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The Evolution of Security Industry Automation

The private security industry in the United States dates back to the mid-1800s, with pioneers like the Pinkerton Detective Agency and Wells Fargo leading the way. These companies provided services ranging from investigations and executive protection to guard forces and counterintelligence. Innovations of that era included mug shots, handwriting analysis, and criminal information databases. As the industry grew, it focused on labour unrest, introducing regulatory measures and professionalisation, but the services remained largely low-tech, relying heavily on armed guards and facility protection.

The next significant leap occurred around World War II, driven by the defence industrial complex's needs. This period saw the birth of "industrial security," which brought about new technologies and procedures, along with an increase in the use of security officers. Despite these advances, the industry was still often viewed as merely a collection of night watchmen well into the 1960s.

Over the following decades, the proliferation of security technology, such as electronic access control and surveillance systems, led to the creation of security operations centres. These developments required security professionals to adapt to new functions and technologies.

However, the industry was perceived as slow to embrace these changes fully, a perception that persisted until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This tragic event spotlighted the security sector, leading to a surge in security budgets and a renewed focus on technological innovation.

Today, technology plays a pivotal role in security functions, with various applications supporting the professional protection officer. One of the most tedious tasks for protection officers is report writing. Early incident management systems merely digitised this task, but modern systems like IRIMS and iViewSystems have transformed it into a comprehensive tool for incident management, investigations, trend analysis, and strategic planning. These systems are now user-friendly and integrate multiple functions, making them indispensable for asset protection.

Automated visitor management tools are now essential for organisations of all sizes. These systems offer various functionalities, from simple record-keeping to sophisticated, integrated solutions that enhance security and operational efficiency. Popular products in the US include EasyLobby, iTrak, TEMPbadge, and LobbyGuard, catering to different needs and budgets. Still today there are few Australian or European alternatives.

Crime mapping has become increasingly important, with companies like CAP (US) Index providing crime forecasting and security risk analysis. These tools help organizations in site selection, security allocation, litigation defence, loss prediction, and ROI justification. The future promises even more integrated tools, combining crime forecasting with risk assessment and event history. (Again, Australian alternatives don't currently exist, and the systems used on the ground are fundamentally excel sheets)

GIS technology offers a graphical view of various security-related data, supporting everything from historical data analysis to real-time incident tracking. Companies like ESRI (US) provide GIS tools that aid in security planning, emergency response, and crime prevention through environmental design.

Tools for criminal intelligence and analysis, such as those offered by i2 Incorporated (US), help protection professionals understand complex scenarios and volumes of data. These tools are crucial for uncovering crime trends and conducting thorough investigations, serving as a force multiplier in security risk management.

As technology continues to advance, protection professionals must embrace these tools to enhance their effectiveness. As a security trainer, I must emphasise the demand for computer-literate guards who understand "smart buildings" and loss prevention. Universities, RTOs and training programs must incorporate technology skills into their curricula to adequately prepare future officers. This includes the use of smart phones and smart phone technology in the classroom.

Security service providers should consider expanding their offerings to include technology-assisted risk assessments, security technology training, and IT-specific security services. As systems become more integrated, the security of these systems also becomes critical.

Automation in the protection industry brings unprecedented benefits, efficiencies, and opportunities. From information sharing and management to risk assessment and strategic planning, automated tools are invaluable. However, it is crucial to use technology as a tool rather than letting it drive you. Israel recently learned the hard way that relying on AI and automation systems without enough boots on the ground can be devastating. Professional protection officers must develop a technology-friendly mindset, enhance their skills, and integrate high-tech thinking into their professional approach.

IT is a tool to improve business processes, not a solution in and of itself. By maintaining this perspective, the security industry harnesses the full potential of technology while ensuring that it serves its broader strategic objectives.

From the author.

The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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