Whether it’s the cost or reliability of manned guarding solutions, the propensity for strikes and unrest or simply the advances in technology, many say the need for onsite guards is something that is vanishing. In this investigation we look at how guards are being used in a world where security technology is rapidly advancing.
Do we need guards at all anymore? Or perhaps we still need them, but fewer of them because of the benefits of surveillance and communications technologies? But then why is the guarding industry still growing? Hi-Tech Security Solutions looks at the role of guards in the future and where the balance between human and technology lies. Our answers came from Enforce Security, where Derek Lategan, MD of Enforce Guarding and Glenn Allen, MD of Enforce Security Technologies offered their insights; as well as ADT, with answers from J.J. Barnard, MD of ADT Kusela.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: How do you think guarding will change in the future? Will we still see the current batch of guards at work, or will the advent of technology remove the need for people? Or will we see a bit of both, people supported by technology?
Derek Lategan: Security technology is advancing at a rapid pace and it is crucial that the guarding industry evolves with it. As such, the future security officer will have to be a more qualified, higher skilled individual.
In the past, the guarding industry was regarded as an ideal employment option for unskilled individuals. However, this is quickly changing and just as the guarding industry needs to keep up with the times, so does the individual officer – he has to become more technologically adept.
Currently, security officers are graded according to their basic training and their job description, the lowest being patrol guards and then supervisors and/or managers taking the top gradings. However, this will also change in the future as the lower grades will basically fall away. We will therefore most probably see less grades and higher-skilled individuals occupying them.
Guards need to upskill themselves as already we are unable to recruit from the same pool of individuals we have in the past. We already require a minimum of a matric qualification, in future that minimum requirement will probably also include computer experience and qualifications.
If we look at some of the technology that is already out there in the corporate world, not-to-mention the types of advances that are still to come, it is evident that technology is definitely having a huge impact on the industry, and, as such, we also have to change.
Glenn Allen: Guards need to be able to drive the high-tech systems and technologies and will definitely need to at least be computer literate. Even access control is now computerised.
However, I do not believe that we will see the day when technology will remove the need for people. Even with sophisticated systems, such as video analytics on CCTV cameras there is still the need for the human element. The technology will provide data or evidence, but it needs someone to interpret it. For example, a camera may pick up possible criminal activity, but someone in a control room will need to assess that activity, decide whether or not it does in fact pose a threat, and then decide what action to take.
J.J. Barnard: Guarding will definitely be different in the future as it becomes more and more technology based. Despite this move to technology, there will always be a need for the human element. Due to the fact that the security business deals with a vast range of different challenges, there will always have to be at least some individual involvement i.e. overlooking CCTV monitors, liaising with customers visiting an establishment etc. My belief is that we will see people supported by technology.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Will the increased use of technology mean guards will have to change? Is this realistic?
J.J. Barnard: A better skilled batch of guards will be the answer, as part of the increase in the development and use of technology especially in the corporate environment. More training in terms of operating systems and utilising technology to deliver sustainable service to customers will be needed. By doing this the industry will also develop employees, thereby contributing to the nation and the people of South Africa.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Do we want to see the number of guards reduced? People often feel more secure with the human element around instead of technology? And then there’s the risk of technology failing or blackouts etc.
Derek Lategan: Obviously, from a job creation and economic point of view we don’t want to see less individuals being employed, but the industry has to keep up with technological advancements and improve itself. And as already mentioned, security technology, such as CCTV cameras, does take away some of the roles that basic patrol guards were doing. So while people may not be comfortable with a security solution consisting of either all guards, or all technology, a good mix of the two will provide the right balance. Again, even with high-tech systems, a skilled individual is integral.
Glenn Allen: A security officer needs to be able to interpret what information or evidence his system is alerting him to. He needs to then be able to verify that evidence and make a decision on how to respond to it. Technology can only provide an indication of something and then if you add that to our load shedding problems in recent weeks, it becomes even more evident that the human element is still needed. With this in mind, it is also vital that the new, assigned technologies are designed to incorporate back-up power in the event of load shedding.
J.J. Barnard: Yes. It makes sense having less staff at a customer’s premises and rather utilising off-site monitoring to do camera patrols. Having just one guard on site as a communication touch point and to check irregularities noted via CCTV is the way forward. There is always a chance that the human element with fail, be it bribery, syndicate activities, service failures such as sleeping on duty and desertion of sites, for example. If equipment is tested and monitored regularly the failure can be limited, however there is still a need for the presence of some human element on sites as back-up.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What type of technology are we seeing or will we see supporting the guarding needs of people and organisations?
Derek Lategan: We are already seeing various technologies in our day-to-day operations. An example of which is the Virtual Inspector which we developed to assist with the inspection of security guards on remote sites. Historically an inspector would need to drive hundreds of kilometres to check on guards at various remote sites every few days. With Virtual Inspectors however, our control room can view live camera footage of our security guards as they report for duty.
They also need to check into the system at regular, given times. For example, a security guard will know that every hour he needs to check in and to do so he will press a button which will activate the camera and notify the control room. Our system alerts if he does not check in on time so we know that there is a problem. This system not only assists us with monitoring our people but also serves as protection for the officers as, if they do not check in, we will send someone to see why not. So in the past if a guard was, for example, accosted and tied-up, we would only find out about it the next morning. Now, in a matter of a few minutes we will realise there is a problem and send assistance.
We also have a computerised incident management system in which every incident is recorded. The system manages and escalates incidents to ensure they are followed up timeously, and full feedback is provided. Comprehensive reporting on statistics based on incident type, location and site and more is used to understand and manage risk in more detail.
Other current technology includes biometric access control systems, remote video monitoring, to name a few. It is all a massive change for the industry.
• EVIM Access control systems.
• CCTV off site monitoring.
• Cameras on jackets constantly monitoring where guards are patrolling and therefore being able to capture the guard’s movements as he is patrolling and also have full records of incidents and securing his safety to a certain extent.
• Advanced patrol systems such as the Blood Hound.
• Biometric on duty logging/clocking system.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Will the intelligent use of data, through analytics for example, be able to assist in securing people and assets?
Derek Lategan: Intelligent use of data will definitely assist in better securing of people and assets. Every single incident in our company is recorded in our Electronic Occurrence Book. Using it, we can work out trends, establish hotspots, see the common times for committing crimes, and establish modus operandi. We also pass this information on to the police. We, and the police, can then use it when conducting investigations and deciding on when and where to carry out operations. It is the way of the future. So instead of guards doing patrols or police doing random operations we actually know when and where the criminals are going to strike.
This is just another example of technology presenting something and the human element interpreting and responding to it.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Looking at the guards themselves, what will change in the way they do their jobs in future? Will on-person or body-worn technology be used to make them more effective and even keep them safe while on duty? What types of solutions could we see happening?
Derek Lategan: Some guards are already wearing body and head cameras, and as technology improves this equipment will only evolve. If you look at the type of technology already out there, you will see that there is equipment such as glasses that connect to the Internet. Google Glass is a wearable technology with an optical head-mounted display that was developed by Google. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format in wearable glasses. Imagine integrating this Optical Head Mount Display technology with a shopping centre’s CCTV system equipped with facial recognition software – the minute a known criminal enters the shopping centre the guard would know about it – you can just imagine what type of technology could possibly be developed for security personnel in the future.
Again, technology such as body cameras also serve as protection for guards as in the course of carrying out their work they are often accused of crimes or inappropriate behaviour by suspects, either as a means of distraction or to lay counter-blame and discredit them. So being able to have guards monitored in real time, and have their daily experiences on camera, they are also protected.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions: If you could suggest one change you would like to see happening in the guarding industry in general, what would it be?
Derek Lategan: If I could hope for one change in the industry it would be the strict enforcement of legal compliance. There are thousands of security companies registered in South Africa and of those, the vast majority are non-compliant with legislation. Enforcement of compliance will make our industry more professional and allow better regulation.
Currently a lot of illegal immigrants are being employed as security guards and they are hired as cheap labour. They are exploited by their employers, but they cannot complain because they are in the country illegally. Enforcing compliance will put a stop to this.
Glenn Allen: I agree, compliance is the biggest change needed. It prevents the exploitation of guards. Some guards are protecting high-end assets, but paid low wages for doing so. Non-compliance drives the price of good security down.
To improve the industry costs money. Training costs money. Skilled guards will be able to compete for positions in the skilled market. They can choose where they want to work, they can seek better working conditions. They will have benefits such as leave and bonuses. But in order to pay them these better salaries and benefits, security companies will obviously have to charge their clients more. Overall, the industry will be more professional.
But without compliance, none of this is possible. All we will see are more unskilled guards carrying out more work, possibly more dangerous work, and getting paid badly for it. That doesn’t bode well for the industry.
(1) Legislation passed which would focus on small non-registered fly-by-night companies
• that are killing the security business,
• exploiting the workers,
• offering services to customers at rates which are unbelievable, only to drop out after three months and move on to another customer in order to destroy the reputation of the security industry even further.
(2) Governmental control to be focused on security guards who are foreigners and working for these fly-by-night companies that are illegal in the country and stealing employment from SA citizens. These individuals are performing duties for any remuneration and are the most vulnerable targets for syndicates and criminals in terms of pulling them into a web of collusion.
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