Data talks: How big data helps security deliver business results

Security teams use some of the most advanced pieces of technology, allowing them to collect vast amounts of data. By sharing this valuable data with others, security departments have the potential to drive change and productivity as much as any other team within an organisation. 

G4S staff working in a control centre

When a security team does its job well, focusing primarily on implementing preventative measures and anticipating incidents, it may seem to other parts of the organisation like it’s not doing much at all, simply because fewer incidents and active responses are being witnessed.

With this in mind, Joe Young, G4S America, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Jonathan Moore, Product Director at G4S’s AMAG Technology, explain why companies may not always see the benefit of investing in security.

“What they fail to appreciate is that the value of a security programme isn’t solely measured on its ability to prevent or respond to incidents, but also by its ability to provide the rest of the organisation with a wealth of information that can help them drive productivity and change.” Joe Young explains.

A smaller budget leads to a far less advanced security programme, which will directly impact the organisation’s vulnerability. It is therefore crucial for security professionals to demonstrate the value of their programme to colleagues in HR, finance, facilities or even marketing, and explain how, as much as this may surprise them, it can benefit their programmes too. 

G4S Engineer configuring a server

The value is in the data

Technological advances have had a huge impact on security departments. Jonathan Moore of AMAG Technology, a G4S company, illustrates how, for example, video surveillance systems now allow us to not only track motion, but count how many people are in a room, identify them through facial recognition and flag any unusual behaviour such as running, holding a suspicious item or even if a person is paying unusual attention to a particular item in a room.

“Security has evolved far beyond guard posts and patrols - today we use the very best technology to track and trace movements, control access, detect threats and send out alarms and notifications,” continued Joe Young.

“All the different systems that are part of the physical security ecosystem collect a wealth of data that the rest of the organisation can use to its advantage to improve processes or optimise spend,” he added.

For the reception and facilities teams, data derived from access control systems can help to measure footfall within an area, by location and time of day, which can help determine if space needs are being met and if additional resources are required, both in terms of staff and maintenance.

“One of our customers recently started using access control data within its head office to track the number of guests who had signed in that morning, which allowed catering staff to anticipate how many meals they’d need to prepare for the campus canteen at lunch,” explained Jonathan Moore.

In a retail environment, marketing teams use in-store video analytics to measure hotspots, traffic flow, dwell time, and product display activity, in order to enhance store performance. The aim is to identify where the concentration of people is low by time of day, to identify which products should be better promoted to attract more attention.

And with a greater focus on cybersecurity within organisations, IT teams are using video surveillance to identify suspicious behaviour, for example if someone logs in to a secure IT system from a location they’re not sitting in. 

Innovation is at the heart of security, and sharing our technology can make what was once perceived as an unlikely collaboration between the security department and other parts of the business a real success for an organisation.”  

Joe Young Senior Vice President of Innovation, G4S America

Making the numbers work for you: sifting through the data

There is great value in sharing huge amounts of data with the rest of the business, but only if they know what they want to identify within the numbers. Perhaps they’re looking to identify patterns to understand behaviours, or anticipate trends in order to optimise their processes.

This is where data analytics, which is the discovery of meaningful patterns in data which is then applied to effective decision making, comes into the picture.

“Looking backwards at data has its uses for reporting and spotting trends which will be taken into account to improve certain processes. But in some situations, the data loses its value if it isn’t actioned immediately,” argues Jonathan Moore.

Actionable data is essentially a certain pattern which, if detected, will trigger an immediate reaction. If an unusually large amount of people enter a reception lobby, an alert can be triggered for more reception staff to be deployed. In the banking sector, if an unusual transaction is made from a customer account, staff will be notified to get in touch with the account holder.

As more parts of the business begin to use security data to benefit their programmes, they’re also choosing new ways of analysing the numbers, particularly looking at predictive data analysis with the use of machine learning. This has the ability to spot trends and help set the path for future courses of action, without being programmed by an operator.

If there’s one thing all departments will agree on, it’s that collaboration between different teams is key to the success of any business. As Joe Young explains it, “innovation is at the heart of security, and sharing our technology can make what was once perceived as an unlikely collaboration between the security department and other parts of the business a real success for an organisation.” 

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