Plenty has been written over the past several decades about whether technology makes our lives easier. Technologists, psychologists, professors, philosophers, writers and others have ruminated on the advantages and disadvantages of technological devices, systems and platforms that purportedly improve our ability to communicate, to perform daily tasks, and to improve the outcomes of everything from medical treatments to corporate profits.

Some say technology in general introduces more stress into people’s lives, as technology advancements accelerate at a greater and greater rate of speed and users attempt to keep up with learning about them. SDM’s Contributing Writer Helen Heneveld recently wrote, “The speed of acceptance of technology has escalated at a staggering rate. Just think about it: electricity adoption took more than 150 years; audio reproduction took 76 years from development to everyday use; working with computers by the masses took 33 years; embracing digital audio took 19 years; remote access to data over the internet became widespread in just 11 years; and pervasive social media happened in only five years.” How quickly might technology be both developed and accepted in the future?

Despite all that technology is capable of doing — its usefulness is actually useless if the everyday user cannot figure it out.

I often listen to a police scanner so I can be aware of potential problem areas and types of crimes happening in my urban neighborhood. Earlier this year there was an armed robbery of a T-Mobile store, and an ensuing police chase. The robbers got away, unfortunately; but as I listened to the follow-up actions that the police took — such as running license plate numbers and checking surveillance video — one thing that stood out is that as the police went from place to place to ask to review the video (a restaurant, a 7-Eleven store, a homeowner, and the T-Mobile store where the robbery occurred), the end users in each of those locations didn’t know how to do simple things with their surveillance system, like identify the timeline in order to play back the video, pull up thumbnail images, or download the pertinent video clip to a flash drive. This is a pervasive problem.

It is ironic that law enforcement has a fantastic tool to potentially solve crimes, yet they can’t use it because of poor understanding of video surveillance technology, which admittedly gets more powerful with every version. We could debate whether this problem is caused by technology becoming overly complicated or whether it is caused by poor training to start with — or some combination of factors. But the problem doesn’t go away, regardless of the cause. You must do something about it. 

As a security integrator whose reputation is on the line for top performance of the security products you install, you should demand better ease of use of the products you resell. Better ease of use does not need to come at the expense of powerful features. They should go hand-in-hand. Does your vendor offer intuitive apps and menus, simple user guides, video tutorials, and more? Next, work with your own team to determine which features give products ease of use, and which of your vendors then meet those set requirements. To spur some ideas, a blog titled, “11 Examples of Ease of Use” describes some thought-provoking factors such as accessibility, productivity, and even “undo” (the ability to undo unintended actions) that comprise a definition of ease of use. Google “ease of use technology” and you will find much more to stimulate your plan.

If security systems are not easy to use, they will make your life difficult. Not only will poor ease of use oppose the mission of protecting life, property and assets, but it won’t be an easy road if you have to needlessly assist your customers with service calls.