How Data from Physical Security Systems Can Improve Operations and Guest Experience
Security organizations are sitting on a goldmine of data collected by surveillance cameras, video management systems (VMS), access control systems (ACS), automated license plate readers (ALPR), intrusion systems and other connected physical security devices within hotels, restaurants and casinos. With the rise of data analytics, physical security system data can be used as more than just a tool to respond to crime or a necessary expense to keep assets and people safe. It can become a core element in the digital transformation of organizational processes.
Analytics can turn physical security data into smart, actionable insights that improve operations, efficiency, revenue generation, the customer experience, and more. But as the volume of physical security data, along with data from other smart devices, automation tools and enterprise systems, grows, it’s increasingly challenging to make sense of the data collected. A 2022 IDG study found that the organizations surveyed had, on average, 400 data sources, and more than 90 percent of those surveyed said that it was challenging to make data available in a format usable for analytics. And arecent study by Genetec showed that 94% of security professionals who don’t perform any data analysis reported they would if they knew more about how to use them effectively.
Having sufficient data management and structure is key to unlocking the value of physical security data, and unifying physical security systems on an open platform can help. The following are some tips for discovering and delivering physical security data to improve operations and insights.
Define Your Terms and Needs
As you set out to get more from your physical security data, it’s important to distinguish between video analytics and data analytics. Video analytics are specific algorithms that parse continuous video footage into discrete events such as detecting intruders, counting people or tracking objects, and producing an alarm based on certain types of anomalies. These algorithms make it easier for operators to comb through hours of footage by looking for those events. Data analytics, on the other hand, takes a broader look at events and data coming from across your physical security systems and how operators and administrators can glean insights from them (find trends, uncover opportunities, improve processes).
It's also important to make sure your first step is discovery.
- Data analytics offer the best insights when they’re deployed to confirm a hypothesis rather than a solution in search of a problem.
- Start by identifying what questions you are trying to answer:
Are you looking to find out why the security team gets double the amount of ‘door open’ alerts from the same three doors? Who’s parking in unauthorized spaces at your hotel? Which self-serve kiosks are working or offline?
- Once you have defined the questions, identify who needs to answer those questions, who has access to the data that’s needed to answer them, and how it is accessed.
Applying the Data Available Through Physical Security Systems
A unified physical security platform can centralize both video analytics and data analytics to deliver a global view of your operations from a single interface. It can then be applied to automate and measure operational steps across a range of use cases:
Automating people counting
One of the most common applications of video analytics in operations has been through people counting. In a retail environment, for example, monitoring the total number of customers in a store, or tracking the length of checkout lines makes it easy to identify when additional staff is required to avoid long delays and improve the shopping experience. Facilities of all types use access control data to manage people counting which help them understand how many people are in particular areas, to manage occupancy and comply with regulations.
Maintaining traffic flow
For large establishments like casinos that serve a high number of visitors, as well as highways and streets, bottlenecking is a major issue that can impact people in vehicles. Roadwork, changes in traffic patterns, and immobilized vehicles can generate sudden delays or even risks to health and safety. Data and video analytics captured by ALPR systems can help maintain the flow of vehicles at entry and exit points by alerting personnel of emerging issues. By detecting stopped vehicles in prohibited areas or counting vehicles over a set time, staff can be dispatched to address potential issues quickly.
ALPR data is often overlooked, but it can deliver a range of insights. It can provide information on which cars were in the parking lot when an incident occurred, to facilitate investigations. It can tell hotel owners if they’re getting a lot of out-of-region customers; information they can use to target marketing campaigns. Casinos can see when VIPs enter the property and greet them proactively. Stadiums can see when parking lots are filling up so they can re-direct people to overflow areas by changing digital signage as soon as the need arises.
Data analytics can be used to understand not only when breaches occur, but the circumstances and problems leading up to them. If you are focused only on reacting to specific events, you may miss the bigger picture. Run reports to identify the most common anomalous events and explore them more deeply. If all your ‘door open’ warnings are coming from the same three doors, for example, perhaps those sensors need to be adjusted or the locks changed. Perhaps you see that people are pushing through the doors incorrectly, without first reading their badges, so you install instructional signage, which reduces the number of ‘open door’ alerts, and the number of times staff need to respond. Reducing these nuisance alarms allows operators to focus on actual incursions that require their attention.
Integrating data from other systems with an open platform
When organizations are able to bring data from many different sources into one place, they can get an even more complete picture of what’s happening in their environment. A unified, physical security platform that enables the integration of devices and applications centralizes data for better visibility, operations, and intelligence. Hotels can integrate the data from IoT systems that track room temperature, air quality, and where lights are on, for a richer environmental context that can then be analyzed. Facility managers can connect sensors in garbage dumpsters to know when to dispatch trucks. Data from cash registers can be tied in to discover potential oddities in transactions. With an open security platform there’s no end to the data analytics you can bring into a common view to expand your contextual picture.
Spread the Wealth
Taking physical security system data beyond its primary purpose of protecting people and assets means changing the way organizations think about and manage that data. Split the responsibility of security teams between those who monitor and respond to events and those who focus on forensics and upkeep. Create different dashboards for security operators with data relevant to their functions. Create access and dashboards for managers in Facilities, Safety & Security teams, IT departments and Security Operations Managers.
A unified, open physical security platform like Genetec Security Center helps hospitality organizations tap into the full potential of devices and equipment they already own, using data in new ways to streamline operations. And it brings teams across the organization together on a common toolset, using a common language, to gain insights and make improvements to the things they do every day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Thomas is National Director of Sales, Signature Brands, at Genetec. He and his team are responsible for sales to the retail, financial, hospitality, gaming and cannabis vertical markets via Genetec’s network of system integration partners.