Sometimes it feels like robots, machines, and computers are taking over. I’ve seen I, Robot and the myriad of other Hollywood representations and they always portray it as 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 manual laborers are now done by computer and a team of software engineers. Computers have affected 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.
Security is not exempt from an increase of technology, computers, or even artificial intelligence. Systems no longer require VHS tapes, closed-circuit connections, or onsite video storage and viewing capabilities. The footage is digital and is much higher quality. Now security is even moving away from security guards watching monitors to computer run analytics and alerts. However, what are the advantages to 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 cameras and guards deliver value in different ways. The advantages and disadvantages of security cameras are different than the advantages and disadvantages of guards. In some ways they 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 some of the pluses and minuses of both to help you decide your security needs and if security cameras are worth it.
Perhaps the biggest fault of employing security guards is the high price tag associated with them. This is one area where cameras and computer-based systems have a clear advantage. Human employees always cost more because they require training, salaries and wages, benefits, equipment, uniforms, and more. Furthermore, you will have to multiply each cost by how many guards you employ, keeping in mind that your business may require multiple guards on duty at a time.
Cameras and other computer-based security systems typically have a one time install fee and a minimal monthly fee associated with software subscription and data storage if they are a cloud-based system. Further costs also include if you have live monitoring and updates to the hardware and software. Even with these costs, cameras are cheaper than guards. In fact, camera systems on average cost $100,000 less per year to maintain than unarmed guards.
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 human 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. Furthermore, guards have lives outside of work that will sometimes interfere with their shifts. Car accidents can delay them or prevent them from getting to work, their kid may get sick at school and require them to come pick them up, or they may even need to wait for the late appliance repairman before they can leave for work. Life happens and if you rely solely on guards, it may leave gaps in your security. Camera systems can be finicky, but they are always on your site and can experience less interruptions in their surveillance than guards.
This is an area where you can really see how cameras can augment guards’ abilities. Obviously, your guards on the ground will have different views than the ones watching monitors in the back room and cameras. Cameras mounted on the ceiling will also have a different vantage. They will see different things. Because of this difference, cameras can be used to help direct guards where they need to be.
Response time builds on the previous section. Cameras are inanimate objects that have zero response time. However, they can be vital in helping guards have a better response time. 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 guard’s 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 their parking lots during festivals, as well as patrolling for deer who want to chow down on their gardens.
Here is where guards really shine. Cameras do provide a level of deterrence; however, it is not the same as the amount of deterrence from a uniformed guard. Guards impress live and immediate intervention on potential wrong-doers. Cameras add another layer between their crime and being caught. Cameras can be perceived as weaker than actual live guards.
Cameras and access to their recordings are essential for evidence. This includes if a crime happens and you want to provide recordings of events to the police. Video evidence helps identify the perpetrator both inside and outside your business. One LVT client suffered return fraud inside their store but didn’t have visual evidence of the perpetrator inside the store. However, they were able to get high quality images of the woman as she left the store from our unit in the parking lot. These images were quickly turned over to the police. Guards would not have been able to accomplish this. They may have been able to identify the perpetrator in real-time, but cameras have the unique ability of providing 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.
Part of evidence is security guard safety. While most of the time the personal safety of the guards won’t be in extreme danger there is always the possibility that a thief or criminal will threaten them. Much more likely is a disagreement between the guard and a customer or coworker. Instead of playing a game of he said, she said, cameras can provide solid evidence of what happened to spark the disagreement and protect your employee, the customer, and your business.
Cameras also help protect employees during night shifts. For example, if you have a single guard or employee on the docks that makes rounds every ten minutes, new cameras and analytics can send alerts if they don’t see the employee after ten minutes. Because of the alert, another employee can be sent to check and make sure everything is alright.
Cameras can go anywhere and be there all of the time—guards cannot. This is especially useful for businesses with remote locations. Oil rigs, critical infrastructure, remote highways, construction sites, and more are often hard and time consuming to get to. Once installed, cameras are there. They make it easy to log in and check on your site even if you are hours away.
Just because you install cameras doesn’t necessarily mean you are switching away from human surveillance completely. However, cameras can help reduce the amount you pay for human surveillance while still augmenting their abilities. Some businesses can rely solely on camera surveillance while others may want or need real guards. It is a balancing act that you have to figure out.
However, we can confidently say that LVT cameras paired with the LVT Platform is a powerful tool. We put advanced analytics into your hands so you have actionable security data. Our D3 units are equipped with top-of-the-line hardware that can be configured for your property. Furthermore, they are quick to set up and do not rely on traditional hardwire or internet connections. The alerts can be set to your preferences. For example, D3 units will alert you when intruders enter their bounding box and you can then decide whether to play an audio warning through the two-way speaker or if you want to call law enforcement. LVT makes security accessible and user-friendly for you whether you want a tool to augment your security team’s current efforts, or if you are looking to transition to a fully automated system.