When you think about active location security, what comes to mind? You probably think that there must be security guards on duty 24/7/365 patrolling the location and watching live security camera feeds to detect intruders. Human-based systems work well enough when properly implemented and managed but not without significant drawbacks: Guards are expensive. They make mistakes. They can be tricked. They even call in sick. Rarely, they even steal or accept bribes to look the other way when theft occurs … allowing the very activity to occur that you were attempting to prevent in the first place. Well, they’re people, so we accept these shortcomings.
Automated security technology can greatly enhance or even eliminate traditional human-based security in most cases, result in better overall security for a location, and cost owners and operators a fraction of the expense of completely human-based guard systems. Many security industry professionals recommend organizations upgrade their security to take advantage of the new technology.
What are we talking about when it comes to replacing human security guards? Let’s review the functions of the traditional security guard so that we can determine what our automated system must replace. Human guards principally accomplish three tasks when it comes to preventing theft and vandalism: (1) detect intruders, (2) respond to intruders, and (3) deter intruders. An automated system designed to enhance or replace guards must perform these tasks and reduce the cost-benefit ratio in order to justify its adoption.
Our system must be able to “see” intruders. Actually, computers are quite capable of detecting people and objects when they are programmed to do so. Algorithms that perform this function have been around for over a decade, and improved software techniques for analyzing images for objects and people are constantly realized. In most security situations, what we need is to perceive people. We have a security image taken by a security camera to analyze. The image is usually covers some field of view at a location, like a hallway or doorway, a parking lot, or a field. We need the system to search our image for objects that look like people; actually, we’re looking for pedestrians. Fortunately, there are several good algorithms available for performing this task.
We need the system to respond when an intruder is detected. Some of the methods systems use to communicate with owners and operators are by live heads-up displays (i.e., computer screens with live feeds and alerts), E-mail messages, cell phone text messages, and even voice phone calls. Yes! The system can call you on the phone and tell you in a human voice that an intruder has been detected. Responses can also include a preemptive threat to the intruder: Sirens can be activated, lights can be turned on, loudspeakers can warn the intruder that “we see you and we’re on the way to get you,” and even dogs can be released from holding pens. Consult your attorney on that last one though!
Finally, a security system must be able to deter intruders in the first place, just as having security guards walking around at a location ensures. This is accomplished with the obvious presence of security cameras, siren bullhorns, and signage. When thieves know that a fully automated system is in place, they also know that the system won’t fall asleep, can’t be bribed, isn’t going to be fooled by “I was sent here by the company to do such-and-such,” and can probably see in the dark and detect their presence with a much finer resolution than Ted the security guard ever could.
In most cases, automated detection systems can enhance or even replace the human-based security system. Costs of such systems are falling rapidly, so there is no reason not to employ this great technology to mitigate security risk.