How can the security industry provide affordable and cost-effective solutions?
2 Sep 2021
Cost is a reality to be managed. No matter how powerful or desirable a technology may be to a customer, the sale often comes down to the basic question: Can I afford it? And affordability extends not just to the purchase price, but to the cost of technology over its lifespan.
In addition to advances in technology capabilities, the security industry has also achieved inroads to make its offerings more worth the cost. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the physical security industry doing to make more affordable and cost-effective technology solutions for end users?
The key is ‘more affordable and cost-effective’, as there’s lots of very cool technology out there that is neither affordable nor cost-effective. Physical security is very broad, as it is not just about the security team, it also includes the roles and responsibilities of the maintenance, cleaning, risk management, emergency management and frontline teams, each department playing their part in keeping the physical premises and those on-site safe, and secure. When you consider the actual number of resources that are required to reduce risk and keep people safe, it is a significant investment, one that should be optimised, like any other area in the corporation. Yet today, we still manage those teams with pen and paper, and have limited data and accountability. Therefore, to help make the physical security industry more affordable and cost effective, we are leveraging smart phones, NFC tags and the cloud-based platform, in order to optimise operational resources.
Now, there’s a good question! The key to this is driving affordability through cost effectiveness, looking at the true-life cycle cost of a purchase and not just the initial capital outlay. This is achieved by showing how the purchase can drive real return on investment, reducing operational costs or driving productivity improvements. I was particularly taken with a recent report from a client that implemented a PSIM project that allowed them to reduce a worldwide security monitoring employee head-count from 300 to just 20. We have worked with clients, showing how the real-life usage of their built environment could drive a reduction in the space they rent and drive down IT support costs. This is not to mention the move to providing security as a service, thereby translating the Capex element to the Opex side of the ledger and ensuring a fully up-to-date system for the duration of the contract.
Within security, as in other industries, more competition usually means cost-effective products. We’re starting to see this come into play with solutions, such as video analytics, AI and deep learning, as they become more mainstream. These technologies are seeing an increase in use cases covered and have moved from early adopters to mainstream users, which in turn offer more momentum and broader acceptance on the market. Security devices are getting more and more compute power. That offers the possibility to more compute to edge offloading server infrastructures. That, in turn, makes the solution more cost-effective.
First of all, we need to make clear - what’s the exact definition of affordable and cost-effective technology. It's not always supposed to be only one answer - cheap. To SMBs, for example, a solution that can help protect the business and create a safe work environment for employees appropriately would be a good option. Thus, knowing the risks that are unique to the business will help to create the most appropriate safety guidelines. Recently, quick and easy-to-install wireless technology has been adopted and integrated more and more into smart security devices, and solutions. For example, wireless cameras can help in monitoring areas or sites, wireless locks can use a smartphone rather than a physical key to lock and unlock doors, no matter where you are, so you can check on the employees and worksite with a smartphone as needed, which provides a number of safety benefits.
Taking advantage of embedded solutions and moving more processing to the edge is a great example of how the industry can reduce costs for end users. By using lightweight algorithms and highly efficient software, more solutions can be run on cost-effective COTS (Commercial of the shelf) hardware platforms. The IT industry moved away from purpose-built hardware years ago for the same reason. Cameras and embedded computer boards can run powerful AI algorithms on the edge. Using existing infrastructure at customer sites also saves costs, since pulling new wire and installing new infrastructure is always more expensive. IP video has been a great evolution, since so much of today’s modern technology infrastructure relies on it. Beyond cameras, access control is following this same trend of AI-powered devices running on ethernet power. Less complex designs running on open platforms take less time to install and further reduce costs for customers
This has certainly been a topic of conversation, and I think the move toward a more service-based offering, whether via cloud delivery of services or otherwise moving away from the traditional annual licensing model is giving end users additional flexibility, in terms of pricing and the ability to expand, or contract usage as the change. Manufacturers are also building into their products more robust remote system health monitoring, or the ability for integrators to remotely diagnose and solve issues with camera or recording devices. This ultimately reduces the number of service calls and the price of service, and maintenance agreements for end users, due to the reduction in truck rolls on behalf of the integrator.
Security leaders can make emerging security technologies more accessible to end users, by building on existing infrastructure. Many businesses and organisations are not in a position to completely overhaul their physical security systems with innovative technology, but they also cannot afford to get left behind. A good partner can evaluate organisations’ existing systems and recommend strategic improvements, and integrations that work with what they already have. Depending on the customer, this could include adding AI solutions, such as facial recognition or weapons detection to existing video surveillance cameras or updating traditional key locks to touchless access control. These incremental but powerful updates can optimise the systems already in place, delivering smart and safe building environments, while preserving capital.
An evolving demand in the industry is choice, and a good example is with credential technology. HID has long offered users a broad selection of credential technologies, ranging from legacy 125kHz options to a multi-application credential family that includes the mobile-ready Seos technology, as well as MIFARE DESFire. Continuing this trend, the company now also offers a feature-rich implementation of MIFARE DESFire EV3 with advanced security and privacy capabilities that are reinforced with HID’s own powerful model for identity data protection. This new credential technology is also available as a multi-technology card that provides a smooth migration path from vulnerable legacy, low-frequency 125 kHz-based systems, without requiring the replacement all existing readers. This allows end users to extend the lifecycle of their legacy infrastructure and migrate at their own pace. This is just one example of how the industry is helping organisations further streamline security, by offering more choices.
New innovations are rapidly advancing the technology of deploying, installing, and supporting physical security solutions, dramatically lowering the cost and overhead required to support, and scale these systems. Adding cloud infrastructure expands the possibilities further, improving scalability and mobility, lowering the cost even further. Remote configuration and support, auto downloads of firmware updates, using QR and scannable codes to quickly and easily identify equipment to be configured, all play important roles in keeping deployment costs low in a solution. Often the unpredictable cost of a system installation can drive installers to include additional expenses to cover uncertainties. Reducing truck rolls and optimising technician, and installer time result in a more cost-effective solution. Remote support and configuration tools make it possible to keep higher-skilled, higher-cost resources off the road, allowing the dealer to manage technicians’ time, ensuring the right skill level is available in every phase of the install.
The Cloud is the perfect enabling technology, facilitating quick delivery of new solutions to the customer, while passing along lower costs and greater efficiencies. Leveraging cloud-hosted management platforms, users can easily deploy intrusion, access control, video surveillance, critical environmental monitoring, asset tracking, wireless detection and smartphone control. With wireless access solutions, users and dealers save on labour costs, while adding detection where they need it, without having to trench to outbuildings or disrupt employees during working hours. Inherent efficiencies in the Cloud also allow users to send site and user information to multiple locations, without manually re-entering data, while software automatically updates. Using the smartphone for access, users can be assured those entering buildings have the correct permissions and completed necessary protocols, and compliances. With the Cloud, users pay only for the services they need, typically with no upfront costs to security dealers.
While many trends have contributed to making technology more cost-effective, one that is especially noteworthy is the ability to decouple hardware from software. This has allowed physical devices, such as cameras, to be more versatile by enabling software to be flexibly added and removed to serve different needs. Cameras can now be re-purposed over their lifetime and easily adapted to a changing environment, thus prolonging their average lifespan, and allowing end users to source more value, such as cost savings or efficiency gains from the initial hardware investment, by leveraging new technologies, as they become available. This approach encourages competition in the marketplace with growing innovation. Open platforms also allow software developers to sell and distribute software at scale, allowing for profitable business at lower prices, which will also decrease total cost of ownership for end-to-end solutions.
The sheer breadth of technology offered by the security industry is a challenge to the concept of providing affordable and cost-effective solutions. With so many technology choices, how can end users choose the most affordable and/or cost-effective? Our Expert Panel Roundtable suggests several approaches, such as decoupling of hardware and software, cloud computing, and deploying embedded solutions at the edge. Addressing cost is an issue in almost every transaction in our market, and continuing to speak to cost, as well as technological efficacy is core to the industry’s success, now and in the future.
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