Call it analytics, big data, business intelligence, machine learning, AI, or something else — these terms are not interchangeable, but in today’s security landscape they are often used to mean approximately the same thing: the idea that you can take traditional security technology (video, access control, intrusion, etc.) and expand its use to benefit the business side of whatever customer you are applying it to.
Wikipedia defines “business intelligence” as “the strategies and technologies used by enterprises for the data analysis of business information. BI technologies provide historical, current and predictive views of business operations … BI technologies can handle large amounts of structured and sometimes unstructured data to help identify, develop and otherwise create new strategic business opportunities. They aim to allow for the easy interpretation of this big data. Identifying new opportunities and implementing an effective strategy based on insights can provide businesses with a competitive market advantage and long-term stability.”
In the security space, the most common example of this has been the use of various forms of video analytics in the retail space — from heat mapping to people counting to facial recognition — to help a retail establishment understand its customers’ behaviors and better market and sell to those customers. But the greater applications for it are almost limitless. And what yesterday seemed like science fiction is happening today in real-world applications.
“The desire for smarter, safer and more sustainable buildings is on the rise, meaning data and analytics are crucial to ensure customers are getting the most out of their environments,” says Donal Sullivan, vice president and general manager of connected converged security for Johnson Controls Digital Solutions, Milwaukee. “At the root of all connected technology is data, and without it, facility managers would not have an inside look at their building’s operations.”
Security systems generate many data that in the past has not been of much value. Today, as networked systems, cloud and integration proliferates, that data is mineable and — combined with machine learning or analytics and the right back-end solution or dashboard — actionable.
“Today building owners and facility managers are using analytics, big data and business intelligence to reduce energy consumption, enhance security strategies and improve employee productivity,” Sullivan adds. “Data collected from energy and enterprise management systems can be gathered, analyzed and converted into information to help building managers forecast, predict and optimize building operations.”
Shawn Mather, director of U.S. sales for Intelligent Security Systems (ISS), Woodbridge, N.J., says this is just the beginning. “The physical security industry is witnessing an evolutionary shift from hardware- to software-based solutions with higher levels of intelligence,” he says. “As we continue to develop platforms capable of layering native analytics that integrate with enterprise-level systems and big data, we will ultimately achieve AI (artificial intelligence) with systems capable of learning and problem solving. This applies to both video surveillance and access control, which are increasingly being looked at as enterprise ‘applications’ versus legacy security systems.”
Interest is clearly growing, adds Eli Gorovici, general manager, access control and video solutions, Global Security Products, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee. “Obviously the market will need to be more mature, but integrators need to understand where the market is going, work with their vendors to offer these solutions and understand what types of skillsets they will need to address this. It is not just about security. Our industry used to be video, access control and intrusion; now it is going to be big data and understanding what is inside of this data. We have been talking about this for 20 years, but because of cloud and AI, it is now real.”
It won’t just be the realm of the largest integrators. It will eventually filter into almost all businesses, adds Justin Lavoie, vice president of systems and services, Digital Energy in the U.S. division, Schneider Electric, Andover, Mass. “Typically less than 20 percent of a building’s data is going to be used. Analytics and business intelligence allow 100 percent of that data to be [valuable]. I think it is applicable in all markets. Having the building’s data will benefit any building owner and allow them to optimize the safety of their people, their data and their assets.”
Business Intelligence Today
The concept of business intelligence can seem overwhelming at first. Brent Boekestein, CEO, Vintra Inc., San Jose, Calif., breaks BI down into six buckets: security, safety, operations, space utilization/optimization, compliance and productivity. “Security, we know,” he says. Safety, he says, is a close cousin of security. Operations is how a business or physical space is run and maintained in a world-class fashion. Space utilization uses data to help a business decide how much space they truly need or how a space is being used. Compliance is regulation that requires them to do something. Business productivity is efficient use of materials or processes.
Gorovici simplifies it even further, to efficiency, whether of security systems or building management. “The basic thing is about reducing alarms. Large enterprise customers have hundreds of thousands of alarms a day. By allowing people to only look at the important things [you increase efficiency]. In our headquarters in Ireland we use it for food preparation. They prepare the amount of food based on how many people are in the building in real time. There is so much data that is important to operate buildings … Everywhere you have a lot of people you can use analytics and big data to really improve the efficiency of a building and save costs.”
Another way to look at it, says Luis H. Rodriguez, director of product management ecosystem, Honeywell Building Technologies, Atlanta, is the current market for big data or analytics being used by the security industry has tended to start with the security industry. Cameras already being used in retail applications is one example. Others include license plate recognition and facial recognition. “From what we are seeing they usually start with security-based cases,” Rodriguez says. From there they might move to asset management, and then possibly on to occupant comfort, he says.
Retail was the first large-scale use of video — or data analytics — and is still a primary market for the growing capabilities of business intelligence, says Chris Johnston, regional market manager for Bosch Security and Safety Systems, Fairport, N.Y. “Retail was probably the first large vertical market that saw other uses for that video information, and as video became more intelligent and we started to generate more analytics they started to see some interesting crossovers where we can use this information for more than just security alone.”
It may have started there but it certainly will not end there, Johnston adds. From transportation (tracking open parking spots) to customer service at gaming facilities, the use cases are many (See “Business Intelligence Use Cases” online at www.SDMmag.com/BusinessIntelligence). “The office I work in, people start getting here around 6:30 a.m. It would be nice if when I pull up my car they know I am here and which lights to turn on and maybe start the coffee machine in the break room. Certainly that kind of data could be made [available] and able to integrate and share with multiple other systems. That is not science fiction. It exists.”
Video analytics is increasingly moving into business intelligence and operations, says Florian Matusek, product group director for video analytics, Genetec, Montreal. “Where we see a lot of growth is where customers are looking to see, ‘How can I use my existing equipment better and create more value out of it?’”
Andreas Pettersson, CEO, Arcules, Irvine, Calif., says video is just the beginning. “Right now it’s safe to say that video is the biggest generator of data and therefore the largest source for segmentation and analysis for usable intelligence. However, there is a growing trend to incorporate other data points for more insight into a business … in order to create a clearer picture of an organization and its operations. Access control combined with video data can give security personnel insight into the usage of entrances and exits and how these areas are being controlled, as well as help them identify risks associated with these locations. Adding in integrated Internet of Things (IoT) devices, HVAC devices, event management software and more can create an extra layer of intelligence that brings efficiency to new levels.”
Jonathan Moore, product director, AMAG Technology, Torrance, Calif., describes the current state of business intelligence as “the beginning of a very exciting new phase of physical security. It has often been one of the more boring sectors of businesses and analytics puts a new face on physical security … showing our customers real value. A lot has been smoke and mirrors until recently. Where most users have started is video analytics … but there are additional areas beyond video. The data coming from all different sensors is more and more of interest to customers.”
Business intelligence has the potential to completely transform how security is seen within the organization, said Pierre Racz, president, CEO and founder of Genetec at a conference of worldwide security industry press members. “It is changing the nature of security. Security often negatively sees themselves as a cost center, when their job is actually to measure the flow of people, things, etc., from which they can modulate workflows. They [can be] an integral part of decision making in an organization and these are the technologies that will help our customers achieve this status in their organization.”
The Security Integrator’s Role
If using BI can make the security department’s status rise within the enterprise, bringing that solution to the business can make security integrators the hero of the day, provided they understand how these solutions can truly help a client. It is more than just a consultative sale; it is a deep dive into areas of the business integrators don’t usually touch.
“Integrators have a challenge, and an enormous opportunity to show renewed, real value to their customer,” Moore says. “They are in the middle, our link to the customer. I see their role being first to understand what the customer’s problems actually are … Then they have to understand all the technology out there and what is possible to solve that problem.”
Boekestein agrees. “The new integrator, the one that will win out here is one that understands and can ask and seek out business outcomes for a customer. You have to ask, ‘Why?’ ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ ‘Why do you need that?’” he says. “Get down to the reasons behind the request, be the Socratic questioner. Get to the business outcome, not just the pain.”
He adds there are generally only five reasons why an organization buys technology: productivity, image, expense reduction, revenue enhancement and safety and security.
Integrator Robert Merchant, owner and president, MTS Intelligent Security Systems, East Brunswick, N.J., says a different mindset is necessary to make the leap from selling security to business intelligence. “Pre-packaged solutions do not work in this environment as clients’ needs greatly vary in terms of what information they need to collect and how best to use it … Systems integrators need to change their mindset from selling ‘products and systems’ to selling ‘application solutions.’”
Integrators may need a new skillset to effectively sell and implement business intelligence solutions, Johnston says. “Sometimes they are selling a different value proposition or to different people. They spent the last 30 years selling a loss prevention tool, for example. Now maybe there is a different way to position it.”
To do that, however, you have to know who to talk to, and that is almost always someone other than the security or even IT director. “Today integrators are heavily leveraged towards security, so their relationship with that customer is typically with the security director,” says Matthew Kushner, global president for Stanley Electronic Security, Fishers, Ind. “The moment you use these technologies to solve other business problems like occupancy, people flow, those things where you are not putting in any additional hardware, your relationship expands from the security director to the C-Suite.”
Rodriguez adds, “I think one of the most interesting people to talk to is someone on the finance side. They can tell you very quickly where they are spending a lot of their money. Maybe it is energy, or space utilization. They will point you towards things like cleaning, which could be one of their top five expenses. Does the whole cleaning crew really need to come every night? Maybe some floors don’t need cleaning … Next talk to whoever is running the line of business. Are there places where they are spending a lot of money on something where they are getting dinged?”
If you can do this well, “another interesting event occurs,” Kushner says. “When these people have a new problem we get the phone call asking, ‘Are you able to solve this, too?’ It has nothing to do with security, but an operational issue and we are called in. You become much stickier with that customer because you are not siloed as just a secured provider. You are getting more of their spend and across a broader set of departments.”
Be prepared for the customer not to know exactly what they want, however. “In most cases the customer doesn’t know what the capabilities are and it is more consulting,” Gorovici says. “Some might know what they need, but some just say, ‘Can you make me more efficient or save me money?’”
Then, you have to know your security products well enough to understand how they can help solve the problem you have identified. “I think to really implement a business intelligence solution at the integrator level … they have to know all the different product APIs and be able to say, ‘This is the data we can offer. What is it that you want to correlate and do? That is a lot of work for an integrator,” says Wayne Dorris, business development manager for cyber security, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass.
“Then it gets even more daunting,” Dorris says. “Let’s say for retail they decided to do people counting. It then becomes a support mechanism of analytics and you need to keep checking on them and making sure it is working in the parameters you want, and on top of that manage firmware patches.”
There is an upside to this. Because most solutions of this type are web or cloud-based, there is often also an RMR component for the security integrator, Kushner says. “Most integrators are aware of the concepts but historically have not been of the RMR mindset. Their role should be bringing a supplier alongside them to solve these business problems with this engine. It is a partnership between the integrator and their service provider — in our case 3xLOGIC — and they would work with that integrator to put together a BI solution and share in the RMR.”
Moore says it absolutely is an RMR play, whether cloud-based or more traditional service-oriented. “This technology takes a lot of understanding and intensive resources behind it. Analytics require a lot of server power on the back end. Integrators have a lot of opportunity to offer service, make sure things are kept up to date and that it is finely tuned to the customer’s needs.”
He also stresses the partnership between the integrator and their provider partner, as well as between the integrator and customer. “You don’t have to be a data scientist to sell a product like this. Work closely with your customer to understand what their problems are. Sit there and put together different systems that can help solve that problem. You really just need to develop that relationship and be their trusted advisor. Then bring in someone like us where we have the data scientists and can help you with the technical aspects.”
Rodriguez adds, “Start with value and work backwards. Go talk to your manufacturing partner. We have integrators coming to us and saying, ‘We want to sell this solution but it needs integration from someone who builds X or Y technology.’ Five or 10 years ago that was a wireless lock or something. Now it is facial recognition or someone who does video alarm verification or analytics around shrinkage prevention. The requests are starting to come in, which I think is a great sign.”
He also says security integrators are ideally placed for this work, if they take advantage of it. “If integrators don’t play this role, someone else will step into it. One of the big issues users run into is once they come up with some great idea, who will install the sensors or the local edge servers? Who is going to configure it and maintain it? They want to pay someone who knows how to do that well, who is a long-term partner and that is these security integrators or dealers. That role will be critical for them to grab quickly if they want to secure their space.”
As end users, manufacturers and integrators continue to navigate this new landscape of business intelligence, they also need to keep in mind what is just around the corner. How far a leap is it from business intelligence to smart buildings, or even smart cities? These types of projects are already happening in some locations, but as the technology becomes more prevalent, reliable and affordable, it is only a matter of time until it becomes commonplace.
“There are a number of companies using big data quite successfully, and they are transforming the way business is conducted,” Mather says. “The FANG stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) are a perfect example of how to capitalize on big data to capture market share. The same principles apply when the big data model incorporates information from security and building systems. When aggregated with other data sources, [such as] HR, inventory, POS, customer feedback or website traffic, they provide a more holistic view of business operations and processes.”
The future is multi-modal and fused data, Boekestein says. “This is when you take lots of different types of data, from visible video, infrared, badge access, weather, people counting, etc. The future is mashing or combining all those to provide you higher degrees of accuracy for prediction … Eventually this ends up in the same place autonomous vehicles are: environments that run themselves. Systems like ours and others make real-time decisions about risks in that environment. Buildings at first will provide information. Step two will be providing recommendations. The final step is actuation.”
The goal is larger scale data, Dorris says. “The other driver that will speed up success is artificial intelligence and machine learning. That gives us better computing power to provide better data to the actual system … I think there are more and more requirements for better intelligence and data on what is happening on their devices and network and what we can do with that. As AI matures I definitely think we will see more implementations … more smart buildings and smart cities than we had thought about to begin with.”
Another consequence of this projected trajectory is the further commoditization of security hardware. It is already starting to happen in the video world, and that will expand to other technologies. “Today we see all of our manufacturers separated by best-of-breed access and video,” Kushner says. “That stuff will be commoditized and the leading play will be based on who has the best business solution for my company and that will be a cloud-based platform that allows all of my various data to be consumed, sliced and diced through a variety of engines that help drive efficiency and safety.”
Data is the new oil, Gorovici says. “AI in my opinion will change our entire lives, not just in the security industry,” he says. “I personally think traditional video and access control will commoditize, and intrusion, too. AI and cloud and cyber are the three things that will dominate the industry … and bring new use cases and applications and reduction in cost of installation and many other things.”
What is sure is that in the next three to five years we will see more of all of these things entering the market, Moore says. “The only thing I am sure of is there will be more and more analytics and more and more sensors. We have all heard of IoT. We are gathering more and more data and that cannot be handled manually. That is fact.”
As the industry evolves, security integrators need to be prepared to change with it, which can be daunting. Rodriguez suggests starting out small. “Integrators should focus on one or two solutions that are really easy to understand and deploy and prove to themselves they can go from start to finish on selling it, deploying it and maintaining it … Second, they need to talk to enough folks to make sure this problem they are working on really is one that will be sticky with the customer. They might not even know they need this thing. Henry Ford asked people what they wanted and they said, ‘Give me a faster horse.’ Ford decided what they really needed was a car.”
Like Ford, Johnston advises integrators to dream as big as they can when it comes to business intelligence today and whatever comes next. “Think big. Don’t say no. Listen to what the customer is asking and keep digging. Keep asking, ‘And what else?’ Don’t close yourself off because it isn’t a traditional security application. Don’t assume it is someone else’s area of expertise. Instead ask yourself, ‘Is there a way for my product mix to be part of that solution? Can we look at the bigger picture?’ If that was our attitude with retail we wouldn’t have ever done what we are doing now with analytics.”