The year 2017 saw some of the worst natural disasters in North America, with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma wreaking havoc on Houston, Texas, and the Caribbean with force of which we haven’t seen before. While many people chose to evacuate these areas, many were left to deal with the devastation and first responders had the difficult job of assessing the damage, rescuing trapped victims and delivering food and supplies.

AI-enabled drones and robotics to assess damage

In addition, more than 1,800 FEMA employees were deployed to support the hurricane relief efforts along with over 340 workers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.Robots could be vital in ensuring that security is maintained within a disaster zone - and they only cost a quarter of a police officer's salary

That’s on top of the resources that were already actively working to save lives in the affected areas, including the Texas National Guard, the entirety of which was activated by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shortly after Harvey came ashore.

While these rescue workers work tirelessly to make a difference, many times there simply aren’t enough hands to truly help everyone in need.

As a result, some companies look at this as a way to introduce technology to the equation that can be easily deployed in the event of disaster, including artificial intelligence-enabled drones and robotics to assess damage, provide initial triage for patients, and provide basic supplies to people in need.

While still in the beginning stages, these initiatives are already being implemented in some emerging markets.

Robots as mobile sentries

Disaster situations tend to bring out the best in people as evidenced by those who turn out en masse, either on their own or by volunteering with service organisations, to try and help their fellow citizens following storms, earthquakes and other types of calamities.Utilising a robot instead of a human as a sentry means less law enforcement and/or security personnel

Unfortunately, these types of incidents also bring out the worst in humankind in the form of looters and others who seek to take advantage of people who have lost everything.

Although it should be noted that fears and reports of looting are often overstated during events like Harvey and other disasters, there’s no denying that keeping the peace and making sure that things do not descend into chaos and anarchy during what is a stressful time for all involved is paramount.

Given that law enforcement and the National Guard must devote the majority of their attention to other recovery efforts, robots could be vital in ensuring that security is maintained within a disaster zone.

In addition to not having to allocate manpower to security, which again involves bringing in people and placing further burdens on available resources, deploying robots to act as mobile sentries offers a number of benefits.

Sustainable resources

Obviously, there are cost advantages to using robots rather than people. For example, in a typical commercial environment, robots can be deployed for about half the cost of a traditional unarmed guard and they only cost about a quarter of what it takes to employ a police officer in a law enforcement-type application.

Most robots are also outfitted with surveillance cameras, which provide authorities the ability to constantly monitor an area and record video for evidentiary purposes.

Deploying robots to act as mobile sentries offers a number of benefits
Artificial intelligence-enabled drones and robotics aid to assess damage, provide initial triage for patients, and provide basic supplies to people in need during a natural disaster 

Perhaps the most appealing benefit that robots offer to emergency management officials in a security role during disaster recovery efforts is sustainability. Robots never get tired, nor do they have to use the bathroom, eat or take a break.

With the abilities afforded by AI, robots can also navigate any designated area autonomously to keep an eye out for suspicious behavior or alert first responders to those who may need aid.Pattern recognition programs are essentially the building blocks that make the larger umbrella of general AI possible

The SMP Robotics S5 Security Robot from Robotic Assistance Devices, for example, can run for as long as 20 hours without needing to be recharged and a single operator working from a central command post could manage up to 25 of them.

Robotic sentries to address short-staffing

Having robots patrol certain locations also reduces the likelihood of violent encounters between people and security forces. It’s not uncommon for tensions to boil over in situations where people feel hopeless and they can sometimes lash out at the very people sent to help them.

Such a situation occurred following Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast in 2005. Just days after the Superdome was converted into a makeshift shelter for evacuees, conditions inside the massive building began to deteriorate and a National Guardsman was assaulted one night inside a locker room.

The attack resulted in troops putting up barbed wire fencing in various places around the building for protection from the increasingly agitated crowd.

Last but certainly not least, utilising a robot instead of a human as a sentry in the aftermath of a disaster means that less law enforcement and/or security personnel will have be pulled from surrounding areas, many of which are already short-staffed as it is.Robots are outfitted with surveillance cameras, which provide authorities the ability to constantly monitor an area

Law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs from adjacent communities and neighboring states almost immediately pour into the hardest hit areas following a disaster; however, this also leaves their respective agencies somewhat vulnerable themselves should they encounter a devastating event of their own.

The use of just 50 robots, because they can work more hours, could mean that roughly 120 first responders could stay put in their own cities, towns and counties.

New possibilities with artificial intelligence

While drones still largely require a human operator to chart their flight paths and control their movements, the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the capabilities of machines to work autonomously.

Though it may sound like something straight out of a science fiction novel or movie, there are already numerous robotic technologies that leverage some form of AI technology today.

Of course, there is still a bit of confusion about what exactly AI is as well as some of the underlying terminology surrounding it.

Generally speaking, AI is the ability of a computer to imitate the cognitive thinking and decision-making capabilities of humans.

the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the capabilities of machines to work autonomously
AI is the ability of a computer to imitate the cognitive thinking and decision-making capabilities of humans

Some of the terms used in conjunction with AI, such as machine learning, deep learning and neural networks, refer to the ability of software programs to recognize patterns in large amounts of ingested data.

Pattern recognition programs such as these, labeled by some as ‘narrow AI’, are essentially the building blocks that make the larger umbrella of general AI possible.Robots used in disaster scenarios could help maintain law and order, assist in search and rescue operations, and provide vital communications capabilities

Remote physical security capabilities

The physical security industry has recently been inundated with technologies that leverage different components of this narrow AI category.

The manned guarding segment, in particular, has seen the introduction of a variety of robot guards over the past several years, which have been deployed in a range of different applications.

Aside from serving as a force multiplier, robots with machine learning capabilities give security end users the ability to have an expanded presence in locations or situations characterised as too 'dull, dirty or dangerous' to place a human guard.

For example, while it may not be feasible to have a human patrol the outskirts of a vital electric substation located hundreds of miles from the nearest town, having a robot that can easily traverse the harsh terrain and notify the proper authorities when something is amiss would be a viable alternative.Sometimes health and safety concerns make it dangerous to have a human watch the site, such as at toxic waste dumps - robots do not have this issue

Technology as force multiplier in disaster management

There are also situations where health and safety concerns simply preclude the ability of having a human watch the site, such as at toxic waste dumps, but this is not the case for a robot.

Similar to these situations where having human guards is not desirable or even possible, robots could be used in disaster scenarios where they could help maintain law and order, assist in search and rescue operations, as well as provide vital communications capabilities.

Robots and drones that are equipped with artificial intelligence capabilities can offer first responders a look into the aftermath of a natural disaster and serve as a force multiplier in these cases.

We’re seeing the rise of the use of this kind of technology, and as the world faces more and more weather-related and man-made disasters in the future, they will become a part of the fabric of emergency response.

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8 tips for visiting a large security trade show
8 tips for visiting a large security trade show

Security trade fairs can be daunting for attendees. At big shows like IFSEC International and Security Essen, there can be hundreds of physical security manufacturers and dealers vying for your attention. Stands are sometimes spread out across multiple halls, often accompanied by a baffling floor plan. As the scope of physical security expands from video surveillance and access control to include smart building integrations, cyber security and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is an increasing amount of information to take in from education sessions and panels. Here, SourceSecurity.com presents eight hints and tips for visitors to make the most out of trade shows: 1. Outline your objectives. As the famous saying goes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” Before you plan anything else, ensure you know what you need to achieve at the show. By clearly noting your objectives, you will be able to divide your time at the show appropriately, and carefully choose who you speak to. If there is a particular project your organisation is working on, search out the products and solutions that address your security challenges. If you are a security professional aiming to keep up with the latest trends and technologies, then networking sessions and seminars may be more appropriate. 2. Bring a standard list of questions Prepare a list of specific questions that will tell you if a product, solution or potential partner will help you meet your objectives. By asking the same questions to each exhibitor you speak to, you will be able to take notes and compare their offerings side by side at the end of the day. This also means you won’t get bogged down in details that are irrelevant to your goals. Most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category  3. Do your homework Once you know your objectives, you can start to research who is exhibiting and decide who you want to talk to. Lists of exhibitors can be daunting, and don’t always show you which manufacturers meet your needs. Luckily, most trade fair websites provide the option to filter exhibitors by their product category. Many exhibitions also offer a downloadable floor plan, grouping exhibitors by product category or by relevant vertical market.  It may be easier to download the floor plan to your phone/tablet or even print it out, if you don’t want to carry around a weighty map or show-guide. 4. Make a schedule Once you have shortlisted the companies you need to see, you can make a schedule that reflects your priorities. Even if you are not booking fixed meetings, a schedule will allow you to effectively manage your time, ensuring you make time for the exhibitors you can’t afford to miss. If the trade show spans several days, aim to have your most important conversations early on day one. By the time the last afternoon of the show comes around, many companies are already packing up their stand and preparing to head home. When scheduling fixed meetings, keep the floor plan at hand to avoid booking consecutive meetings at opposite ends of the venue. This will ensure you can walk calmly between stands and don’t arrive at an important meeting feeling flustered! Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth 5. Make time for learning If you’re on a mission to expand your knowledge in a given area, check the event guide beforehand to note any education sessions you may want to attend. Look for panels and seminars which address the specific needs of your project, or which will contribute to your professional growth. This is one of the best opportunities you will have to learn from industry leaders in the field. Be sure to plan your attendance in advance so you can schedule the rest of your day accordingly. 6. Keep a record Armed with your objectives and list of questions, you will want to make a note of exhibitors’ responses to help you come to an informed decision. If you’re relying on an electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet to take notes, you may like to consider bringing a back-up notepad and pen, so you can continue to take notes if your battery fails. Your record does not have to be confined to written bullet points. Photos and videos are great tools remind you what you saw at the show, and they may pick up details that you weren’t able to describe in your notes. Most mobile devices can take photos – and images don’t need to be high quality if they’re just to refresh your memory. 7. Network – but don’t let small talk rule the day It may be tempting to take advantage of this time away from the office to talk about anything but business! While small talk can be helpful for building strong professional relationships, remember to keep your list of questions at hand so you can always bring conversations back to your key objectives. Keeping these goals in mind will also help you avoid being swayed by any unhelpful marketing-speak. It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to exchange business cards with everyone you speak to, or even take the opportunity to connect via LinkedIn. Even if something doesn’t seem relevant now, these contacts may be useful in future. Have a dedicated section in your bag or briefcase for business cards to avoid rummaging around. With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely 8. Schedule time for wandering With your most important conversations planned carefully, there should be time left to explore the show more freely. Allowing dedicated time to wander will give you a welcome break from more pressing conversations, and may throw up a welcome surprise in the form of a smaller company or new technology you weren’t aware of.  Security trade fair checklist: Photo identification: As well as your event pass, some events require photo identification for entry. Notebook and pen: By writing as you go, you will be able to compare notes at the end of the day. Mobile device: Photos and videos are great tools to remind you what you saw at the show, and may pick up details you missed in your notes. Paper schedule & floor plan: In case batteries or network service fail. Business cards: Have a dedicated pouch or pocket for these to avoid rummaging at the bottom of a bag. Comfortable shoes: If you’re spending a whole day at an event, and plan on visiting multiple booths, comfortable shoes are a must!

How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today
How artificial intelligence (AI) is changing video surveillance today

There’s a lot of excitement around artificial intelligence (AI) today – and rightly so. AI is shifting the modern landscape of security and surveillance and dramatically changing the way users interact with their security systems. But with all the talk of AI’s potential, you might be wondering: what problems does AI help solve today? The need for AI The fact is, today there are too many cameras and too much recorded video for security operators to keep pace with. On top of that, people have short attention spans. AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could.AI is a technology that doesn’t get bored and can analyse more video data than humans ever possibly could It is designed to bring the most important events and insight to users’ attention, freeing them to do what they do best: make critical decisions. There are two areas where AI can have a significant impact on video surveillance today: search and focus of attention. Faster search Imagine using the internet today without a search engine. You would have to search through one webpage at a time, combing through all its contents, line-by-line, to hopefully find what you’re looking for. That is what most video surveillance search is like today: security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further. That’s where artificial intelligence comes in. The ability of AI to reduce hours of work to mere minutes is especially significant when we think about the gradual decline in human attention spans With AI, companies such as Avigilon are developing technologies that are designed to make video search as easy as searching the internet. Tools like Avigilon Appearance Search™ technology – a sophisticated deep learning AI video search engine – help operators quickly locate a specific person or vehicle of interest across all cameras within a site. 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Security operators scan hours of video from one camera at a time in the hope that they’ll find the critical event they need to investigate further Now, consider how much information a security operator who watches tens, if not hundreds or thousands of surveillance cameras, is presented with daily. After just twenty minutes, their attention span significantly decreases, meaning most of that video is never watched and critical information may go undetected. By taking over the task of "watching" security video, AI technology can help focus operators’ attention on events that may need further investigation. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing For instance, technology like Avigilon™ Unusual Motion (UMD) uses AI to continuously learn what typical activity in a scene looks like and then detect and flag unusual events, adding a new level of automation to surveillance. This helps save time during an investigation by allowing operators to quickly search through large amounts of recorded video faster, automatically focusing their attention on the atypical events that may need further investigation, enabling them to more effectively answer the critical questions of who, what, where and when. As AI technology evolves, the rich metadata captured in surveillance video – like clothing colour, age or gender – will add even more relevance to what operators are seeing. This means that in addition to detecting unusual activities based on motion, this technology has the potential to guide operators’ attention to other “unusual” data that will help them more accurately verify and respond to a security event. The key to advanced security When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations There’s no denying it, the role of AI in security today is transformative. AI-powered video management software is helping to reduce the amount of time spent on surveillance, making security operators more efficient and effective at their jobs. By removing the need to constantly watch video screens and automating the “detection” function of surveillance, AI technology allows operators to focus on what they do best: verifying and acting on critical events. This not only expedites forensic investigations but enables real-time event response, as well. When integrated throughout a security system, AI technology has the potential to dramatically change security operations. Just as high-definition imaging has become a quintessential feature of today’s surveillance cameras, the tremendous value of AI technology has positioned it as a core component of security systems today, and in the future.

How to move from crisis response to crisis management
How to move from crisis response to crisis management

Governments and corporations face crisis events every day. An active shooter terrorises a campus. A cyber extortionist holds a city for ransom. A hurricane washes away a key manufacturing facility. Not all critical events rise to the level of these catastrophic emergencies, but a late or inadequate response to even a minor incident can put people, operations and reputations at risk. Effective response plan In 2015, for example, the City of Boston experienced several record-breaking snowstorms that forced the city to close the subway system for three days. The extreme decision cost the state $265 million per day and was largely attributed to a lack of preparation and an inadequate response plan by the transportation department. The reputation of the head of the transportation department was so damaged by the decision she was forced to resign. Being able to better predict how the storms would impact the subway system’s aging infrastructure – and having a more effective response plan in place – could have saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars (not to mention the transit chief’s job). A comprehensive critical event management strategy begins before the impact of an event is felt and continues after the immediate crisis has ended. This full lifecycle strategy can be broken into four distinct phases – Assess, Locate, Act and Analyse. Assessing threats for prevention Security teams might have complained about not having enough intelligence data to make accurate predictionsIdentifying a threat before it reaches critical mass and understanding how it might impact vital assets is the most difficult challenge facing security professionals. In the past, security teams might have complained about not having enough intelligence data to make accurate predictions. Today, the exact opposite might be true – there is too much data! With crime and incident data coming from law enforcement agencies, photos and videos coming from people on the front line, topics trending on social media and logistical information originating from internal systems it can be almost impossible to locate a real signal among all the noise and chatter. Being able to easily visualise all this intelligence data within the context of an organisation’s assets is vital to understand the relationship between threat data and the individuals or facilities in harm’s way. Social media monitoring Free tools like Google Maps or satellite imagery from organisations like AccuWeather, for example, can help understand how fast a storm is closing in on a manufacturing facility, or how close an active shooter is to a school. Their usefulness, however, is limited to a few event types and they provide only a very macro view of the crisis.Data from building access systems, wifi hotspots, corporate travel systems, among others, can be used to create a profile Critical event management (CEM) platforms, however, are designed specifically to manage critical events of all types and provide much greater visibility. Internal and external data sources (weather, local and national emergency management, social media monitoring software, security cameras, etc.) are integrated into these platforms and their data is visualised on a threat map. Security teams can quickly see if there are actual threats to the organisations or communities they are protecting and don’t lose time trying to make sense of intelligence reports. The more they can see on a ‘single pane of glass,’ the faster they can initiate the appropriate response. Locating a threat Once a threat has been deemed a critical event, the next step is to find the people who might be impacted – employees/residents in danger, first responders and key stakeholders (e.g., senior executives or elected officials who need status updates). Often, this requires someone on the security team to access an HR contact database and initiate a call tree to contact each person individually, in a specific hierarchical order. This can be a time-consuming and opaque process. There is no information on the proximity of that person to the critical event, or if a person has skills such as CPR that could aid in the response. Ensuring ahead of time that certifications, skill sets, or on-call availability is included with contact information can save valuable time in the middle of a crisis response. Going even further, data from building access systems, wifi hotspots, corporate travel systems, among others, can be used to create a profile of where a person just was and where he or she might be going in a CEM platform. This information can be visualised on the threat map and help determine who is actually in danger and who can respond the fastest. The emergency response then becomes targeted and more effective. Security teams can quickly see if there are actual threats to the organisations or communities they are protecting Acting and automating The third step is to act and automate processes. If there is a tornado closing in on a town, for example, residents should not have to wait for manual intervention before a siren is activated or a message sent out. Organisations can build and execute their standing operating procedures (SOPs) fully within a CEM platform. Sirens, alarms, digital signs and messages can all be automatically activated based on event type, severity and location. Using the tornado example, an integration with a weather forecasting service could trigger the command to issue a tornado warning for a specific community if it is in the path of the storm. Summon security guards Warning messages can be prepared in advance based on event type so there is no chance of issuing a misleading or unclear alert Warning messages can be prepared in advance based on event type so there is no chance of issuing a misleading or unclear alert. All communications with impacted individuals can be centralised within the platform and automated based on SOP protocols. This also includes inbound communications from first responders and impacted individuals. An employee confronted by an assailant in a parking garage could initiate an SOS alert from his or her mobile phone that would automatically summon security guards to the scene. Conference lines can also be instantly created to enable collaboration and speed response time. Additionally, escalation policies are automatically engaged if a protocol is broken. For example, during an IT outage, if the primary network engineer does not respond in two minutes, a designated backup is automatically summoned. Eliminating manual steps from SOPs reduces the chance for human error and increases the speed and effectiveness of critical event responses. Analysis of a threat Looking for ways to better prepare and respond to critical events will not only improve performance when similar events occur again It’s not uncommon for security and response teams to think that a critical event is over once the immediate crisis has ended. After all, they are often the ones pushing themselves to exhaustion and sometimes risking life and limb to protect their neighbours, colleagues, community reputations and company brands. They need and deserve a rest. In the aftermath of a critical event, however, it’s important to review the effectiveness of the response and look for ways to drive improvements. Which tasks took too long? What resources were missing? How many times did people respond quickly? With a CEM platform, team performance, operational response, benchmarking data and notification analysis are all captured within the system and are available in a configurable dashboard or in after-action reports for analysis. Continuously looking for ways to better prepare and respond to critical events will not only improve performance when similar events occur again, but it will also improve response effectiveness when unforeseen events strike. Coordinate emergency response Virtually every organisation has some form of response plan to triage a critical event and restore community order or business operations. While many of these plans are highly effective in providing a structure to command and coordinate emergency response, they are reactive in nature and don’t account for the full lifecycle of a critical event – Assess, Locate, Act and Analyse. Whether it’s a large-scale regional emergency or a daily operational issue such as an IT outage, a comprehensive critical event management strategy will minimise the impact by improving visibility, collaboration and response.