Physical security in South Africa is not a luxury, but a necessity. However, it is expensive. LAURENCE SMITH believes the best answer for most security companies is to rely more on technology, as among other things, it allows them to use their labour force more effectively.
In South Africa security has become a necessity and is no longer a luxury. While an indispensable commodity, the security industry is still subject to the same challenges that every other industry is facing: growing economic pressures, rising costs, increased crime levels and shrinking margins. In the face of these challenges, the biggest difficulty of managing a massive workforce that is tasked with providing protection for people, assets, homes and offices is the complexity that comes with it. As if these factors aren’t challenging enough, the issue of price cutting between security firms has created an industry that is difficult to sustain on price alone. Security companies must look for ways to do more with less. Technology is the key that will let security companies move beyond survival mode and allow them to thrive, while improving guarding services, cutting costs, improving efficiencies and boosting profitability.
Technology is the answer
The biggest challenge most security companies are grappling with is the question of how to effectively manage their labour force, which largely makes up the guarding element of their service. How can security companies manage these people better, more efficiently and cut costs while still using the same labour force? It’s important to bear in mind that we don’t want to reduce the labour force, just improve on its efficiency. By improving on workforce efficiency, security companies can take on more sites with fewer staff ‘manning’ these sites; with technology, efficiency is increased.
Technology is able to assist staff to work far more efficiently and importantly, effectively. Guarding is manpower-intensive and if guards are not adequately protected or executing their duties in an efficient and effective manner, this can prove to be a huge headache and a potential danger to clients. To make security guards more efficient, it’s worthwhile considering wearable technology, like tactical CCTV jackets. These jackets, which can be worn over the bulletproof vest, provides control rooms with low bitrate live video streaming and GPS information, so that control room operator has access to live footage as it happens. This enables the operator to dispatch back up when it’s needed. Such a wearable CCTV jacket also serves to ensure that ensures guards carry out their duties according to set procedures or policies with the ability to monitor their performance from a central station.
See more, do more with technology
It is also worthwhile upgrading technology used for CCTV surveillance purposes. Remote CCTV can stream footage at ultra-low bandwidth capabilities whilst military-grade thermal cameras can detect people and movement at any time of day or night, with or without light in almost any kind of weather condition. In addition the use of Ultra High Definition (UHD or 4K) cameras deliver detailed images for enhanced viewing and detail. By increasing the functionality and power of these CCTV solutions, security companies can see more and thus take more action and further reduce crime.
Making surveillance even more efficient is the critical video analytics component. It is now possible to use a computer or analytics engine to do a lot of the work that a human would have had to do in the past – monitoring live feeds from CCTV cameras just became a whole lot more efficient with the addition of an analytics engine, which provides real-time incident alerts and fewer false alarms. Video analytics also simplify control room processes, ensuring personnel can quickly identify potential threats and incidents and execute on these, without delay.
Video analytics enables what is essentially “blank screen monitoring”, in that the system will give notifications of risks according to specific rules set up, and guards are not required to constantly have their eyes on the camera feeds. We’ve all read the statistic that reveals that, within 20 minutes of watching a bank of video screens, a guard is likely to miss 80% of what is happening. Video analytics allows the operator to minimise the labour that goes into 24/7 surveillance, because through the use of sophisticated algorithms and pixel-by-pixel analysis, video analytics can pick up on the smallest of details. Video analytics removes the scope for human error and drastically improves monitoring efficiency.
By automating many of the functions previously performed by humans, technology makes the guarding element of security far more reliable. The right combination of modern UHD cameras and video analytics software in the CCTV setup, as well as the addition of wearable CCTV cameras can enable tech-savvy security companies to provide their service at a lower cost, and at a higher efficiency level.
- Laurence Smith, Executive at Graphic Image Technologies
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.
The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.
The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.
The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.
The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.
My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.
Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.
Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?
These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.
Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.
Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.