Brian McIlravey stepped back from the security industry in 2018 and returned just a few months ago.
He spent more than 10 years in policing and 16-plus years in leadership roles at incident management company PPM (which became Resolver via an acquisition in 2015) before joining Igloo Software, an intranet and digital workplace company, as vice-president of customer experience. McIlravey returned to security full-time last year as the chief operating officer of RightCrowd, a provider of security and compliance solutions including access control, visitor management and contact tracing.
How did the security industry change in the three years McIlravey was away? The obvious answer is the pandemic — the one, sweeping factor that has altered the way business is done across almost all industries.
But more than that, security is on an evolutionary path that has accelerated in recent times, notes McIlravey.
“I can’t believe the amount of technology that has changed in three years,” he says, citing the growing influence of the cloud on security products and services, as well as the technical sophistication of today’s security robots (McIlravey is also a member of Robotic Assistance Device’s advisory board).
“The old-school ways of security are just starting to disappear,” he says.
Confronting access chaos
Back in the saddle of the security business, McIlravey’s attention is now focused on workforce access management and battling perceptions of access as simply an all-or-nothing proposition. “I think the whole concept of access control has to change from the card either works or it doesn’t,” he says.
There are many layers of security beyond the access card, he explains, which can dictate when and where that card is able to grant access and what specific doors it will open. McIlravey’s company RightCrowd provides what he calls a workflow layer that can help an end user establish rules, such as which days an employee’s card will grant access and to which specific office location, based on an agreed upon schedule.
This type of technology has taken on a much greater level of importance during the pandemic, notes McIlravey, as employers are compelled to follow strict guidelines around capacity limits, social distancing and the potential for virus exposure.
RightCrowd offers a lanyard-based product that makes these distinctions even clearer — the wearable acts as a sort of holster for an access card, is colour-coded to indicate access permission, and will dynamically change colour based on circumstance.
A contact-tracing element is integrated into RightCrowd’s offering — the wearable will flash yellow if one employee gets too close to another, and will flash red if that distance is closer than three feet. A contact-tracing incident is also logged into a report if this occurs.
RightCrowd will also integrate with an attestation form, i.e. an employee’s acknowledgement of current health status, as well as the days or hours they plan to work in the office.
The pandemic may have accelerated this trend of more sophistication in access control, says McIlravey, but it was already well underway. For example, the onus is on an organization to cancel access rights for employees who have quit or been terminated.
“It’s way more common than we think,” says McIlravey. “Think of that risk: if one of those people comes back into the workplace and causes an event or an incident … could you have known or should you have known that person shouldn’t have access? Well, the answer is yes, and it’s a massive liability risk.”
It’s a matter of addressing what McIlravey calls “access chaos.”
“There’s so many people, so many cards, so many access rights, so many layers — people are going to have to start tackling it very, very soon.”
Next level analytics
Stephanie Weagle, chief marketing officer at BriefCam, joined the company four years ago, and in that time has seen a marked transition in how its products are used and by whom.
“When I joined BriefCam, more than 80 per cent of our business was done within law enforcement, within the safety and security use-cases,” says Weagle. Today, security is closer to 50 per cent of the overall business due to steep growth in video analytics for operational and marketing applications.
“It makes good business sense to understand how your visitors, your customers, your guests are navigating spaces, where the bottlenecks are, [and] some of their behaviours moving through spaces,” she says.
“From our perspective, the biggest shift that we’ve seen in the last year or two, and where we see the shift continuing to evolve over time, is really beyond safety and security.”
A decade ago, the video analytics industry might have been accused of over-promising and under-delivering, says Weagle, but those criticisms are “a distant memory today.”
Conversations with clients are also easier since many of the advantages of the technology are self-evident and typically well understood.
“Certainly the advances in deep learning research and certainly the overwhelming amount of cameras and devices that are out there collecting data at any given moment is really transforming the space,” she says.
Video analytics are also being used to drive business intelligence, which means the customer might be the marketing department rather than security.
“We’re seeing that once the operational folks are understanding what video analytics can do for them and their environment, they’re footing the bill,” says Weagle. “So the safety and security teams are getting the benefit of video analytics as they typically would, but other departments are paying for it. It’s a very interesting dynamic.”
Similar to access control, video analytics have also adapted to changing conditions created by the pandemic. The technology’s facility for detection has been useful in terms of mask mandates, social distancing and contact tracing, says Weagle, which ultimately helps retailers, transportation hubs and other industries get back to business.
Pandemic hanging on
While COVID has accelerated the development of some technologies (access control and video analytics to enable smoother transitions between working on- or off-site, or periods of lockdown), the security industry is still facing the same headwinds as many other businesses. The supply chain crunch, for example, may be taking a toll.
“The pressure on semiconductor production in particular is both unprecedented and pronounced and that has been much discussed, but costs are also up across the board, for everything from shipping to raw materials to components such as cases, cables, lenses, and packing materials, so it’s a real issue,” states Owen Kell, senior IoT research associate at Memoori, in a recent market report. “These costs will eventually get passed onto customers if they aren’t starting to be already.”
“The challenges we face in this industry are not all that different than other companies are experiencing,” adds Tim Grose, remarking that equipment with computer chips is subject to shortages. (Grose, who recently joined Kandor Management Corp. as chief revenue officer and was previously vice-president of sales at Allied Universal Technology Services, responded to questions via email.)
On the upside, however, clients are also aware of these supply chain challenges, which may in some cases lead them to reach decisions more quickly when it comes to security installs.
“Integrators and media are notifying the customers of these issues and forcing them to be more proactive with the procurement of these parts,” says Grose, “…so what might seem like a problem could actually be a nice uplift in sales.”
According to Kell, the prevailing wisdom from supply chain pundits on when these shortages might end is anywhere from six months to the remainder of 2022.
He notes, however, that there is talk of the potential for long-term supply chain resilience due to increased “‘re-shoring’ or increased regionalisation of production capacity,” but there is little evidence at the moment of that change occurring within the security industry.
“Making profound changes to the supply chain of any industry is not an easy process,” says Kell, adding that companies can spend decades cultivating partner and supplier relationships. “So if change does come, we expect it to be more noticeable over a five to 10 year period, rather than in the next 12 months.”
A more immediate concern, says Grose, is the availability of workforce to go on site for security installs.
Installers have generally been able to gain site access throughout the pandemic by working during off-peak hours, but vaccination requirements have complicated the process. “This has caused some issues and shortages of labour when workers refuse to be vaccinated,” says Grose. “This starts a downward spiral that leads to delays for completion, less availability of qualified workers and overall anxiety to realize revenue on projects.”
Pace of change
There are so many factors to consider today that making predictions about the security industry is perhaps a more onerous task than it might have been only a few years ago. But it’s also reasonable to say that the health crisis has amplified and accelerated some trends that were already in motion, whether that’s cloud adoption, smart access control, or video surveillance as a business intelligence tool.
Kell’s report notes that the physical security market is predicted to grow almost 12 per cent year-on-year in 2021 — about twice the rate of the global economy.
“The upgrading to newer IP technology has opened new avenues [for end users] to gain insights into parts of their business that were only available by way of third-party reports,” notes Grose. “This is giving them real-time assessments to make decisions.”
As the value proposition changes, so does the expertise required today to successfully sell security solutions. Grose adds that effective integrators may need insight into all aspects of a customer’s business in order to capitalize on this transition. “The team that brings the best knowledge base to the table stands the best chance to win the deal,” he says.
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