Measure it if you want to manage it
August 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, Security Services & Risk Management, Residential Estate (Industry)
The residential security sector has made use of technology as a force multiplier for many years. Life before the electronic security age required a lot of effort.
We should all remember the time gone by when the security guard at the entrance, was the person who decided who could have access to an estate. The filling in of the access register recorded the details for future reference. It will be appreciated that retrieving any information from these records was a painstaking process.
This same person would have multiple tasks including:
a. Responding to any alarms from the electric fence which was installed on most estates. These would show on the fence alarm panel at the gatehouse, possibly with an audible alarm as well.
b. Visual monitoring of the areas around the gatehouse for any unusual activity. This task would extend to the areas being patrolled.
c. If any intrusion alarms for individual properties on the estate were monitored at the gatehouse, these would be responded to and an appropriate action organised.
d. Respond to telephone calls from residents and provide any assistance which they may have required. Bear in mind that these would cover a wide range of issues.
e. The guard would also be expected to complete the Occurrence Book (O.B.) which would record all the activities for the shift where action was required, or an unusual event occurred.
This excludes any other day-to-day queries and requests from residents and other staff on any number of issues. These could be to do with expected deliveries, contractor arrivals, visitor arrivals, electricity outages and so on. And in some cases, accepting the post and passing it on. It feels that there was very little crime at the time, and the criminals were friendly.
From this, it can be seen that the guard would have to try and keep the residents safe and happy, but it was a difficult task and became increasingly so as the numbers of residents and the expectations of people changed.
One of the problems, which became glaringly obvious as soon as any situation required investigation was the laborious process required to go through any records which may be available to gather evidence. All the O.B. entries. had to be read. Any incident reports had to be evaluated and the manpower group had to be questioned and their responses manually recorded. This all had to be correlated to put together a report on the incident for the estate management.
Electronics arrives at the gate
The first move away from a total manpower solution was the beginning of electronic access control. For one thing, this exempted the guard from the decision-making process.
Technically minded people put their skills into practice to change access control to an automatic, electronically controlled function. The possibilities then escalated from there to the systems we now know. These include CCTV, visitor control and a myriad of interconnections. The result is a reduction in the number of people involved, that is, the manpower component of the estate security solution. Record keeping could now be automatic. You did not have to remember what happened.
As the electronics industry evolved and became more sophisticated, bigger volumes of information could be kept for longer. Searching for details became less time consuming.
At present we are in the digital age where such a variety and such large volumes of data can be recorded and kept by all sorts of businesses, associations, service providers and so on, that it is now the age of big data.
This ‘thing’ called ‘big data’ has crept into estates too. Suppliers of equipment offer better and better solutions where the possibilities for use are seemingly unbelievable. This is where the technically minded people are focused. They are driven by the excitement of stretching the electronics to the maximum. This is wonderful.
The down side is that they mostly do not consider the requirements of the ‘operationally minded people’. However, when these two ‘differently-minded’ people get together, the synergies can produce valuable results.
The value of data
The question becomes: What data are we collecting which will add value for the operational people. We must assume, for the moment, that the following systems are in place:
a. Access control with a transaction database and a setup allowing for all relevant information to be recorded. This would include in or out, which gate, lane, time etc.
b. An electric fence with software alarm monitoring which records all alarm types and the manpower reaction to the alarm.
c. Perimeter CCTV monitoring with analytics that is also monitored and recorded using a software package.
d. Entrance and exit cameras which have images tagged against the access control transactions.
e. An electronic O.B. which also draws information from the systems described above.
f. The full system is integrated onto a common network with time synchronisation and network monitoring.
There is usually much more information than this available on a fully integrated estate. The ability to have access to all the data in the networked system described above, however, allows reports to be generated. The daily reporting should relate to managing the security. In addition, reports can be put together and used if there is a security incident. The choice of reports generated, and the volume of data used then depends on the estate’s security management choice.
The choice can then typically be all or any of the following:
a. How many false alarms occur on the electric fence, by zone and time of day? This can be used to focus on the maintenance of the zones which show high false alarm reports.
b. ‘Low battery’ alarm numbers can inform that batteries are due for replacement.
c. Tamper switches being activated will indicate that maintenance activities are taking place or there is an illegal opening of boxes containing security equipment.
d. Power fail alarms at all or some locations gives valuable information.
e. Alarms generated by fence line camera analytics can be treated in the same way as electric fence alarms.
f. Monitoring the number of operations of booms and turnstiles will inform when maintenance is needed, or at least how many transactions took place before failure.
g. The access data can be used to evaluate peak access and egress periods so that decisions can be taken on staffing and managing the backup of vehicles and people that may occur.
h. Access is usually granted according to various categories (resident, contractor etc.). The data collected helps to understand the number of people of different categories who come into the estate.
i. If you aggregate all events at the control room or gatehouse you will understand how busy the staff are. This will indicate when they are possibly overwhelmed with tasks and extra help is needed or whether the staff complement is adequate.
j. With careful analysis you will soon have a good idea of staff performance. This will allow you to target training or relocation of staff.
k. If the electronic O.B. is used to collect information on estate lighting outages and other facility management issues essential to the estate security, this can be passed on to the facility managers for action.
This list includes some of the advantages of the availability of such large volumes and such a variety of data. The list can go on and on. What can be seen is that an evaluation is needed by the estate management on how this applies to their case.
a. What data do you have available?
b. Is it being correctly collected?
c. What reports would benefit the operation and management personnel?
d. What combination of data is required to produce the report?
The technically minded personnel then need to provide the platform for producing the report.
From experience, we have found that, once the first round of reports has been generated and the facility has been appreciated, more wish lists for report generation follow. This must be carefully managed before people become too carried away and there are 100-page reports being generated instead of short, comprehensive and focused reports. These would typically include basic data concerning exceptions with graphics to indicate trends. A picture is often much more useful than lots of pages and numbers.
There is no doubt that one of the differentiators between service providers is going to be the ability to make efficient use of data. We need more ‘Data Detectives’ to meet the challenges.
It is therefore important at this stage, to at least start the data detective journey.