The security week that was: 11/19/10 (Commercial monitoring trends)

I had a chance this morning to speak with John Kenning, the group vice president for ADT's commercial operations in North America. Kenning has been on the job now for 10 months, and having recently met with many large customers during the ASIS show in Dallas, he shared with insights into what commercial customers are asking for from their monitoring and integration partners.

First off, said Kenning, smaller and mid-size commercial security customers aren't solely looking for simple intrusion alarm monitoring. While intrusion may be the first security technology installed for every business, small-to-mid-size commercial accounts are often exploring the feasibility of managed services, such as remote video monitoring. They also want bundled services, said Kenning, for which they can pay a set monthly amount. These companies, he explained, increasingly seek to tie together a number of security services into a bundled package; they want not only the old standards of the monitoring industry -- intrusion alarm and fire alarm monitoring – but they often want to outsource video monitoring and access control event monitoring. These accounts might have video surveillance systems in place, but they're often using the equipment in a standard reactive manner, wherein they only access the recorded video to go back to investigate a security breach well after the fact. Because many of the more advanced monitoring firms today are offering remote video monitoring, these companies can often leverage existing video investments to be used for not only live event monitoring, but potentially other services such as video monitoring for unattended deliveries and for "look-ins" to do video escorts. It's a big growth area for the industry, he said.

The larger customers that represent national and global businesses with large campuses and facilities in many, many locations want all of that and often more, said Kenning. The largest of his customers are considering not only those remote and bundled service offerings, but they also are asking for strategic use of security technology that helps them streamline their businesses. He said one of the emerging requests from his largest customers is for security technology "health monitoring". The Reader's Digest version is that this is a service whereby the monitoring firm can get real-time status updates on the condition of installed security equipment. If that DVR is failing, health monitoring could mean instant notification that it's time to install a new power supply or hard drive -- as opposed to the old scenario whereby users only found out when they go to pull event video that the video recorder wasn't working 15 days ago.

Secondly, the challenge that all major national and global accounts are facing, said Kenning, is that they want standardization across their organizational structure. They already standardize their own internal business processes, and these companies are increasingly leaning on their security service providers to ensure security standardization as well. That may mean creating global company standards that have to be applied to which technologies are installed, how quickly equipment service is performed, and even how security monitoring is handled. They want the small facility in their smallest region, or their overseas location, to receive the same level of service and functionality that their core locations receive.

Lastly, the number one thing that these national and global-level security directors are asking for (and they aren't afraid to ask for it anymore!), is that security provides insights and analysis to the effectiveness of their security investments. One scenario that Kenning has seen is a customer that uses remotely managed access control to provide alerts and analysis so that the company operations managers know whether their remote locations are opening and closing on time. All of a sudden that access control system isn't just for letting the good guys in and keeping the bad guys out; now it becomes a business insight tool.

On a side note, Kenning has been heavily focused on studying the ROI of security technology and monitoring investments for national and global companies, but that's material for another column…

Going private?
Airports remember they have the option to drop the TSA

Somewhere in the whole mix of complaints about the TSA's new policy that if you aren't being body scanned, you'll be getting a pat-down, the public seems to have forgotten that TSA security screenings are an option. Obviously I don't mean it's an option for people standing in the security lines; instead it's an option for airports to choose to use the TSA or to go with private screening services. In fact, Orlando's Sanford International Airport (the second largest in Orlando), is considering adopting private screening services, rather than using the TSA.

What does this mean for security? Not much, if you ask anyone in the know. The airports still have to follow TSA-approved procedures to the "T" -- including those much loved pat downs. For the airports, this is more about considering costs and responsiveness. According to airports that use or are considering the private screening contractors (which still have to be approved by TSA), the goal is to have a more responsive security screening staff. As the CEO of Orlando Sanford International Airport explained, "competition drives accountability." But there are reasons not to go private. As Elaine Sanchez, the spokesperson for Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, said in an archived article on this subject: "In a word, liability." In adopting the TSA, the airport guarantees it's meeting the national standard on airport security and hands off the liability of that security to the TSA.

In other news
Pistole defends TSA screening procedures, Wi-Fi seen as a security threat on flights, more

As the furor continues over the TSA's use of full-body scanners and more invasive pat-down searches at airports, the agency's head, John Pistole, appeared before a Senate committee this week to defend the new screening measures. ... In the wake of the failed air cargo bomb plot, there is a groundswell of support for banning Wi-Fi on flights fearing it could be used to trigger an explosive device onboard. ... False alarm calls have dropped dramatically in Columbus, Ohio, after the town instituted a sharp increase in fines. ... Data storage firm EMC Corp. has agreed to purchase Isilon Systems for $2.25 billion. ... Michael Flink has been tapped to lead ADI North America.