Joe Harris

Technical Manager, Abel Alarm Company Limited

Author Bio ▼

"Coming from a retail management background I have spent the last 10 years on the front line of operations with Abel Alarm Company Limited. I oversee all technical aspects of our alarm receiving centre, this involves a diverse set of skill requirements, from the implementation of virtualized servers and networks to the deployment of secure remote access tools whilst ensuring the constant availability of all networks, hardware and software and researching new, emerging technology solutions.
July 7, 2014

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Intelligent Systems Can Do Much More

Are we ready to evolve and move toward intelligent systems?

I often hear people in the industry say that there has been little in the way of technological advances for decades in the fire and security sector. It is said that we are doing pretty much the same thing we have been for years, and that innovation is coming only in small, incremental steps.

I would beg to differ. There is still much in the way of innovation, and though things may be slow to market, we have seen massive improvements in the equipment and methods available to us. In many cases, the one aspect that has slowed progress has been where innovative technologies have not been fully exploited for the possible benefits they can add.

We also seem to cling desperately to the way we have always done things. That way is portrayed not just as the right way, but often as the only way to do things. I would argue that we are rapidly approaching a point where we can look afresh at this approach and realise some truly innovative changes in system design and security systems.

Making better use of our technology

Video analytics has been steadily improving for many years and is reaching the point where facial recognition is becoming increasingly cost-effective and accurate.

As the analysis of camera footage of scenes continues to improve, I also note that motion sensors are continuing to improve their ability to detect human forms and give a reliable picture of a protected area. I see both of these technologies converging to reach essentially the same goal: an accurate understanding of who is where and when within the area being covered.

It is also unfortunate that we are frequently utilising the output of these devices only when the system is armed. This is despite the fact that we could use this data to allow an intelligent system to perform more much more effectively when the system is disarmed. This data could be used to improve marketing in commercial properties and ergonomics in residential environments, as well as to identify potential indicators of criminal behaviour.

Some examples of intelligent security systems

A massive increase in domiciliary care is not only expected but certain. By using motion sensor data intelligently, we are able to provide alerts when a lack of movement occurs or when someone has not gone to bed at an expected time.

By coupling two-way audio communication with CCTV cameras and access control systems to allow remote entry for caregivers or paramedics, we can support the elderly in a much more caring manner and more effectively. We would be using our current technologies in a better way to safeguard the elderly at all times, not just while the alarm system is armed. Gesture and voice controls could help vulnerable people get assistance without having to stand or reach for buttons.

We could also do away with the notion of arming and disarming systems with a code or key fob. Instead, we could use video/detector information to recognise when all the authorised persons have left a property and intelligently arm the system to secure the doors. Similarly, we could control lights and entertainment systems economically. For example, someone could watch footage of the football game while moving from room to room, with screens turning off and on as the person leaves one room and enters another. We can use the same principle to arm the lower floors of a building when all authorised users are upstairs. Importantly, this could be achieved without user interaction.

Regulations introduced in recent years have negated the ability of end users to interact with systems via keypads for much more than resetting or arming/disarming. Is there a real benefit to end users in having a keypad fitted in this case? Perhaps we could achieve the same with smartphone-based engineer applications and remote maintenance through dedicated applications used by installers or alarm receiving centres and notifications.

Let me know your thoughts below.

  • How would you use our technologies to deliver more effective solutions?
  • Could we add markets by allowing our equipment to interact seamlessly?
  • What is stopping the industry from moving forward with these systems?
  • If anything were possible, what security technology would you most like to see made available?

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21 Comments on "Intelligent Systems Can Do Much More"

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gbrown
Guest

There are some biometric access control systems that detect and allow access to authorised people and restricting access to authorised people however, this access control systems are uncommon in offices and homes due to pricing and its associate cost

holmesd
Guest

I think technology is moving towards more intelligent, integrated systems, something I think most security managers embrace. However, I’ve found that trying to integrate legacy kit proves to be very expensive (and obviously, replacing this kit isn’t going to be an option). The challenge for an in-house security manager is selling these additional benefits to the business to justify the additional expenditure. As an organisation won’t see the benefits (a slicker security response, increased functionality from the systems etc) as enough to warrant additional costs.   

gbrown
Guest

l agree and l think we all know the benefits of the intelligent systems but the case for cost benefits analysis is what most of these systems lack.

Joe Harris
Guest

@ gbrown
Are we really seeing all of the benefits of our systems though?  The cost benefits are difficult to balance when we are only taking advantage of 30% of the capabilities of our products.
We must find solutions so that we are more efficient.  Once we fully utilise the capabilities of our equipment the cost benefits become obvious and cannot be ignored.

gbrown
Guest

@Joe Harris
l agree and hopefully we will find a way of utilizing our system
capabilities in more effective and efficient manner

SunitaT
Guest

@ Joe Harris, that is the point actually which is constantly being overlooked. Why should we be talking about cost effectiveness when we don’t utilize more than 10 to 30 % of the capabilities of what we have paid for? It is the general disinterest in features not directly needed by us which keeps the system from being fully utilized.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

How can we reach a point where we’re begninning to tap into the unrealised capabilities of our systems, do you think?

Joe Harris
Guest
@ holmesd It would be easier to demonstrate the value of the products and services we supply if we took full advantage of their capabilities. This includes novel solutions for which we currently are not utilising this equipment but where value can be leveraged without substantial investment. We effectively need to add a back-end processing layer to existing systems or even in the cloud, so as to allow a more cost effective way of overcoming the cost you correctly highlight of integrating legacy systems on a one by one basis. Note that some automation platform developers are working on this… Read more »
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

I’d love to see an open source integration solution for the overall benefit of the industry. Is that likely though?

gbrown
Guest

I agree@RobI think we are not there yet to integrate all our systems but I am hopeful we will get there very soon. I think we are being careful due to the systems failures we have witnessed in the implementation of National Identity Card, NHS systems integration and currently the Universal Credit Scheme 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

But also I’m not sure the willingness  is there for a truly open source solution.

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

So what happens to that old kit? It sits there doing an OK (at best) job, not integrated into other systems at all? Sounds costly in and of itself, but as you say it’s not always easy to prove the benefits.

ITs_Hazel
Guest

Exactly, Rob. It would seem like a huge waste of resources, if you ask me. It’s bad all around, minus the effectivity and minus the productivity. 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Weed out the bad systems!

gbrown
Guest

Sure. Let kill all the inefficient systems

Rob Ratcliff
Guest
Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Yeah, we have some fingerprint scanners in my office but I still just use my pass for instance.

SunitaT
Guest

Intelligent systems are quite intelligent and still evolving so there is not much to be disappointed about. We have seen security technologies gone forward by leaps. However, we must bear one thing in mind that artificial intelligence which we are striving for has its limitations. The best we can do is to achieve a fully integrated system combining just about everything.

vedard_alarms
Guest

Technology for detectors is developed much. More precise sensors are available for severe environment. 
But integration is required to improve its utility. 
There are many different requirement for the systems from basic on-spot alarm to integrated industry security. And have to keep the basic ones with low cost for basic requirement applicaiton. 
 

Rob Ratcliff
Guest

Yes, there certianly needs to be a variety of different solutions available for different levels of security. This week I’ve been working on a website (for myself, just a little fun thing) but wanted to password protect it. There’s nothing sensitive in there, just needed it password protected to keep casual eyes away. I’ve used a really simple script to do it that anyone could crack in about 2 minutes, because it doesn’t need to be high-security. That’s no different with an alarm system, of course.

Tj Richards
Guest

The application of video analytics to the elderly care sector are interesting – and using good analytics to potentially replace key compenents of most current intruder alarm systems (such as keypads or motion detector sensors) is definitely exciting.

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