The Connected Officer
We live in a world where nearly everything is connected; where mobile devices, the cloud, big data and other innovations are rapidly changing our lives. Self-driving cars are on our roads. Drones are delivering packages to our doors. Smart grids, homes and cities are on the horizon. But for the security industry, one of the most valuable pieces of this digital evolution is, and will be, our security officers.
Technology, by definition, is the products and processes we use to simplify our daily lives. However, it is human traits such as imagination, creativity, emotion and ethics that are invaluable in protecting resources now and in the future. Security hardware is the eyes, ears and front door of your security program. Security software is the code we count on and the digital backbone we work from. A connected security officer offers the best of hardware, software and those invaluable human traits combined.
Wearable technologies are increasingly more common and the next generation of connected security officers will wear body accessories that are powered by sensors that gather information from their immediate surroundings and then relay that information for storage and analysis at the edge or in the cloud. A simple example is a heads up display like augmented reality Glasses that enable the officer to access critical data without requiring them to look away from their post. Other examples include smart clothing that can provide protection from hazards such as viruses and chemical weaponry and body-worn cameras that can continually record interactions with the public and therefore gather video evidence should the need arise. Despite all the benefits that wearable technology bring to a security program, they remain impersonal. Technology alone cannot make you feel safe. It cannot welcome you with a smile.
Security officers are selected for specific personality traits that range from leadership and courage to compassion and patience. These human traits are what allow officers to greet visitors in one moment and deter criminals the next. Humans can hone these natural instincts through training. Officers go through behavior detection training to sharpen their inherent ability to quickly detect the distinct signals that violent individuals subconsciously display. Cameras and access control devices can, at best, simulate these activities. Technology can’t have a conversation with another human to determine if he or she is a potential risk.
The Connected Officer
Looking at the evolution of security officer processes, it’s evident that technology is being implemented into daily tasks more and more often, requiring the technical knowledge to operate these devices and software. A decade ago, security officers were writing reports by hand. Hours or days could go by before the report made its way to the right people. Then came applications running on mobile devices that digitized post orders, patrol routes and daily activity reports. These devices began feeding data to online portals linked to scheduling systems, financial systems and more, so that clients could gain insights across their security program. Incident and case management software had real-time access to incidents and the ability to perform follow up investigations. Software gave clients and security officers immediate access to data from even more sources, including access control, video, alarm, visitor management, and identity management tools.
This increased use of technology requires security officers to have skills and training that are dramatically different from the days of paper. Officers need the right background, the right traits, and now, the right technological intelligence.
These “connected” officers undergo specific training to ensure they understand the processes, devices, technologies and systems of their security environment. They are tech-savvy; able to process information in their physical surroundings, while also understanding the impact that the data they collect will have to the overall security program. They possess the knowledge to alter or reboot the security system if an error occurs so that a security operations center doesn’t have to deploy a back-up team. They can be outfitted with multiple devices, including mobile devices, smart watches and body-worn cameras. They make sure that every item in their ecosystem is charged and ready to use. Selecting the right technology for your environment is key to delivering a great operational experience to the connected officers at the beginning and end of their shifts.
A connected officer’s appearance will vary depending on the environment in which they work. In some cases wearable technology will be obvious to the public and for good reason. A first responder may appear bionic given the multiple devices that they could be wearing such as body-worn cameras with a visible screen, smart weapons and heads up displays. But in a corporate lobby, where officers are expected to balance their security function with customer service, the officer may wear technology that is less apparent to the public such as smart watches and augmented reality glasses that look like everyday eyeglasses.
A Seamless Network
In the new world of the connected security officer, communication between technologies will be critical in order to facilitate a quick response to a security incident. Imagine an instance where as the officer unholstered their weapon, the smartwatch they were wearing detected an elevated heart rate, and therefore automatically created an event in the incident & case management system. The security operations centre could then receive an immediate alert, potentially connecting them to the live feed from the officer’s body-worn camera, or to their radio to offer guidance – as well as dispatch in order to provide insight to first responders.
While all of this is happening, the security officer remains situationally aware.
Through automation we can eliminate manual processes and therefore human error. The officer won’t have to read through an extensive paperwork trail following an incident in order to generate a report. The data would have already been logged and an investigation can begin immediately.
Academics and futurists say that we are at the starting line of an exponential change in technology. Some say that the most powerful companies in the world are no longer in oil and gas; they’re in big data and the internet. Artificial intelligence, renewable energy, cognitive systems, nanotechnology, blockchain, genomics, virtual reality, connected healthcare: the list of imminent game-changing technologies is long.
As artificial intelligence and natural language processing progress, we will see increased adoption of virtual officers, which will operate in a similar manner to mobile assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, IBM’s Watson Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana. A connected security officer will engage their radio or mobile device and ask the assistant to run a license plate. The system will query the incident and case management software, or any of our other enterprise systems. It will be an officer’s virtual partner.
Technology is vital and we will always use it to support our security officers. It’s essential to security during of one of the most transformational times in human history. But the future faces of security will be those maintaining the right balance between technology and humanity.
Senior Vice President of Innovation at G4S overseeing new strategies, business and technologies. With 13+ years of experience, Joe has designed complex IP solutions that have helped to craft the future vision around unified solutions in the security industry.