How does technology innovation in security systems impact the skillsets needed by security operators and officers?
Going back to the days when we asked our children to program our VCRs, many of us are challenged by the intricacies of technology. However, a benefit of newer inventions such as smartphones and tablets is that they are easier to use and “intuitive” – whatever that means. Security and video surveillance systems are becoming more complex in lockstep with consumer electronics, so we asked this week’s panellists: How does technology innovation in security systems impact the skillsets needed by security operators and officers? Do more complex systems require that personnel have more technical skills? Do more user-friendly interfaces make it easier for even non-technical people to use newer systems?
Fortunately, the rate of innovation and adoption of technology in the consumer market has outpaced physical security. The reason I say that is because today’s console operator grew up with video games and cell phones, so they’re not afraid of technology, and they learn things quickly. Just because the complexity of system functionality is increasing and the amount of data being collected is expanding exponentially does not mean the user experience has to be equally complex. New security GUIs are leveraging interface design that is being developed for mobile devices and large data mining applications like Google Finance. Such GUIs guide end users to what they should be looking at. A good user interface should require little to no training or technical knowledge, and an end user will be drawn to what is important now. For example: an interface for retail business intelligence presents a “Top 10 Most Likely Cashier Offenders,” and if one icon is big and RED, you know to click on it to see the who and size of your problem.
Naturally, as technology advances the security industry needs to keep up, and there will always be a demand for skilled operators and officers. While it is often perceived that security operatives require a full technology skillset, in reality it is difficult to find individuals with a complete knowledge of all security systems. This is a key reason why security manufacturers need to develop systems that are as user-friendly as possible. This helps to lower security operators' training costs and removes a lot of the difficulties in finding staff with exact training or experience in certain systems. The general popularity of smartphones and easy-to-use touch-screen user interfaces (UI) has seen manufacturers such as TDSi look to match these. It’s important to employ software development teams that appreciate the need for straightforward UI systems, ensuring security products can be successfully deployed and used in the real world.
Today’s technology innovation must make the assumption that the user community can and will have a large range of skillsets and capabilities. As such, any solution needs to have an effective user experience (UX) that is driven by intuition and that matches the commonly used interface schema of most devices that are widely used today. Systems and solutions are becoming more complex, but that complexity is driven by the need to provide a higher level of capability while becoming easier to use. The concept of having to train an operator to use a system or even provide a training manual is quickly becoming obsolete. The solutions of today and tomorrow must solve problems with minimal operator input, as well as solve problems in a predictive manner that allows security officers to focus on higher value activities.
As technology advances, the channel has to adapt to survive. We saw this with the rapid change from analogue to IP video. Companies that built their IP skillsets flourished, and those that clung to the past did not. The latest technology innovations are the smartphone and cloud-based systems, and they are impacting the security industry at every level. These powerful technologies make systems more secure, more convenient and affordable, and easier to administer. Take access control: Unlike traditional panel-based access control systems, which require expensive on-site equipment, cabling, networks and special training on proprietary systems, the new cloud-based smartphone access control systems are easy to install and are considerably cheaper. This opens up the market to more installers, and the increased competition always benefits the end users. Such technologies are also a lot easier for end users to administer.
One of the technology goals for any new security equipment must be providing an easier interface for the operator to leverage the new features of the equipment. An easy example is the use of touch screen monitors that can provide multiple user levels. Instructions are given to the system with a simple touch of a screen in much the same way that airline passengers obtain boarding tickets.
The power of modern technology, when delivered to the Mk.1 Human through a well-designed interface, should increase the number of people able to use such things effectively. Internal complexity can appear as external simplicity. It’s a shame that most interfaces on security products are woeful, designed by coders and boffins ignorant of the wealth of good user experience (UX) practice to which 21st century consumer electronics has beaten a path. Users’ attitudes to grasping new tools is key. Think how every website we visit now needs you to “discover” how its navigation works because clever website coding means nothing can be taken from granted. Does this demand greater technical skills for operators? No, call it 2015 life skills. The digitally savvy (predominantly born after 1990) will find this effortless, so everyone else had better be willing to learn, on the hoof, every day.
Without the use of advanced alarm handling or enterprise command-and-control software applications, the innovation on the security technology side can have a dramatic impact on the ability of security operators and officers to handle even day-to-day alarms and events. As more advanced features, such as video analytics and shot detection, are pushed to the edge, set-up, operation and training requirements also increase. The good news is that central station automation applications and enterprise command-and-control platforms make the transition easier for security operators as the advanced applications are normalised and treated just like another standard alarm. Additionally, training time is reduced as operators are only using a single system to efficiently handle the alarms and events, instead of learning a completely new platform or jumping from one application to another. If you have the right automation platform or enterprise command centre software, the learning curve for operators is insignificant.
Today’s security solutions create better data, and they have the ability to provide business intelligence to drive improved efficiencies and operations. They also present a need for security leaders to possess a higher data acumen in order to extrapolate and decipher this data, as well as to champion the opportunities to leverage this information across the business. This is especially the case for retailers, where omni-channel is increasing the need for a cross-functional approach to the role of security technologies and leadership. Enter the Chief Visibility Officer (CVO), a professional dedicated to monitoring and evaluating the increased visibility into the business that security technologies provide, who can help retailers elevate their enterprise and adapt more rapidly to the needs of their customers. This serves as further evidence of the shift from traditional security technology as a separate entity to an element of a broader business intelligence strategy.
Security officers do not necessarily need to be more technical to operate today’s systems. Today’s officers need to be computer literate, and the more comfortable they are with different software programs, the shorter their learning curve to operate a security system. Millennials are adaptable to operating robust security systems as they grew up with video games, computer systems, tablets and smartphones. It comes naturally to them. However, the more mature security operator can learn systems with proper training provided by the systems integrator. Repetition of using the system and a “can-do” attitude are more important than having a technical background.
Ironically, as our panellists point out, a benefit of more complex technology is a simpler user interface. Increasingly in our market and others, ease of use is the Holy Grail of technology designers who “get it.” Apparently operators puzzled by the latest technologies represent an inefficiency that can’t be tolerated in today’s enterprises. Manufacturers need to do their part, but in the end, doesn’t interfacing with machines represent a challenge we all must meet as human beings in the year 2015?
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