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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 31, 2022

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IFSEC Interviews

“We’re now seeing the wider industry committing to sustainability” – In conversation with QCIC’s Mark Rowan

Having celebrated 15 years in business in 2022, QCIC has built a reputation for supplying specialist security design and advisory services, with offices now in four continents. The company’s founder and Managing Director, Mark Rowan, recently sat down with IFSEC Global to discuss how he has seen the physical security industry evolve in that time, and why the organisation has focused efforts on embracing sustainable security solutions and business practices.

MarkRowan-QCIC-22

Mark Rowan, founder & Managing Director, QCIC

With a background in building engineering and security design consultancy in high-risk environments, Mark Rowan set up his own firm in 2007. Starting off life from his kitchen, QCIC has grown substantially in the 15 years that’s followed. The business, which specialises in not just system design consultancy, but also building and running security systems, has now completed more than 2000 projects in over 100 countries, with offices in London, Cape Town, Hong Kong and New York.

“The trick is never to become complacent”, stated Mark as QCIC celebrated 15 years in business.

No doubt this was key behind the company’s growth despite a global pandemic, alongside its end-to-end commitment to its customers. Mark explains: “We’ve always been more than just an engineering company, or a consultancy – we provide the full breadth of solution. We actually rebranded to ‘QCIC, Security Assured’ last year, as that’s what we do, and that’s what clients come to us for.”

The business now runs three primary work streams. Its Design team collaborates with architects to deliver security design solutions for organisations, covering everything from counter-terrorism measures to protective and electronic security solutions, as well as audits, reviews and cloud design. This filters into the Build team, where QCIC partners with installers to ensure physical installations are completed to the defined standard, while its Run team delivers remote and cloud-hosted support to facilitate the day-to-day running and management of the security operations.

Alongside this, QCIC’s Design Automator Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solution, which it brought in-house in 2021, enables the design and configuration of security system projects through smart designs, designed to “drive intelligence” into projects.

Fulfilling the technology knowledge gap

Part of the reason for Mark’s commitment to QCIC providing the ‘full package’ of services is the rapid pace of technology change in security. As the physical security environment continues to evolve, it can be a challenge for end-users and systems installers to keep abreast and confidently explain the latest technology stack available. This, Mark believes, is where QCIC’s expertise and global reach, can really help bridge the gap between system owners and installers.

Mark explains: “When COVID hit, we saw customers suddenly asking us for everything to be contactless – we had to be on top of the latest solutions. We manage global systems, and as soon as Asia started locking down we could see the impact this was going to have on customers with offices in the UK, Europe and the US, often before they did.

“We were looking at reports and getting feedback from clients in Asia wanting to explore contactless technology – particularly for access control – and we were then able to provide data to clients elsewhere so they could get a step ahead.”

Mark notes that he was asked on a daily basis by clients how they could reduce touchpoints in the security systems, doorways and building entrances, and providing an end-to-end solution enabled the team to provide advice based on real data.

100 Liverpool Street, a recent QCIC project which it won an award for RIBA client of the year on.

While contactless solutions were in high demand during the pandemic, the business also continues to witness differences in tech stacks on a geographical basis. For instance, Mark highlights that facial recognition solutions are scrutinised much more heavily by clients in Europe or the US where stricter privacy rules apply and there is less cultural tolerance to personal data capture, which can complicate the rollout of a global solution affecting tens of thousands of employees.

“There are clear benefits to tech like facial recognition, but as with all technology, it has to be used responsibly. On the other hand, we’ve seen that for specialised use-cases it can really speed up access control and convenience. Imagine walking into a private members bar where facial recognition has pinged the bar staff that you’ve arrived, and your favourite drink is waiting for you before you even get to the table?”

In the 15 years of QCIC’s existence though, what does Mark think has changed the most in the industry?

“While there are constantly new innovations, technology as a whole has completely altered the face of the industry. It’s disrupted the business model for so many installers and integrators, and cloud is really accelerating this change.

“There’s often no cables anymore – just a camera with edge processing that links directly to the cloud, so the revenue stream for systems installers has changed completely from big projects to recurring revenue models. And this has happened so quickly, so you’ve also got a knowledge gap with the step change of the technology stack. It’s where our expertise really helps as we can connect the gaps between our partner installers and the end-users.”

Sustainability at the forefront

What hasn’t changed over the 15 years of business is Mark and QCIC’s commitment to sustainability, though standards have certainly risen since 2007. In 2019 the company was Carbon Neutral and ISO 14001 certified and it’s evolved its commitment to becoming certified as Carbon Neutral Plus in 2021.

Mark identifies two key areas for delivering on the sustainability commitment. “From an organisational point of view, we’ve committed to Carbon Neutral Plus, and keeping our carbon emissions down on a day-to-day basis. We track every single flight or journey that employees take, we try and keep meetings online where face-to-face isn’t strictly necessary, and crucially, we scrutinise our supply chain to ensure the vendors we use are committed to sustainability in manufacturing or working processes in their own right.”

The supply chain management angle may be one that many companies don’t always think about, underlines Mark. Similar to schemes like Cyber Essentials, where organisations are asked to track their supplier’s cyber security credentials, questioning how the products being installed are manufactured, packaged and delivered may make the biggest difference to a project’s sustainability credentials.

QCIC has also recently implemented its ‘Design to Destination’ process. The approach, which is said to significantly cut down on engineering, programming, freight costs and on-site wastage, configures custom software and devices at source, then jointly re-packaged before being sent to site. The team has reported that the initiative means that up to 95% of all packaging is recycled at source, while also delivering efficiencies for ongoing projects.

Wood wharf, a 23-acre site in Canary Wharf, London - another recent project for QCIC

Wood wharf, a 23-acre site in Canary Wharf, London – another recent project for QCIC


The second area, Mark explains, is related to working more directly with clients, where the team provides a sustainable option for every project they deliver. Devices being specified, such as cameras, are given a ‘leaf rating’, to demonstrate the sustainability credentials of the vendor, covering the manufacturing process in particular.

While prices may increase for more sustainable options, it’s encouraging to hear that many companies are now happy to factor this into their projects, according to Mark.

“It’s not just us driving environmentally friendly values anymore, as clients themselves are wanting to drive their own sustainability credentials. It’s becoming much harder to ‘cut corners’ in specification, particularly on large projects, when end-users and building owners are committing to sustainable goals. It’s always been something QCIC has committed to, and we’re now seeing customers understand the value in such initiatives as well.”

While Mark concedes the sustainability over price approach is not something that every region is equally attuned to – budget is much more of a factor in smaller projects compared to high-end developments in London or New York, for instance – he argues that the industry must start somewhere. It’s a sentiment echoed by many we’ve spoken to in the industry.

For those unsure of how big a role the sector can play in the drive to net zero, it’s worth thinking about the approach from the former Director of British Cycling, Sir Dave Brailsford, and his ‘marginal gains rule. Make a 1% improvement in a host of small areas, and the cumulative benefits are vast. Alongside larger initiatives such as Design to Destination, Mark and his team appear to have identified several ways to continually work towards QCIC’s own sustainability goals, supporting its clients to do so along the way.

And, for those wondering (we were, at least), QCIC derives from the Latin: Quis custodiet Ipsos custodes. Literally translated to “Who will guard the guards?”

 

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