Sometimes it feels like robots, machines, and computers are taking over. I’ve seen I, Robot, Ex Machina, and M3GAN, and Hollywood filmmakers want us to know it will be a hostile takeover.
In reality, computers are not really taking over nor do I believe that the computers will enslave the human race. But computers are developing at an unprecedented and astounding rate. Jobs that used to be done by hundreds of people are now completed by coders and computers. Computers affect almost every aspect of our lives. Our cars, fridges, vacuums, and even our door locks and thermometers are controlled with computers. Some of them are even “smart” enough to control themselves with minimal or no input from humans. Furthermore, all of these computers and devices connect wirelessly.
There’s a technological renaissance of reconnaissance as well, thanks to artificial intelligence and advanced computing. Systems no longer require VHS tapes, closed-circuit connections, or onsite video storage and viewing capabilities. High-quality, high-resolution digital video footage means a change in job responsibilities for security guards—moving away from watching multiple screens to assessing computer-run analytics and alerts. However, what are the advantages of more technology-based and less human-based security? Should you change your security to all camera-based, keep your guards, or do a mix of both?
The main thing to keep in mind is that security camera monitoring systems for businesses and security guards deliver different value, each with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. In some ways, both approaches to security balance each other out by filling in inherent gaps, which is why a blend of the two might be the best option for your business. In this article, I will describe eight factors to consider when assessing security camera monitoring systems for businesses versus security guards, and if security cameras are worth the investment.
1. ASSESSING THE COST OF SECURITY GUARDS
Perhaps the biggest concern about employing security guards is the high price tag. This is one area where cameras and computer-based camera monitoring systems for businesses have a clear advantage. Employing people to provide human intelligence always costs more because they require training, salaries and wages, benefits, equipment, uniforms, and more. Furthermore, the costs multiply for each person you hire, as a business may need to schedule more than one person at all times to keep your business secure.
Camera monitoring systems for businesses and other computer-based security systems typically have a one-time installation fee, as well as monthly software subscription and cloud-based data storage fees. Additional costs can include fees for live monitoring and hardware and software updates. Even with these costs, cameras are cheaper than security guards. In fact, camera systems on average cost $100,000 less per year to maintain than unarmed guards.
2. UNDERSTANDING RELIABILITY
In general, technology is more reliable than humans. However, this has to be taken with a grain of salt. Camera systems will go down. It’s just a fact that electronics wear out, the network connection will sometimes fail, and batteries will die. But remember that security guards are not infallible either. They can be distracted by their phones or other people, they can fall asleep, look away from the screens for a split second, or a thousand other things may interfere with their concentration. Furthermore, security guards have lives outside of work that will sometimes interfere with their shifts. Traffic or car accidents can delay them or prevent them from getting to work, their kid may get sick at school and require immediate care, or they may need to schedule an appliance service call before their shift. Life happens and if you rely solely on security guards, it may leave gaps in your security. Camera monitoring systems for businesses can be finicky, but they are always on-site, experience fewer interruptions in their surveillance, and never call in sick.
3. EXPLORING THE VIEW
This is an area where you can really see how camera monitoring systems for businesses can augment security guards’ abilities. Obviously, security guards on the ground will have different views than those who are responsible for monitoring cameras in the back room. Cameras mounted on the ceiling will also have a different vantage point and see different angles. These multi-scene views can help direct guards where they need to be—and fast.
4. EXACTING A QUICK RESPONSE
While camera monitoring systems for businesses are inanimate objects with zero response time, they can be vital in helping security guards respond quicker and provide important context of the issue. By alerting and directing guards, security systems can stop crimes in progress, help customers, and increase safety. However, this is only possible through advanced analytics and a video management system (VMS).
Some VMS systems can even be accessed through mobile devices. That way your security guards can see what is going on the other side of the business and adjust accordingly. Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah uses this exact feature to patrol its parking lots during festivals, as well as to keep an eye out for deer that have a taste for their lush gardens.
5. DETERRING BAD ACTORS
Here is where security guards really shine. Cameras do provide a level of deterrence; however, uniformed guards provide live and immediate intervention on potential wrong-doers. Camera monitoring systems for businesses do add another layer between their crime and being caught. Cameras can be perceived as weaker than actual live guards.
6. GATHERING EVIDENCE
Access to video surveillance camera footage is solid evidence to help build a case. This includes if a crime happens and you want to provide surveillance video to the police. Video evidence helps identify the perpetrator both inside and outside your business. When an LVT client experienced return fraud inside their store but didn’t have visual evidence, they were able to get high-quality images of the woman as she left the store from the unit mounted in the parking lot. These images were quickly turned over to the police. Security guards may have been able to identify the perpetrator in real time, but cameras have the ability to provide incriminating evidence after the fact.
Cameras and their accompanying VMS can also help with prosecutions and provide a clear chain of evidence. It is much easier to send evidentiary video to prosecutors now that everything is digital and wireless.
7. HEIGHTENING SAFETY PLANS
A robust safety plan must consider security guards and employees. Assaults at retail establishments are fast increasing, quicker than the national average, according to a New York Times analysis of FBI assault and active shooter data. Security guards are trained how to handle difficult customer interactions, spot potential conflicts, de-escalate the situation, and help employees react safely and quickly. Their specialized human intelligence also helps diffuse disagreements between employees and customers, and with security camera video footage as backup, businesses can further protect their employees, the customer, and their business.
Cameras also help protect employees during night shifts. For example, if you have a single guard or employee on the docks who make rounds every 10 minutes, new cameras and analytics can send alerts if the person isn’t seen according to schedule. The alert notifies another person to check and make sure everything is all right.
8. WIDENING THE PERIMETER AND LOCATION
Cameras are always on and can go where security guards cannot. This is especially useful for businesses with remote locations that are hard and time-consuming to visit in person, like oil rigs, critical infrastructure projects, remote highways, and distant construction sites. Once installed, cameras are easy to log in to so you can check your site even if you are hours away.
Installing security cameras doesn’t necessarily mean you are completely switching away from the essential human intelligence security guards provide. However, cameras can help reduce human surveillance while still augmenting their abilities. Some businesses can rely solely on camera surveillance while others may want or need security guards. It is a balancing act that a comprehensive security assessment will help determine the best approach for your business.