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December 16, 2021

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Opinion

The role of automation in future-proofing security processes and programmes

When it comes to security, the number one building block for success is consistency. Whether in the design or implementation of a system, it is a critical requirement which ultimately leads to a greater level of security. 

So, what role does automation play in driving consistency and standardising business-wide systems and processes to future-proof an organisation? Is there a mindset shift or educational piece needed for decision makers to fully embrace the benefits of automation and leave the outdated manual processes behind? Patrick Biggin, Head of Research and Innovation at global security engineering company, QCIC, explains…

Let’s begin by looking at what security is. In the most basic terms, security is the protection against threats. When we discuss threats within physical security, we are often analysing the threat or risk profile of a given environment, and how it might be secured against threats by implementing physical devices or systems. But what about the threat of inconsistency in the design and delivery of these mitigations? 

The challenge of consistency is not a new one, and not limited to just security. Production lines the world over have strived to provide consistency in manufacturing of whatever their commodity may be. Issues of returns are felt by everyone producing products at scale and lack of consistency in processing can end even the most promising of businesses. 

The key to growth and advancement has undoubtedly been driven by incorporating automation into the mix. It enables scalability, provides higher levels of consistency, and improves accuracy and efficiency, often replacing partially or entirely manual processes where human interaction – in most cases – is the weakest link and where bottlenecks appear, or mistakes are made.

Technological innovation and process automation has provided small businesses the world over, an opportunity to operate with the level of quality expected from much larger corporations. 

So how is the security industry utilising automation to deliver the consistency and accuracy critical to its very function? Every year we are offered a slew of new “tech” and “trends” set to “revolutionise” the security industry. However, I’ve found the security industry to be incredibly slow to adopt and take advantage of new technologies, with many never making it past a “cutting-edge idea”, a proof of concept or simply articles in trade publications – trying to communicate that the industry has its finger on the pulse. 

“With technological advancements not about to stand still, the security industry needs to recognise the skills shortage and businesses need to invest in technology to empower their current workforce by introducing more efficient ways of working.” 

What is the reason behind this lack of forward movement in security?

In a world where technology has propelled companies from basements and garages to the top of the stock market, and shifted the industrial hubs from the manufacturing of physical objects to the software development enclaves dotted around the globe, why are these very technologies that are delivering innovation and progress being adopted so slowly by the security industry? 

The answer is a resistance to change. It’s the change, not just in the technology and systems that are available but it’s also the changing skillset required to fully utilise these new systems. The industry finds itself in an age of flux where training is needed to empower the traditional teams to excel in new, more relevant domains. 

This is true of all areas of a security project, from design consultants needing to understand network topologies, to manufacturers needing to spot how the newest technologies can be best applied within the industry. It’s installers and integrators who need the engineering teams to be familiar with server and database setup and the end users who need to embrace these new technologies, even if their existing system [installed over a decade ago] “still works fine”.

So, what is the solution?

The first step is surely education, with technological advancements not about to stand still, the security industry needs to recognise the skills shortage and businesses need to invest in technology to empower their current workforce by introducing more efficient ways of working. 

These leaps in technology need understanding and tracking, and those that have a commercial application should be identified and celebrated, rather than viewed with scepticism and suspicion as is currently the case where some who, instead of seeing the value in automation and standardisation, view it as a threat to their bottom line. 

More and more, there is a pressing need for collaboration between the analogue and digital minds in the security world, with both benefiting from the technology available. 

Automation is the key to providing this consistency and accuracy, focussing the right people on the right job while eradicating outdated manual processes. Anyone who has had to price a job or put together a proposal will have had the pain of printing out drawings to A0, grabbing a set of highlighter pens and taking the rest of the day to get the devices counted – a laborious process fraught with risk. 

Reviewing the latest trends in tech within the industry, there are definitely some elements of this automated approach creeping in, but there is still work to be done. There are lots of great products, with several championing automation in some small part, but in all this there seem to be few products offering to solve the bottleneck of human interaction. Naturally the systems on show are the “end game”, what you want to see once the project is complete and all cameras are recording, all doors are locked. Getting to that point requires the expertise and effort to ensure that consistency is applied to each configuration, otherwise you can be left with lots of expensive equipment that isn’t delivering what was expected. This is often what holds some of the newer technologies back and where automated solutions and processes must be applied to provide the confidence and quality that is expected with any new implementation. 

Automating manual processes is something we have seen completely revolutionise other industries where consistency and accuracy are demanded, whether that be on the production line in a factory or boring holes for a new tunnel. The human mind does not perform well when carrying out repetitive tasks as the attention naturally wanes and mistakes undoubtedly occur. 

It becomes evident that there is the need for a mindset shift within the security industry to acknowledge that we have developed beyond the old manual processes and that businesses and decision makers should be open to embracing the role that automation will play in pushing progress to the forefront. 

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