The losses businesses are facing due to physical security incidents, especially theft, are continuing to mount in the U.S. But a recent study concludes that security leaders and executives haven’t fully leveraged the capabilities of artificial intelligence, much less understand them.
That will create a major challenge for security businesses in the immediate future, but also opportunities, says Pro-Vigil Founder Jeremy White, whose company provides video surveillance and remote video monitoring services utilizing advanced cameras, AI technology and remote security guards.
Pro-Vigil’s fourth annual survey of business leaders provides insight into the evolving world of physical security and makes note of changing perceptions and challenges. The survey included responses from vehicle, boat and RV dealerships, retail, construction, manufacturing and utilities.
Incidents Still Increasing
Overall, security incidents remain a significant issue with businesses surveyed, with 25% of respondents reporting an increase in physical security incidents in 2023, close to the 28% reported in 2022 and 2021, and up from 20% in 2020.
Perhaps most shocking is the vast majority of businesses (87%) don’t believe the outlook for crime will be any better in 2024, and about a quarter of them feel the number of incidents will rise in 2024. More than half of businesses are more concerned about crime in 2024 than last year, a slight uptake from the previous survey.
Those surveyed definitely feel the impact of crime on their bottom lines. Almost a third indicated crime caused project delays – although that’s down from 40% in 2022 – while damage to assets (30%) and impact to inventory (27%) was also noted.
This illustrates the far-reaching impacts, beyond simply the value of the stolen inventory and assets, that physical security incidents have on operations, White’s survey says. Issues like project delays and impact on inventory and assets can cause problems that may take months to solve, taking a long-term toll.
But over half of businesses participating (53%) say their security strategy didn’t change last year. The most-used technology adopted was surveillance cameras, alarm systems, fencing and remote video monitoring.
For those who are using video surveillance, the number that are using remote monitoring increased last year to 44%, up from 40% in 2022, while 28% are using simple record-and-store systems and another 28% use no video surveillance.
Assets Under Attack
For businesses that haven’t changed their strategy, the top reasons were not having experienced enough physical security incidents to mandate a change, feeling confident their business is secure, not having enough resources to change their strategy or not knowing the best changes to make.
White believes businesses with tangible, valuable assets like dealerships, construction companies and utility supply stores will face the most pressure to improve security, as many have only elected to put up fences that may not stop the most determined criminals. Home builders also face this risk, as they can’t always manage access to sites.
Often, White says, no budget increase will be allocated until a certain number of incidents or impacts are felt, rather than prevention. Which means security businesses must articulate the positive ROI of preventing losses rather than reacting to them.
“It really is an ROI model. If you do this in advance, you’re making an investment to not have these other business interruptions,” White says.
Not ‘Getting’ AI?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is improving the way surveillance tools are performing for businesses. But as the survey dug into the use and perceptions of how it can be used, it’s clear the force-multiplier abilities of AI aren’t soaking in.
AI has been proven to help businesses cut down response times and only alert to the most imminent threats, cutting through the noise of false alarms. But it’s clear that many businesses still don’t fully understand how they can leverage AI-enabled remote video management in their fight against thieves and vandals.
The survey found that only 6% of respondents know whether their security strategy uses AI, while 71% said it does not and 23% aren’t sure. Most importantly, the authors say, 57% don’t know if AI can be a useful tool in stopping physical security incidents at their business,
Is it a marketing problem, or a normal curve of technology adoption? White says “all of the above.
“When you look at video as a sensor and what it can collect speed and colors and dimensions and sizes, you can teach AI what it is and what to do with it,” White says. “A high-definition camera is capturing so much metadata that it must be trained. It’s not been slow to adopt, but the training takes time.”
Pro-Vigil is using AI to make its video monitoring services more accurate and faster to greatly reduce the time it takes to analyze motioned events. But how important that is to customers isn’t always clear.
“At the end of the day, they tell us to just do our jobs. You'll meet your SLA or we’ll get somebody else,” White says. “For companies like us, it's a huge investment. It’s all about the scalability and ability for these security providers to grow.”
Where White sees momentum is in security companies leveraging all the metadata they’re collecting to help customers with “other needs or business concerns.”
For a car dealer it may be helping employees sell more cars, be faster and more responsive in the service lanes, detecting abnormalities in a vehicle’s paint job. While heat maps have been used with older technology to see where most customers are located on the lot, AI capabilities can help employees decipher which ones are unique rather than tracking irrelevant subjects like the sales workers.
In construction, where safety is paramount, AI can “very quickly and automatically” on its own determine that somebody is not following best safety practices, such as wearing a high-visibility safety vest and a hard hat and notify in real time a superintendent or a contractor.
“So as security companies we have to say, ‘what else can I do to leverage this technology? And we're still at the forefront.”
More than half of those using video monitoring solutions is experiencing benefits beyond physical security, according to the survey. Some 38% of respondents are using this technology to monitor worksite conditions, 27% use it to monitor foot traffic flow through the business, and 25% are using it to keep tabs on employee performance and customer/employee liability incidents, respectively.
The RVM industry and its customers will benefit from further education on the application of AI in physical security, and how it can be used beyond stopping criminals by improving business functions.
By understanding how AI works, and how it can be applied in the workplace, more businesses will undoubtedly adopt the technology and report falling crime rates and improved workplace efficiency in future surveys, White believes.
“With the adoption of apps and everything else, that’s making it super easy,” he says. “You’re seeing managers check time and attendance. Did they arrive on time? Was the delivery made on time? So they might not be adopting AI yet, but they see the system exists and it’s a tool in their bag. That’s something we’ve been working on for years.”
He says that trend bodes well for the security industry, as companies will now have more solutions to offer for monitoring shipping and delivery, timeliness, customer service and the like.
“Now, it’s much easier to deploy a system. It doesn’t take months. It doesn't take a budget that you're going to have to go to your board with anymore,” White observes. “We all have it on our front door. You press the little button and we all know how to use it. We've already adopted this type of service in our homes, so it's a natural fit.”
John Dobberstein is managing editor of SecurityInfoWatch.com and oversees all content creation for the website. Dobberstein continues a 34-year decorated journalism career that has included stops at a variety of newspapers and B2B magazines.