or you’re very keen on, and what services have you found successful there?
Foley: One we’ve made great inroads during the past year-and-a-half is the cannabis space. It’s not at the level of specialty retail, QSR, high-end dining, that type of thing. We made a determination to plant our flag in the growing cannabis space. We expect it’s going to consolidate and grow in the coming years. We didn’t want to let it mature and then try to break in. We want to make a name for ourselves in that space right now and have established a few marquee, tentpole customers.
It’s not unlike a retailer, the major difference being their security profile has even more vulnerability. That’s primarily due to the amount of cash that these organizations keep on hand. The cannabis space is generally underbanked. They do a lot of business in cash and have a lot of expensive product on-premise. The profile is almost that of a jeweler that happens to also have a lot of cash. From a security profile standpoint, that’s a big red flashing warning sign.
We’re putting our virtual guard systems in both dispensaries and in retail cannabis operations that include live video and two-way audio protecting those both during the day and in the evening. The video systems tend to be robust because of the amount of storage needed. There are state municipal video surveillance requirements that grant the licenses surrounding the sale of cannabis.
We love that they gravitate toward our higher end monitoring solutions, creating larger RMR per site. That tends to be where our higher-margin solutions reside. As that industry continues to pick up, we’re going to be right there to capture those opportunities.
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