SP&T News

Security Summit Canada recap: cloud and AI as business enablers

February 20, 2024  By  Neil Sutton

Image: Peach_iStock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Finding a comfort level with new technology was one of the major themes at this year’s Security Summit Canada, whether that means integrating AI or cloud into your business at your own pace, or raising your level of awareness so you can at least figure out a starting point.

The annual Security Summit Canada virtual conference, held on Feb. 15, was sponsored by Alarm.com, System Surveyor, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions and SecurTek Monitoring Solutions.

More than a dozen speakers offered their perspectives on hot technologies like AI, cloud and video monitoring, as well as how to successfully manage the relationships between end user, integrator and vendor so each party is contributing positively to the security industry.

Why cloud matters

Tim Palmquist, Milestone Systems

The event kicked off with a keynote address, “Why Cloud Matters: Big Features, Big Future,” from Tim Palmquist, vice-president, Americas, Milestone Systems. In his session, Palmquist spoke about how the cloud is changing security systems, from the initial sale through to implementation and management.


Palmquist noted that there are “catalysts of innovation that unlock opportunity” within the security industry and the cloud is definitely a recent example of that. The pandemic helped to bring that into focus since it forced the industry to quickly adapt to new service delivery models.

“We can see that the pivot to VSaaS away from on-premise VMS is real and it has a big impact on where we’re going in the future,” he said. “[Cloud] is a tool that can help address those dynamic, evolving and changing needs of our end customers.”

However, the move from on-prem to cloud isn’t a given, nor is it a smooth ride for everyone. There have been some concerns along the way, including cost and bandwidth.

“We recognize we have confusion in the conversation,” said Palmquist. “It’s difficult to land on what we agree on, but what we know is change afoot.”

A common approach, noted Palmquist is a hybrid model where systems and data storage are managed through a combination of on-prem and in the cloud.

“This is a natural transition, and I think this will unfold for many years,” he said, adding, “I think it’s the best time in the world to be an end user right now for physical security and for video management. The flexibility of options that exist are absolutely amazing. There’s elasticity for compute and for storage.”

Ubiquitous AI

Sue Abu-Hakima, Alstari

Palmquist’s session on cloud was followed by a look at artificial intelligence from a practitioner who has spent more than 40 years working in the field.

Sue Abu-Hakima holds an M.A. and Phd. in AI studies and is the founder of several companies including her latest, Alstari.

AI is as old as computing itself, which began in the 1930s, said Abu-Hakima, yet recent advances have catapulted it into the public consciousness as it dominates conversations around business, science and culture.

“AI is pervasive in everything that we do — in our house, in our office, in our car, in our workplace, and all the communication networks that we use,” she said. “Everything that you touch today will have some form of AI attached to it.”

AI can be used as a tool to attack cyber networks, she said, but it can also be used to fortify them.

“It’s already impacting cybersecurity,” she said. “We’re seeing breaches that we haven’t seen the likes of [before]. But it can also be used to strengthen your enterprise networks, to defend against new cyber-attacks.”

Abu-Hakima advised Summit attendees to investigate AI if they have not already. There are resources available to help decision-makers better understand the role of AI in the enterprise, including consultants, conferences and other education opportunities. “My best advice to you is embrace it, don’t fear it,” she said.

What clients want from their integrators

As technology evolves, so must the integrators who install and maintain it for their clients. In a panel discussion, a trio of end users provided their take on this process, as well as the changing nature of relationship between customers and service providers.

The panelists included David Sulston, a security professional with more than 30 years of industry experience and Canadian Security’s 2022 Security Director of the Year; Helen Perry-Raycraft, corporate security specialist with the City of Saskatoon; and Luciano Cedrone, director of security and fire/life safety, at Toronto-based property management firm Triovest.

The relationship used to be quite one-sided, said Sulston, with the integrator as the undisputed source of information for all things security. But in more recent times, end users have increased their own understanding of systems and they have a deeper pool of knowledge to draw from.

“From the integrator perspective, you have to be aware that your client is getting smarter,” added Perry-Raycraft, who was also an integrator before joining the City of Saskatoon. “They can find resources. They can ask all the questions. You have to approach your client at that intelligence level.”

But while end users may have a better understanding today, they also must rely on the experts. As technology gets more complex and the feature-sets grow richer, they are looking to their integrators not only for their technical knowledge but for a broader understanding of how security technology will impact other key systems in the enterprise, said Cedrone.

The relationship between clients and integrators, as well as experts and other specialists in the field, has changed over time due to the general level of conversation that takes place between all security professionals, noted Sulston.

End users will also consult with each other and lean on their network of contacts for ideas and recommendations. “You’re effectively crowd-sourcing excellence,” he said.

Trends in video monitoring

The afternoon closed with a panel discussion on current (and future) trends in video monitoring, moderated by Victor Harding, principal of Harding Security Services and author of the Lessons Learned column in SP&T News.

The panel comprised monitoring experts and practitioners Colin Bodbyl, vice-president and general manager, Stealth Monitoring; Daniel Cyr, CEO and general manager, Sirix Monitoring; and Bill Dietterle, president, BIL Security Services Canada.

The panelists agreed that video monitoring, both as a technology and as a service, has made tremendous advances in recent years, but is still in its infancy, with plenty of potential growth ahead.

“We’re seeing new technologies come to market on the monitoring side, especially around the AI and analytics. But I think there’s still an enormous amount of opportunity there, and there’s still an enormous amount of changes we’re going to see in the near future as those technologies mature,” said Bodbyl.

“The technology has evolved so much that it allows us to have tools that [make us] a lot more efficient,” agreed Cyr.

Among the clientele for video monitoring today are car dealerships and construction sites, who utilize the service to monitor for potential criminal behaviour on the premises after hours.

Video monitoring has also been utilized for life safety purposes. For example, Bodbyl described a scenario in which a child was prevented from leaving his apartment building alone in the middle of winter. A monitoring centre operator noticed the child trying to exit by himself and alerted building staff. They were able to intervene and safely return the child to his family.

The panel also discussed the degree to which AI or advanced analytics can be relied upon to make judgement calls on whether a situation viewed on screen is an innocuous event or a potential crime in progress. The technology may be improving every day, but a skilled operator is still required to make those calls in most situations.

Dietterle said video monitoring is most effective when the technology and the operator are working together in harmony. “It’s like an orchestra,” he said. “It all has to be fine-tuned.”

All of the Summit sessions, including an Integrator of the Year 2024 preview and technology briefs from sponsors Alarm.com and System Surveyor, are available on the Security Summit Canada event page.

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