The private security sector in South Africa employs more than 440 000 people in more than 9 200 registered security enterprises. With such large numbers of both certified and non-certified security officers, armed with varying skill levels, it is imperative that companies employ some form of support and management to ensure that the security officers are physically protected and that they are effectively protecting the assets they are employed to safeguard.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to three industry champions about the technology currently available to streamline guarding operations whilst providing support for the function, and efficiently managing personnel.

Richard Frost, CEO of Astute Electronics, says the type of management system depends on the function that the security officer is performing. If the guard function is a static one, then they require a product that keeps them awake and alert. A patrolling guard requires a product that will not only keep them alert but which also provides them with a checklist for various checkpoints in a facility. He references his company’s OnGuard products for use in the field.

Bernard Slabbert, CEO of Bloodhound Technologies, says that it is important to understand the value of data derived from guarding patrols. Criteria for best practice in guarding support and management solutions vary, depending on the environment in which they operate. He adds that in the past, systems were in place to merely track the movements of the guards, whereas now they have evolved into solutions that monitor specific activities against a predetermined checklist. This value added element allows the client to ensure that the service they are paying for is being delivered.

Based on GSM and RFID technology, this device can be used indoors and outdoors and relays data in real-time. The device is linked to the company’s Observer software to provide accurate and unobtrusive micro-location visibility. Battery life is an issue as the devices need to be recharged frequently.

Because tracking is often related to assets rather than locations, the system allows users to program in the necessary checks and audits associated with that asset. These parameters could include whether the item is in an operational or non-operational state and whether parts of the item are missing.

Each asset has an RFID tag or beacon associated with it. When the security officer is within range of this beacon or tag, the Rover will display a list of actions to be followed by him/her. A draw back is that one is never quite certain how close the guard is to the specific asset. A specific time period will be allocated to each task and if the time period is exceeded, an exception report will be sent to management or the control room.

Frequently there are issues with the GPRS data connection due to service providers and data is delayed.

If the security officer enters a negative response to a query, the exception will be escalated to a specific department, for example if the asset is not functioning, the maintenance department will be alerted.

All data is relayed to a national database in real-time and parameters can be programmed for instruction when an exception is reported. Effective management of patrolling security personnel allows end users to be more proactive. In addition, management can be freed up from responding to every event by allocating specific tasks to middle management or supervisors, thus reducing the number of site visits required.

Lawrence says that as crime has increased in South Africa, more companies are becoming interested in a solution that will monitor and manage their guarding activities. His company’s telematics solution offers data transmission over GSM and elevates the guard monitoring solution into a protective role for the guards themselves. Because the system is linked to a GPS, no infrastructure is required in the field and the true location of the guard is always available to withion a range of 50 to 100 meters depending on the type of building the guard is in.

He explains that previously, systems were in place simply to ensure that the guard is visiting certain checkpoints within a facility as part of their patrol. However, current systems acknowledge that the security guard is in a vulnerable position whilst guarding assets and thus provides the guard with a higher level of safety through the incorporation of panic buttons and built-in cameras.

He says that the intelligence being derived from many of the existing systems was very poor. This prompted the company to include a mini CCTV camera in the jacket worn by the patrolling guard. The company has developed a transmission solution based on GSM that allows them to transmit images at 1.2 c per picture as opposed to the average 90 c per picture, thus making this an affordable value-add for companies.

A best practice solution should also consider the reduction of costs and this can be achieved by reducing the number of site visits required by supervisors through the provision of more thorough reporting. In this way petrol and labour costs decrease, without any loss in efficacy.
Betatrac’s AIMSS (analytic intelligent mobile security system) software reports in to the control room every 30 seconds and provides an autonomous automatic report. Because the report is automatically generated, the human intervention element is removed from the equation, thus eliminating errors and any possible fraud. The detailed reports provide a percentage of efficiency of the patrolling guard and any result of 85% and higher is deemed acceptable.

By reducing the amount of time a supervisor needs to be on site, they can use the extra time to analyse reports, highlight problem areas and find ways of resolving them. Technology therefore become a valuable tool in picking up any shortfalls apparent in manpower and empowering the guards to increase the effectiveness of their patrols.

The OnGuard stay awake function can be remotely programmed to turn on and off at the end of a shift and provides interactive communication with the guard during his shift. For patrolling guards, the system will send an alert to the control room if the guard has skipped certain checkpoints or has conducted his patrol too quickly.

The OnGuard system incorporates a T&A function that simplifies manpower solutions on site by ensuring that the correct type and number of guards are patrolling the premises in any given shift. In addition to a panic button, the guards are also equipped with ibuttons or RFID technology for data collection at the various checkpoints. The OnGuard system uses its own proprietary mobile app to relay data to the control room, thus eliminating sms costs.

Frost points out that the system links the software to mini IP cameras placed on the guard. This allows users to easily see what is visually happening on site. It can manage several guards simultaneously, providing further cost savings. In addition, OnGuard does the laborious work of verifying staff information via the PSIRA database once staff details have been captured on the Astute server.

Conclusion

There are a number of excellent systems on the market that allow companies to monitor and manage their security guards, while simultaneously offering the guards a certain level of personal security. Choices should be driven by the reason for patrolling, for example general facility security and monitoring, or specific asset management. The choice of communication is likewise determined by whether the patrolled area is predominantly outdoors or indoors. While budget will ultimately affect the technology choice, it should be weighed against the cost savings derived from the resultant improved efficiencies.