In the first issue of the year, we always look at what we can expect to see happening in the security market over the coming year. Therefore, at the end of 2019, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few people from diverse companies to join us in a round-table discussion about what they expect to see happening in their environments in the coming year.
The macro-economic trend is nothing to boast about. Safe to say, the security industry is in a tough position. As crime in its various forms increases throughout South Africa with no apparent desire to address the issue in any meaningful way, the need for security, cyber and physical, is greater than ever. However, as the economy continues its decline, with the World Bank cutting growth forecasts for the country to below 1% primarily due to the rolling blackouts (or ‘load shedding’ for those who wish to be politically correct) suffered due to the incompetence of the ruling party, budgets for security are also being cut, leaving security operators under even more pressure.
Additionally, with talk of a global recession, or at best a slowdown, one can expect even more pressure and increased demands from security operations. Even in the cybersecurity world, with no coherent plan on a national scale (if there is any plan at all) to secure South Africa’s cyber infrastructure, it is once again down to the much-maligned private sector to ‘make a plan’.
How is the security industry going to deal with the new pressures, new threats and ever-growing risks? The answer is hard work (and maybe a few prayers) and the adoption of new technologies that optimise the security function while either replacing or augmenting the human security factor. The round-table attendees take it further.
The year ahead
Rudi Taljaard: enterprise business architect (Smart Security and IoT) at Gijima Specialised Solutions, thinks 2020 is going to be a very exciting year for the industry as more people adopt the concept of ‘smart security’ and embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) in integrated or converged solutions.
Jacques van Wyk: risk director at Pulsit Electronics, sees a trend to the integration of more, and more useful, telematics systems into broader management platforms, which will result in companies being able to obtain more data from their telematics systems in an integrated and easy to understand format that assists in decision-making and more efficient management.
MJ Oosthuizen: national sales operations manager at G4S Secure Solutions, thinks the key to successful security in the coming year will not simply be technology, but more a case of technology supporting human resources. He says the human factor is still critical to the security operation, but it is more than just having boots on the ground, it’s about enhancing the human factor through technology and training, in effect turning a guard into an officer with a broader scope of work and more skills to support the security function.
Shane Viljoen: development manager for Africa at Dahua Technology, expects to see more focus on artificial intelligence (AI) this year, which will serve to optimise the security function while reducing the costs of security for the end user.
Jet Zhu: Dahua Technology’s technical director for Africa, agrees that AI will be a driver for 2020, but notes that we should expect to see more of a new acronym AIoT – AI for the IoT world (which includes video surveillance). Integrating all the data from IoT devices into a single platform will provide more information that is more useful to control rooms and managers. Zhu also expects to see 5G rolling out broadly, which will provide another mechanism for transporting video data.
Stuart Perry: director of Dark Horse Distribution, also expects to see more AI features and functions in 2020, such as facial recognition. However, he says the technology will be integrated into new products to offer a complete solution to the market rather than being sold as separate products.
Gregory Dellas: is responsible for security presales at CA Southern Africa and he foresees a shift from automation to augmentation. In other words, advanced technology and people will work together in an integrated fashion to deliver more, more effectively, while keeping an eye on the costs.
Gerhard Furter: runs the R&D; team for Iris AI and he sees 2020 as a watershed moment when three countdowns will begin due to the advances in technology.
Firstly he predicts the ‘death of control rooms’ over the next three years or so as AI and the infrastructure most companies have in place allow people in the field to have full access to the information control rooms today have, giving them exceptional situational awareness with respect to their environment.
The second death countdown will be the end of analytics as we know it. AI is becoming so ubiquitous that standard analytics algorithms are almost archaic in their functionality. AI will take what we know as analytics to such a higher level that even the most advanced analytical algorithms today will be antiques in the next three or four years.
His final countdown concerns AI itself, specifically the commoditisation of AI. Today’s AI solutions are expensive and the domain of experts, however, AI is on a rapid path to commoditisation which will see the costs for AI systems (or AI enhanced systems) rapidly reducing while becoming widely available and easier to use. The amount of global competition in the AI field will drive this commoditisation faster than many expect.
The impact of AI
From the comments above, it is no surprise that AI will be making an impact in the coming year. But what will the impact actually be for the user, the person or company buying the solutions; and how will AI impact the service providers who are selling and installing solutions for their users?
From a service provider’s perspective, Oosthuizen says that AI technology itself won’t have a dramatic impact on the market, but it will further drive the selling and buying process into one of solutions. Customers will buy solutions (or services) from their service providers with the goal of that service performing a specific function or set of functions. The actual technology will be part of the package and almost irrelevant to the customer as all they want is the functionality.
Echoing Oosthuizen, Viljoen says the intelligence within the technology will mean higher margins for the service provider while providing improved service to their clients, and the clients will get more functionality from their solution at a better price. Moreover, solutions will be up and running, and delivering results faster.
In the past, AI and its various disciplines were hampered by a lack of information due to various technical and infrastructure factors. Furter believes we are past that stage now and information (such as telematics, for example) can easily be collected and analysed quickly in order to optimise the solution the customer has bought. In addition, he says AI development is aggressively advancing and technology is able to do so much more today than ever before, which means solutions will be far more effective at routine tasks as well as more complex tasks like the behavioural analysis of people and crowds.
Education is also a key factor here as many security operators still want to draw a line and be alerted every time someone steps over the line. Advising these people of how much more an AI can do, and showing the results in real-world settings, is key to the adoption of more effective security solutions.
In addition, humans are emotional and struggle to leave emotions out of their thinking. Perry says this is another area where education is required. An AI will make a decision or raise an alarm based on data, it does not care about being politically correct or about popular opinion; the data is analysed and the results are delivered. We have already seen instances where AI algorithms were accused of racism, but this is simply impossible since these systems deliver consistent results based on the data provided.
Explainers, trainers and sustainers
Dellas adds to the AI debate by noting that there will be three roles in future organisations pertaining to AI: explainers, trainers and sustainers.
Explainers are people who need to be available and knowledgeable enough to explain why an AI does what it does. It the context of our discussion, they would need to explain that the AI simply takes in data, analyses it for patterns and so forth, and delivers a result. It can’t like someone or hate someone else, it simply processes data according to the algorithms (rules) and data it has been given.
Trainers are the people who train the AI to be more intelligent and to look beyond the narrow limits of its algorithms. They match models and frameworks to tasks to assist the AI in learning to ‘see’ more in the data. For example, an AI may be able to understand human speech, but a trainer will be required to teach it to detect sarcasm or a joke and not interpret those statements literally.
Sustainers are the policemen of the AI world as their role will be to make sure the AI operates efficiently at all times and does not exceed the boundaries of its operational scope if it suddenly gets a batch of strange data.
Of course, we also need to understand that AI comes in different flavours and not all AI systems will try to take over the world. Dahua is active in developing AI systems for its hardware, but Viljoen notes that the company is developing information gathering systems that collect information from various devices and then return them to the customer’s server for analysis. It is designed for the security market to assist managers to make decisions and to warn of breaches in security. As yet, the AI systems from Dahua don’t take any other action than to warn the operator or security manager of an event.
Value in 2020
Taljaard brings the conversation back to the solution topic, noting that Gijima has spent considerable time and effort in developing a ‘smart security’ solution. The critical component in any solution one wants to offer the market is not about what hardware you use or what software (or AI) systems you run; it is about showing your clients the value your solution delivers. The definition of value needs to be in terms of something the client understands – such as reduced costs, improved safety and security, or reduced human resources, etc.
Taljaard and Oosthuizen agree that, while they don’t necessarily see the death of the control room in the near future, they do see it changing into an operations centre where information is gathered and analysed and responses initiated. (Furter refers to this as a data convergence centre, while Dellas refers to a command and control centre.) Oosthuizen says the difference will be that the operators and the technology in the operations centre will operate at a higher level than we see today to ensure situational awareness and thereby enable each response to be tailored to the specific situation, with a specific focus on more predictive or proactive actions.
Moreover, the integration of humans and technology will allow the operations centre to continually monitor the situation until the event is over, incorporating the data from each event into the AI processing server to improve the recognition and responses to the next alarm activation. This will include the data collected by technology as well as that provided by humans in their event reports. One of the benefits of this approach, says Perry, is that lessons learned by the AI or taught to the AI by more skilled operators can be transferred to other servers and edge devices to ensure every device or operations centre is geared to offer the optimal response for a similar event in future.
Van Wyk adds that AI and other technology are also going to play an increasingly important role in telemetry and better vehicle/fleet security and management. It’s not only a matter of transmitting data on position, braking or swerving, but new technologies allow companies to take much more information out of the vehicle and the IoT components installed to offer a full management platform back in the control centre.
As intelligence increases in the in-vehicle devices, the platform will also be able to verify who is in the vehicle (via facial recognition, for example) or that the person behind the wheel is not who they are supposed to be. For drivers who offer a transport service to others, the systems will note that there are too many people and/or unknown people in the vehicle and alert the control centre. Moreover, Van Wyk says we are moving into an era where behavioural intelligence will warn a driver and/or the control centre when the driver is getting tired or is distracted, and even when the individual’s body language is indicating that he could be involved in something untoward.
Here again, Oosthuizen notes that the operator in the control centre needs to be upskilled in order to take advantage of the intelligent technology to better manage vehicles, drivers and fleets.
Get rid of separation anxiety
Another area of conversation, one which has been in the industry for some time, is the convergence of physical and logical (or cyber) security. While there are definitely separate skills and priorities for the two fields of security, Taljaard says the development of technology and AI has made it easier to integrate the two into one operations centre. The operators will still focus on their particular areas of expertise, but smart security solutions will no longer separate the two and run duplicated functions.
Oosthuizen goes further and says that the idea that the two are separate entities in 2020 is more of a mindset than a technology challenge. The two disciplines operate on the same principles, just with a different approach to implementation. If companies embrace the similarities between the two, there are efficiencies to be gained. Oosthuizen says it depends on the implementation and whether a company decides to be as efficient as possible, or stick to doing things the long, hard and costly way.
However, Taljaard warns that in both the physical and cyber worlds, the biggest risk is the human factor. People taking shortcuts, ignoring processes or just opting for the easiest option, puts many companies at risk every day. And, he adds, it’s not only large corporates that are targeted, but also SMEs which are generally easier to compromise. When you add AI to the attackers’ arsenals, the risks are higher than ever.
Dellas advises that AI is already well entrenched in the arsenal of cyber criminals as well as defenders, and we should expect to see AI attacks that automatically adjust to their target’s defences to work their way into systems or bring systems down. Nation states are probably stockpiling vulnerabilities and AI-based malware to use against enemies in case of a war or some political shenanigans.
To back up his assertion that AI is already part of the cybersecurity landscape, Dellas notes that the 2016 Def Con conference had the first AI-versus-AI games (perhaps they should be called wargames).
As further proof of the link between the cyber and physical security worlds, Furter notes that Stuxnet was the first major cyberattack that had an influence on the physical world (wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuxnet), and there have been more since. Another example is using Amazon’s Alexa to gain access to people’s ‘smart’ homes in the USA when they don’t protect their credentials properly. These attacks would correctly be labelled as cyberattacks, but the ultimate impact they had or will have is on the physical world.
Again, Dellas highlights the risks people bring to the security world and advises that more education is required to ensure people are more aware of the sensitivity of their credentials and private information, whether it is personal data for accessing your bank account or business information.
While some global experts predict that AI and new technologies will take jobs away from people, others say that jobs will not disappear, but change to accommodate advancing technology. Dellas believes technology is set to become more integrated with people, allowing for dramatic improvements in everything, from quality to safety.
He expects to see ‘augmentation’ playing a larger role in organisations in various industries, using technology to enhance the human’s operational and productive capabilities. Perry provides an example of evacuation procedures, where people are put through an evacuation exercise in virtual reality (VR) in order to ensure that if an emergency does happen, they know exactly what to do and where to go.
Taljaard offers a similar example used on a mine. New employees on a mine are mostly trained aboveground and are still somewhat lost when they go underground for the first time. Using VR, a mine is training them on what to expect when they go underground, from when the cage doors open until they are back in the fresh air.
Although not strictly a security function, this virtual or augmented training and preparation makes the real processes familiar to the people concerned, allowing them to avoid mistakes or carelessness that could result in security problems or injuries.
In the security space, augmentation and virtual reality are also being used to enhance the use of technology. Zhu explains that Dahua has integrated its camera feeds into a VR viewer, allowing the user to see the whole environment in front of them instead of looking at one camera’s view and then having to switch to another camera. In a retail environment, for example, an operator will be presented with a 360-degree view of the store and can move their head to change views seamlessly between cameras.
With all these systems, the benefit is that additional information can then be displayed on top of the video feed, providing more information – such as the location of alarms, names of people if facial recognition is enabled, more information on an object, available support resources and so forth.
The question of skills
Skills and education are a common complaint among technology companies and have been for years. The issue is that of finding the right skills for the future in an environment where education at most levels is falling short. Despite the government of South Africa spending a brief moment promoting 4IR (the Fourth Industrial Revolution), the skills required in this new world are not easily available and one can’t learn them by doing a 2-week course on the Internet.
Dellas says companies are going to have to look into developing the skills they require themselves as our universities are not really keeping up and putting the people with the knowledge required into the market. If the government were serious about embracing the opportunities 4IR offers, it would be looking at building specific training academies, such as focused cybersecurity or AI training centres (or whatever skills are required to take advantage of the changes in technology and drive the country forward).
Furter adds that while some universities are offering courses that sound like they are on the right track, the resulting graduates are far from what is required in the business world. He goes as far as to say a recent data science graduate first had to be ‘untrained’ before he could deliver value. The reason is that the tertiary institutions are lagging behind. He says he tells interns that the way AI processing works is different from the way technology traditionally worked, to the extent that the questions one used to ask about technology and the performance of systems are no longer valid today. Learning institutions need to take that into account and better prepare their students for the real world by teaching them to ask new questions and provide different answers that align with the state of technology they are dealing with.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Moving away from the high-tech world, Oosthuizen says that government is actually making it worthwhile for companies to upskill people in terms of financial benefits. G4S is in the process of setting up an internal college from where it will offer training courses and certifications over anything from one to three years. With capacity and interest of approximately 600 learners already in the pipeline, the initial uptake is a good indication of the need in the market.
The college will cover a variety of skills not taught in schools, from administration to technology and so on. He sees immense benefit in companies working together to impart skills from different vertical markets and environments. However, he stresses that this needs to be driven in an integrated fashion by the private sector, which is where the skills are.
Perry believes government initiatives need to support these types of skills development projects and to ensure that the skills and abilities taught are available to a broad section of the population instead of a limited number in certain areas. While one can’t wait for the government to lead, it should assist and support the rollout of these training initiatives.
Viljoen says that Dahua in Africa trains people throughout the market on all of its products, from cameras to servers and the latest AI software. The certifications ensure that the individual is able to properly install, configure and maintain systems from the company when the courses are completed. This is part of a drive on Dahua’s part to ensure that partners and customers can access the resources they require to support their security installations for the long term.
Zhu adds that in many African countries, Dahua donates product to universities and colleges to ensure students have practical skills when they graduate. The company is considering a similar programme in South Africa.
Taljaard says Gijima has a similar experience to the others in that new graduates are often lost when they first walk into a job. However, internships have proven very successful where the company can take people with degrees or diplomas and train them further in a ‘real-world’ working environment.
The latent cloud
No discussion about trends for the future would be complete without a mention of providing security services via the cloud. Companies like Dahua already offer solutions designed for cloud services that are simple to set up and start using, but opinions on the cloud situation in South Africa are not all positive.
Furter explains that the big cloud players have promised local data centres and cloud services, but these are limited and not the full solutions they provide in the USA or Europe, for example. This means that setting up a standard video camera and relying on a cloud solution often leaves you with four-second latency, which is unacceptable. Fortunately, some manufacturers are setting up their own hosted services which seem to perform much better.
Taljaard adds that Gijima set up its own data centre with the goal of hosting multiple tenants specifically to provide the performance customers want because the cloud providers locally are not willing or able to provide the service levels desired.
It should be noted that it is not only the cloud providers that are at fault here, bandwidth limitations and costs are still a hindrance to many – despite much marketing and promotion of amazing speeds and some declines in pricing.
Oosthuizen expands on this, noting that one of the biggest costs in moving to a hosted environment is the infrastructure costs (having enough bandwidth to handle peak demand), as well as the costs of redundant infrastructure to ensure business continuity in almost any situation. This means large companies could possibly afford to go to the cloud, but smaller companies are often left out in the cold.
Taljaard notes that to serve smaller companies via cloud systems requires a risk-based approach. The service Gijima is launching in 2020 was set up by negotiating a risk factor with everyone involved. This means that clients will be able to purchase the service on a monthly basis, increasing or decreasing their requirements per month as required, even decreasing it to zero. In other words, if you don’t use the service for a specific month (or more), there will be no licensing or infrastructure costs at all – which will be a unique approach in South Africa. (Hi-Tech Security Solutions will report on the new service as soon as it is launched.)
The promise of 5G may also not resolve these issues unless new spectrum is released because the cellular networks are already oversubscribed, a problem which will only get worse unless addressed quickly and effectively. Van Wyk notes that the logistics industry often has to deal with the loss of cellular data connectivity for no apparent reason, which not only prevents the collection of data, but can hinder emergency signals from reaching control rooms timeously.
Closer to the edge
While the cloud and all its promises may be a bit of a downer for some, one area of computing that will become more mainstream and garner far more attention this year, according to Dellas, is the edge. To save on bandwidth, many companies are looking to do more processing on the edge (on the camera or reader, or any IoT device) and only send a limited amount of data to a server.
This hybrid approach is also being supported by manufacturers bringing out devices that can do immense processing tasks in a small form factor. This will save on bandwidth and allow for near instant analysis and alerts. Additionally, analysed and collated data can be sent to servers from multiple devices, allowing the central servers to do more intricate processing and analysis, and return ‘new learning’ to the edge devices, ensuring all the devices benefit.
Answering the question of how smaller companies benefit from cloud services, Taljaard adds that the move towards edge computing, doing analytics and AI processing on the camera (or edge devices in the IoT world) has made offering cloud-based smart security solutions much more viable and valuable to small- and medium-sized businesses. It removes bandwidth issues and provides the right data to the right people at the right time for action to be taken proactively instead of after the event is over.
What are your opinions?
While the discussion on trends for the coming year can go on endlessly, Hi-Tech Security Solutions would like to know what our readers think the key trends are for the coming year in the security industry. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add them to the online version of this article.
Hi-Tech Security Solutions thanks all the participants for their time and input in the round-table discussion.
|Tel:||+27 11 543 5800|
|Articles:||More information and articles about Technews Publishing|
© Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. | All Rights Reserved.