Posted on Tuesday 26 February 2019 by John Mulgrew
Ulster Business examines an ever-changing approach to business security and what companies are turning to in an increasingly digital age
Is Big Brother watching you? For many, the idea of a society peppered with cameras and other forms of security harks back to the view of a dystopian Orwellian society.
But with the UK having some of the highest levels of CCTV cameras in the world, businesses in particular are ensuring that both their physical security, along with digital and paper footprints, are protected.
Angela Bennett, joint managing director of Belfast-based Diamond Systems says the role of the security system has evolved hugely in the last few years to become something of a capital investment.
Offering more than surveillance, the new security systems we are using provide everything from analysis of the way a firm works to conventional protection.
And she says an “ever-increasing” demand around health and safety in the workplace is encouraging more investment in reliable security that is as integral to a firm’s operations as its IT network.
“Businesses now treat security systems as a capital investment in technology designed to ensure business continuity, monitor workflow processes, and help manage the ever-increasing demands around health and safety in the workplace,” Angela says.
“We are seeing more reliance being placed on security systems, particularly CCTV, as an integral part of site safety management systems. Intelligent system design is essential at the outset of any CCTV project, to ensure adequate coverage and image usability, even in low light conditions.”
There have been sophisticated advances in video camera technology in the last few years which have offered businesses new capabilities including motion detection that records only the things that matter, ‘heatmapping’ to determine where the most traffic flows in an area to people counting and unusual motion detection.
These new abilities shift the former role of the CCTV camera to a new level, allowing it to file more information about the operations and trends in your business, and Angela agrees.
“CCTV is also being used as a value-added tool, where analytics are incorporated into the video management system platform,” she says. “Software analytics are currently benefiting the retail sector for example, helping to plan store layouts, the locations for promotion points, and the forecasting of required staffing levels.”
Increasingly sophisticated security also demands its own security, Angela says. “Businesses do however need to be aware of the emerging cyber risks associated with CCTV systems, and how to proactively address them. Choosing a specialist such as Diamond, will ensure that cyber risks are addressed at system design stage, and that systems installed are both future-proof and intelligent,” she says.
Beyond CCTV other trends prevalent in business security include compliance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), cloud security, and artificial intelligence and among the top trends for 2019 will be a boost in heightened cloud security. Wikibon, the open source technology knowledge sharing community, projects that the cloud’s share of enterprise computing will grow from 10% currently to 45% by 2026.
“In terms of future trends, artificial intelligence, sensor integration and environmental smart tech are all future demands that will shape the security industry’s offering,” Angela says.
“Through partnerships with the leading global innovators, Diamond are at the forefront of this new technology and we will see change coming at a rapid pace over the next few years.”
Headquartered in Lisburn with locations in Dublin, Limerick and London, Mercury Security & Facilities Management is a security firm and facilities management business. And according to boss Frank Cullen, the service it provides has transformed considerably since the company was formed back in 2001.
“In order for security companies to truly provide fit-for-purpose security solutions to clients, it is crucial that they move with the times – embracing advances in technology, adapting to changing legislation and understanding the changing nature of crime itself.
“Cyber-security, in particular, has become a massive issue so the importance of a high degree of IT competence within your security company cannot be overstated. By their very nature, most security systems require external connections to the public internet and are therefore potentially vulnerable. So very good firewall protection must be employed and the support of a dedicated and knowledgeable IT department is essential.”
Some of the firms specialising in cyber-security here include Sophos – a UK-based business which develops products for communication endpoint, encryption, network security and email security.
And for the digital and hard copy, Belfast-based Morgan Document Security works with both the private and public sector around storing, archiving, retrieving documentation, records, legal papers and files.
As with others, Mercury’s Frank Cullen says that the introduction of GDPR in May last year has had a “massive impact on security with significantly increased financial penalties for companies that do not carefully protect the rights of individuals – and this includes how CCTV images are handled and controlled”.
While it is now very easy to provide managers with access to images on their mobile phones and portable devices, doing so could well mean that you would be breaking the law if very carefully controlled procedures are not in place to protect the image data, how it is to be observed and by whom.
“From a hardware point of view, it is important for security providers to have the competence and capability to assess potential manufacturers and their equipment at the most detailed of levels and to have awareness of the regulatory requirements in which they must work.”
Elsewhere, there’s been some movement in other elements of the security business in Northern Ireland.
Newtownabbey firm Environmental Street Furniture (ESF) has announced the acquisition of Co Down based specialist perimeter security company, Sentry Posts.
Sentry Posts is a supplier of bollard systems, perimeter security and traffic products in Ireland. Since establishing in 1998, the company has partnered with ATG Access, supplying prestigious projects including Arsenal Football Club’s Emirates Stadium, Wellington Arch in London, as well as the Europa Hotel and Charles Hurst and Trust Ford dealerships in Northern Ireland.