In his first blog for Infologue.com, Alan Chua of Concorde Security Pte discusses his views on technology as part of the private security industry. Alan writes: “It was just over two years ago that I made a big decision – to take my business in a completely new direction. Instead of retiring and doing something entirely different, I decided to embark on a new and exciting venture, albeit one that could be full of obstacles.
“I had spent the previous eighteen years building one of Singapore’s most successful guarding companies. We had made excellent progress and attracted a great deal of interest from potential buyers. It was tempting to hand over the reins and look for a fresh challenge. I had, after all, achieved all the targets set for Concorde as a manpower-based security company.
“However, two factors had a significant impact on my decision to remain at the helm.
“In October 2014 Singapore was suffering from a drastic shortage of manpower. A 25% gap, equivalent to 10,000 security officers, existed. Recruitment was a challenge with the role itself appearing unattractive. Long hours, low pay and mundane duties did not attract many sought-after applicants to our industry. The government needed to act. In the absence of a supply of manpower, it was essential to encourage the design and implementation of technology to reduce the reliance on people. Incentives were put in place to support companies who could demonstrate areas where technology would successfully reduce manpower requirements.
“Having the technology is part of the solution. However, it is only effective when the solution itself is accepted as an adequate replacement. Financial incentives to change help to a certain extent, but the idea of removing security officers from within a building and leave premises vacant and exposed is the bigger challenge. Most business owners have an inner belief that they need someone inside the building, that this is a safer option than relying on cameras to monitor their prized possessions.
“In reality, we can say that this desire to have a person inside a building is borne out of a fear or mistrust of technology. If we were convinced that technology was fail-safe we would probably be flying without pilots by now. We need to accept certain inevitable facts about our own capabilities. By the nature of our human status we will make mistakes. We are, as the saying goes, “Only Human” after all. Technology, however, is not prone to human error. It does what it is asked to do. If it is maintained in working order. it will work to order.
“The opportunity was there in Singapore for someone to take up the challenge. To use this favourable climate to innovate. To develop a solution for the security industry that would not just reduce the need for manpower, but deliver a better way of protecting people and properties.
“I had felt for a number of years that a large part of the duties of our security officers could be better served by technology. This is not a criticism of the role at all. It is my desire to improve the role that drives me to change the aspects of it that are prone to error. Duties and tasks that do not work to the strengths of our people – patrols around empty buildings by officers working long overnight shifts. officers monitoring banks of screens, controlling access and egress from within the site itself. Putting technology on an officer to record these patrols to show that the job had been done. Surely there had to be a better way?
“It was my desire to find this better way. Driven on by the absolute necessity to counter our manpower shortage that led me to work with one of my customers in designing our solution.
“Our first target was the removal of officers from the buildings overnight. Such a radical step can prove difficult. Again, there would be unease and a perception of an increase in risk. The question will always be as to what is been lost? In these situations, the customer benefits greatly from a lower monthly bill and in the case of Singapore, some attractive reductions on implementing an effective CCTV network; yet the balance must be that the reduction in cost does not exceed the perceived increase in risk.
“As I was implementing my new solution to my own customers I had the advantage of having their trust after many years of delivering service to them. Yet, even with this trust and with great incentives, it is always a challenge for people to move away from their comfort zone; to break with tradition. I was looking to disrupt the traditional world of manned guarding, of which I was a part. But happily disrupting myself because I knew it was the correct thing to do.
“For me it was a simple solution that I was looking for. One which uses technology to protect the perimeter of the building; should anyone cross that line a suitable and swift response would be actioned. My “IFS” solution was born.
“IFS” is essentially a mobile command and control centre that works to respond to alerts from within a cluster of customers in the vicinity. I have three “ I-Man” ( intelligent Guards) within the vehicle who will monitor customers’ sites and patrol the area around their buildings. The building is secured using analytics to alert the on-board crew of any intrusion. We have successfully used TV White Space (TVWS) in Singapore with other wireless technologies for redundancy. The use of TVWS allows us to cover areas up to 10km.
“IFS provides a visible security deterrent for our customers as well as an immediate response to any incident. Because the crew are so close to their customer locations they can be on site almost straight away. The ability to have “eyes on site” is a massive benefit for the team as they can see exactly what is happening. The on-board team can also carry out repairs on site. They can be specifically trained for individual customer requirements. First line maintenance is available and the storage capability of the vehicle allows us to carry enough spares to immediately fix and repair.
“For me IFS is the home of the new face of the security officer. This is not an officer who struggles to monitor every corner of a vast building. Not an officer who patrols to prove he or she is doing what they should be doing. This is an officer who receives relevant information, analyses it and can respond appropriately, and immediately, to it. Let the technology do the patrolling. Let technology alert the human. Understand that the human’s role is to understand what is happening and respond to it. This is an officer who responds to data and acts on it rather than purely producing it.
“The role of the “I-Man” within IFS is clearly more involved than previous, more mundane, security roles. It has allowed us to develop specific training programmes for the teams. Our expansion, and the expansion of the role of IFS itself, opens the door for our officers progression at a far greater level than ever before. My officers are now paid at 50% above the PWM (progressive wage model) as set by the authorities in Singapore. I have also moved to eight-hour shift patterns for my officers, greatly improving that all important work-life balance.
“Since the launch of my first IFS vehicle in 2015 I am delighted with the response despite the many obstacles encountered. As I enter 2018 I will have 10 vehicles on the road and almost 200 customer sites across Singapore.
“The service has grown rapidly over the last two years and so has its potential. IFS is a platform for receiving signals. I was delighted to be invited to Liverpool’s Sensor City earlier this year. The ability of IFS to work within a smart city environment opens up some excellent opportunities in a number of sectors. Clearly, responding to building alerts from on site sensors is a huge area for us. The use of sensors within healthcare has also led to some interesting discussions. We are providing a smart response to smart buildings.
“I am working with several customers in Singapore in implementing the use of UAVs and our security patrolling Robot (Adam). The UAV, or indeed Adam, can carry out scheduled patrols on a customer’s premises sending pictures back to the on-board team of I-Man. The team can analyse the information and respond as and when required.
“I am delighted to have completed the building of our first IFS vehicle here in the UK. Some of you may have seen it at our IFSEC exhibition in June.
“If the time was right for Singapore is in 2015, I am absolutely sure that the time for us to enter the UK market has arrived. I believe pressure on manpower rates, coupled with the ever-present demand for cost reduction, has created that need and urgency to innovate. IFS offers that unique combination of cost saving and value. A future based solution utilising the combined excellence of people and technology.
“As I look back to 2015 in Singapore and the business climate for change, I see many similarities with the current UK market. A need and a desire to innovate, an acceptance of the fact that technology can offer reliability and assurance. Yet, I still see traditional solutions and traditional mindsets very much in operation.
“As in Singapore, I expect to see momentum greatly increase over the next two years in the UK.
“Last year saw Concorde in Singapore honoured through the award for the most Innovative use of Infocomm Technology in the private sector. This year we have secured a WIPO-IPOS award for leading the way in the use of patents (I have a trilogy of patents in security and facility innovations – one of which is IFS) and I myself have been named as Entrepreneur of the Year! I am of course delighted with such recognition. However, the most satisfying aspect for me remains the same as it did in 2015. To continue looking for that better way to deliver security solutions and to watch them deliver results, and of course seeing my officers now working 8-hour shifts like nearly everyone else!”