Reshaping the Role Played by Security Integrators with Advancements in Analytics
Security technology has come a long way since the days of analog cameras and walls of monitors.
Modern security sensors evolved not just in their quality and design, but in their capabilities as well. The advent of advanced analytics tools has placed valuable new resources in the hands of security teams, allowing them to identify, classify, and respond to possible incidents more rapidly and effectively than ever. The wide range of tools available today has resulted in an environment where organizations choose the solutions that are right for them, creating an increasingly tailored and personalized approach to security.
The development—and widespread availability—of these tools has impacted more than just manufacturers and end users. It has created new opportunities for integrators to build stronger relationships with their partners and customers. With so many options to choose from, the role of the integrator as trusted advisor and technology expert has never been more important. Today’s advanced analytics solutions have placed integrators in a critical role, helping customers identify, maintain, and update the solutions that fit their specific needs—both within the security realm and beyond.
The Rise of Analytics
Despite recent advancements in analytics capabilities, the idea of “analytics” is not a new one—it essentially refers to the practice of identifying and interpreting patterns in data. Until relatively recently, however, limited processing power and technological capabilities made it incredibly difficult to install, calibrate, and maintain analytics processes—and the result was an unreliable technology mired in high costs and low reliability. Practical, accessible analytics tools would have to wait until technology could catch up with theory.
Over the past decade, that is precisely what has happened. Advancements in chip technology have vastly increased the processing power of cameras and other sensors, and the ability to upgrade the technology via firmware updates has helped to ensure that the technology has the longevity necessary for viability in today’s market. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI)—specifically, machine and deep learning technology—has enabled manufactures and developers to create increasingly advanced analytics tools, leading to a reduction in false alarms, greater reliability, the elimination of “nuisance” recordings, and more. Thanks to reduced costs and increased processing power, today’s analytics can be deployed in specific, highly tailored ways.
These advancements have had a major positive effect on the security industry. Modern cameras and sensors can be trained to tell the difference between a human intruder and a curious deer, while audio analytics can listen for shouts, cries, aggression, and other signs of distress. Amid the pandemic, this has helped hospitals monitor their patients, retailers detect queues as they develop, and facilities identify whether visitors are wearing masks or not. Many of these devices also serve operational and business intelligence purposes, monitoring inventory levels, identifying choke points, providing businesses with valuable new insights that go beyond security. Not long ago, these uses would have been extremely challenging or even impossible to implement—a clear sign of how far the technology has now come.
The Importance of Education
As with any technology, there have been bumps in the road for the advancement of analytics. In the early days of the technology, when it first became broadly accessible, manufacturers did not always set proper expectations for their customers. For example, technology capable of tracking or identifying an object on video was popular early on, but it was impractical as installation and proper calibration were major barriers to successful implementations. The technology was advanced, but also unmanageable—cameras at the time simply did not have the processing power to install such a tool, rendering it impractical. In those days, most processing was done at the server level, and relaying the images and data from a network of cameras to a bank of servers required an incredible amount of bandwidth. For most organizations, this was not a workable solution, and this perceived lack of practical applications led some consumers to become disillusioned with the analytics industry.
Today, things have changed considerably. Many modern cameras are advanced enough that the processing that used to be done at the server level can now be done on the network edge. Only the appropriate metadata or information necessary for the specific task at hand needs to be relayed to and from the server, dramatically reducing bandwidth and increasing the overall productivity and functionality of each individual device. And while these advances have led to major breakthroughs in analytics, the issue of setting appropriate expectations remains. Look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic, during which demand for thermal sensors skyrocketed in the hopes of screening employees and customers for fever symptoms. Unfortunately, this was not an appropriate or effective use of the technology, and some customers were understandably frustrated at having invested in technology that did not work as they had been led to believe.
This highlights the important role that integrators play today, not only in helping customers identify the right solutions for them, but in effectively setting expectations. Thermal cameras have a wide range of security applications—long-range fever detection and mass temperature screenings just don’t happen to be among them. Modern analytics face a similar challenge, but integrators are uniquely positioned to help ensure that customers know exactly what they are getting. Today’s audio analytics can identify breaking glass, gunshots, and other sounds, but might be less effective at identifying specific voices or transcribing conversations. Similarly, a camera might be able to issue a restock alert if it sees an empty shelf, but may not be capable of item-level inventory tracking. Integrators can help provide the necessary context for customers as they consider these important decisions, helping customers understand exactly what to expect from their devices.
Building Stronger Relationships
Trust is a key element in the relationship between integrators and their customers, and that trust must be earned over time. As new analytics are developed, integrators have a built-in reason to not just seek out new customers, but return to existing ones as well, both broadening and deepening those relationships as these new tools become available. This is important, because it helps establish the integrator-customer relationship as an ongoing one, rather than one that ends when the technology has been purchased and installed. Many customers still consider cameras and other sensors to be security tools alone, and integrators today have a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the broader uses that modern analytics have enabled.
Proprietary technology has long been a concern for integrators, as recommending a proprietary product to a customer may lock them into that manufacturer’s product line, putting them at the mercy of price increases—not to mention that risk that the manufacturer will stop supporting a given product or even go out of business. The growing availability of open-architecture solutions has been a positive development for integrators seeking to not only give customers options, but ensure that they can integrate new technology into an existing solution as it evolves. Open-architecture solutions allow integrators to ensure that they’re putting together the best-in-class products and appropriate solutions to meet a customer’s needs, rather than trying to make a square peg fit a round hole due to manufacturer restrictions.
This can sometimes mean that customers must work with multiple vendors, and the integrator’s role as an intermediary again looms large. Integrators can keep customers informed not just on why a given product or analytics tool is right for them, but which manufacturers have a reputation for excellent customer service, product support, and more. The release of new analytics solutions has given integrators a reason to return to their customers again and again, especially as new business intelligence analytics offer today’s customers the opportunity to leverage their existing devices for valuable new ends. Open-architecture solutions make it easier than ever to choose the right solutions regardless of the manufacturer, but integrators must have a thorough understanding of those available solutions and how they fit together within the network ecosystem. After all, misconfigurations remain a major cybersecurity concern, and customers do not want to improve their physical security only to leave themselves open to cyberattack.
The Role of the Integrator Is More Important Than Ever
Modern analytics has revolutionized not just the security industry, but business operations and intelligence as well. Today’s cameras and sensors are now capable of more accurately and reliably detecting potential incidents with considerably fewer false alarms, while also facilitating more accurate inventory management, informing staffing decisions, monitoring for queues and bottlenecks, and more. But the abundance of tools and resources now available has made it more difficult for end users to identify which solutions are right for them.
Fortunately, the rise of open-architecture solutions has allowed customers to keep their options open, while the presence of expert integrators has helped them identify which products and services meet their specific needs. As analytics tools continue to grow more advanced, customers will continue to rely on these integrators to provide much-needed expertise, and integrators can seize this opportunity to build stronger, longer-lasting relationships with those same customers.
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