Home >Security Providers and Buyers: A Time of Reflection

Security Providers and Buyers: A Time of Reflection

23 April 2020

JOHN DAVIES examines how the current restrictions afford time to reflect, not only for security providers, but also for the myriad end users who are relying on their solutions investment to safeguard facilities (which, at present, range from the deserted to the extremely busy depending on the business sector in which they operate).

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, all of us are facing great and unprecedented challenges at the present time (both work-related and personal in nature), but one benefit of all this is having the time to reflect upon how we run our lives and our business activities. We now have a unique view on modern life, and it's an opportunity to reflect that none of us should pass up.

For its part, the security industry will be reflecting just now and, undoubtedly, our customers will as well. With a huge percentage of business premises lying empty, while many key healthcare, logistics and essential retail outlets are running at full capacity, security is under close scrutiny now as perhaps never before. Undoubtedly, the performance of security solutions during this period will shape our industry’s future.

Many businesses and organisations will be reflecting on the good and the bad aspects of their security in advance of the world returning to some degree of normality. The levels of remote access, automation and reliability are all key factors here, and I suspect there are more than a few anxious eyes looking at these traits right now.

Much like many other critical business systems, there will be some security solutions that are showing issues already. Remote access has become especially relevant, particularly so at a time when the police service is stretched and responding to a potential security breach at an empty facility might not be at the top of the priority list.

Any lack of investment in modern, flexible and adaptable security will become very apparent when physical human back-up is restricted. I've no doubt that security specifiers and installers alike will be terribly busy helping specific customers once the restrictions have been lifted.

Buy cheap, buy twice

During these unprecedented times, it's almost inevitable that cracks will start to appear in those security systems that are not fit for purpose. In some cases, the old adage: ‘You buy cheap, you buy twice’ may apply to specific components (for example, some of the cheaper low-quality surveillance cameras out there may struggle to deliver for extended periods), but it's not always the case.

The price of many products, which may have been expensive ten-to-15 years ago, is now very reasonable. A good example of this is biometric readers. Very few were sold 15 years ago as volumes were low and prices high. Now, though, it's the opposite, with affordable prices for such a high level of security.

That said, there are still low-quality systems on the market and it’s easy for end users to be caught out when budgets are tight. If price really is an issue, end users on a budget need to change their view on the matter and, rather than buying products outright, look at leasing a system.

We're increasingly seeing manufacturers and integrators leasing security systems, providing a top of the line solution, but on a monthly or per door basis. This reduces the operating costs and removes the need for an initial capital outlay, but still delivers a powerful solution in a quick timescale.

Shelf life

The ‘shelf life’ of security systems is often debated and can be complex. It's not just the physical durability of products that's important. It's also their ability to adapt to new networks and the evolving needs of the world around them. The move towards greater integration of physical security into online networks has shown the gaps in many otherwise serviceable security systems.

When I entered the access control sector in the early 2000s, it was commonly reckoned that the shelf life of a given system was seven-to-ten years. From the point of view of some customers and market segments, that shelf life is still about the same, but with the pace of development quickening, the timeline is shortening for some components (although not necessary for entire systems).

Many end users have realised it's essential that core systems can accept new technology, ensuring there's no need to replace everything during an upgrade. For example, if you add new reader hardware you can often use a software upgrade to include the existing controllers.

This sensible inclusion of legacy systems in evolving networks also requires installers with the right training and expertise, along with manufacturers who appreciate these benefits and are both willing and able to invest in flexible technology that affords the market greater choice.

Brave new world

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the strengths and potential weaknesses in how all of us operate. In many cases, security systems will prove their worth in protecting vital services and key workers, along with countless mothballed facilities that could be all-too-inviting for criminals.

Some security operators will also witness the shortcomings of their current provisions. We can all talk about the potential dangers of ineffective security, but there's nothing quite like a real-world demonstration to focus the mind.

Unfortunately, it also seems likely we will all be facing economic challenges (certainly in the short term) as the global economy recovers from the disruption. However, there are always opportunities for security providers that match the needs (and budgets) of their customers. I think we will see an increased adoption of the ‘pay-as-you-go’ model as an effective and cost-efficient solution for those on a strict budget.

The security industry will undoubtedly need to adapt to the inevitable changes in the world that will be coming, but as a sector built to anticipate risk and to evolve quickly, I think we're very well placed to service this brave new world.

John Davies is Managing Director of TDSi