Beyond Surveillance Cameras: How AI is Setting New Standards in Physical Security

Physical security has had a consistent drumbeat of innovation in the past couple of decades.  Yet, the rate of technological change, one could say is now “on steroids”. The last few years have seen dramatic developments. And now as the world watches the rapid progression of AI and AI-powered tools, physical security and surveillance are beginning to undergo an even more significant transformation.

While the role of AI in physical security is still in the early stages, developments are coming on fast and furiously — just like we’re seeing in other domains like generative AI and next-gen machine learning. 

AI Is Everywhere

For more than a decade, AI tools have been powering a wide range of capabilities, but these were largely limited to the enterprise and big data analytics: while important, everyday businesses and organizations didn’t directly see the value or have the resources to interact with these systems.

That’s not the case anymore: now AI is coming up everywhere. This is largely due to the development of generative and conversational AI tools that are available to the general public and that don’t require deep technical skills to use.

Additionally, more and more off-the-shelf software products have AI features built into them in similar user-friendly ways. 

Here’s a personal example on the individual or consumer level: it doesn’t require an understanding of AI to benefit from Google’s advanced autocorrect and autocomplete, which analyzes this text as I type it and offers corrective suggestions before I can even get the cursor to the right place.

Business products are benefitting in similar ways, with fairly advanced analytics capabilities built in. It used to be that a business would need access to data scientists, analytics professionals, and technical developers to interact with these systems. In some cases, a generalist can now glean similar insights from a prepackaged solution.

Ways AI is Coming to Physical Security

In similar ways, AI is starting to show up in physical security tools and hardware. And when this technology matures or hits the mainstream, it’s going to transform — maybe even disrupt — the physical security market. Of course, with disruption comes the need for proper risk management and ethical considerations that committees like that of the SIA Artificial Intelligence Board are actively working on.

AI has a role to play in security solutions such as video surveillance, access control, intrusion detection, alarm systems and smart building management. Any point in the physical security ecosystem that currently relies on humans to identify a potential threat and then act, AI could soon assist.

In the past (and near present), most physical security was either preventative or backward-looking: access control systems kept people out or let people in, and surveillance cameras simply acted as a record of what happened once a human operator gets around to viewing the footage.

But today’s tools — and certainly the tools of the future — go much further, reaching a level of responsiveness and even preventative security that redefines what’s possible in physical security.

Take video surveillance systems: the old model where people view footage only after they discover a problem (usually through other means) provides some level of security and deterrence. But with AI, machine learning systems can analyze video content in real time, flagging security risks or abnormalities for human review. Wisenet AI cameras, for example, can look at behavioral models that are predictive rather than reactive and detect details such as vehicles, license plates and more in real time.

In gunshot detection and other advanced technologies, there are new AI models and approaches being utilized that allow for gun detection that is separate from facial recognition. There will be the need for review of what is a correct use of the tech in various scenarios.

 Access control and intrusion detection systems are getting smarter in similar ways, and smart building management systems simultaneously improve security and reduce energy consumption — all thanks to AI.

All of this has the potential to deliver real benefits to organizations:

  • Enhanced, proactive security: performing risk assessments (and perhaps responding to) threats in real time increases safety.
  • Increased efficiency: AI systems help human operators prioritize their work.
  • Better scalability: human resources are no longer a constraint.
  • Cost effectiveness: increased hardware and entire system costs are offset by efficiency and security gains, potentially lowering overall cost of operation.
  • Continuous learning: systems get better over time.

What Does This Mean for Physical Security System Integrators and the Industry?

The advancement of AI is causing disruption (and fears about disruption) in many sectors: writers and artists fret about the implications of tools that can generate realistic content faster than us humans can blink. It’s natural for system integrators and other physical security professionals to wonder how these developments could affect them, too.

First, we believe the human touch remains vital in the electronic security system design process: AI systems are impressive at crunching through buckets of data, but they lack that human element. Call it intuition or reason or creativity, but there’s just something innately human that machines can’t replicate.

So, despite whatever changes may come, human system integrators will still need to conduct site surveys, interact with customers to understand their needs and concerns, and do the work of integrated security system design. AI-powered tools may augment system integrators’ capabilities in these activities, but they can’t do the job for us.

And remember that at the end of the day, physical security measures are inherently physical. AI may only be effective if proper design and installation are correct. Precise camera placement, system installation, and implementation are human tasks that require us to work in concert.  In other words, you can add value to ensuring any investments in AI are going to be effective – there will be mistakes but you lower that risk by working with your customers and vendors.

Another concern among system integrators is how to keep up with the rapid changes in security technology. No one can be an expert at everything, which calls for the need for greater cooperation and design collaboration between end users, integrators and manufacturers/technology providers.

Collaborative security system design is one key here: while no one can be an expert in everything, there is an expert out there for every single element of building security system design. And you probably already have relationships with many of them, such as your manufacturer partners and vendors.

With collaborative security camera design software, system integrators can co-design with others, inviting clients, manufacturer partners, and anyone else with expertise to share into the system design process.

Four Tips: Guidance for System Integrators Evolving Alongside AI

It’s an exciting time to be a system integrator, but there’s also an understandable amount of uncertainty about how your work might evolve in the coming years. If you’re a system integrator looking to evolve along with the industry (and alongside AI technologies), we have four pieces of guidance based on conversations with our community. 

1. Work Collaboratively with Partners

Your manufacturer and software vendor partners can be a great source of learning. It’s their job to understand and sell the newest innovations their company produces, so at times they will be a step ahead and  in a position to share what they know. It’s more important than ever to attend their events and webinars – or better yet pull them into your solution planning.

It hasn’t always been so simple to learn from them, let alone to collaborate alongside them. But new generations of cloud-based physical security design software are enabling collaboration that goes deeper than anything possible before. By pulling vendor partners (and others, including clients) directly into a collaborative design space, you’ll get more accurate information, greater buy-in, and better collaboration. Caution: don’t work in a silo to design out AI.

Also, keep an open mind to new vendors in various categories – they will take some vetting but there will be some leapfrogs.

2. Learn Together with Your Customers

To whatever degree these changes are causing disruption, confusion, or fear among system integrators, it’s much worse for customers. You work with this stuff every day. They may not have been involved in a new system-build in a decade (or ever!), meaning components you’ve been using comfortably for years may still be unfamiliar to your customers.

On the other hand, like spending time with others – find out what they already know and don’t assume that they have not been brushing up. We know that many professionals in the industry move between roles at the end users, manufacturer and integrator. Ask versus assume.

Use this to your advantage: as new technologies hit the scene, learn about them together with your customers. It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything, and in fact some customers will respect you more when they learn you’re continuing to improve your craft. There should be a healthy amount of skepticism and concern for privacy and customer information. It will take a village.

3. Find the Lowest Hanging Fruit

We’re still in the early days of AI transformation in physical security, which is good for system integrators: there’s no need to try and change everything in a week or a month. It’s OK to work incrementally and build out a vision that will refine over time.

Find the lowest hanging fruit, address it, and then build upon that success. This could look like reimagining your security system design process to be digital-first (using digital as-builts and collaborative system design tools). Or it could look like testing the waters with a single AI-enhanced product, then adding other complementary products as you’re able.

The point is that this isn’t all or nothing. It’s an evolutionary or maybe iterative process that can play out over time.

4. Keep Your Head Out of the Sand

For some there could be a temptation to bury their heads in the sand, ignoring the developments of AI and hoping that the status quo will keep working. 

Our advice: at a minimum, keep your head out of the sand. Don’t ignore AI. Instead, learn as much as you can about it, and look for the ways that it can improve your work or make your life easier.

The reason why is simple: others will embrace the efficiencies and advantages created by AI. Those who look the other way may eventually find themselves left behind.

The Future Is Bright

The future of physical security is an exciting one: the industry continues to grow despite periods of economic uncertainty, and the coming explosion of new technology in the industry will only increase this growth.

System integrators who learn as much as they can, rely on effective security and system design tools, collaborate with their manufacturer partners and customers, and steadily implement these new technologies put themselves in a position to capitalize on this growth. That’s why we say the future of physical security is bright.

Note: this blog post was written by humans. 🙂

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