Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Certification for Security solution providers

The police probing into the Rs 15.22 lakh burglary at the Union Bank of India’s Dadar branch on Friday have been unable to get a clear photograph of the culprit despite going through the CCTV footage. The CCTV cameras did not have night vision. The staff learnt about the burglary after they came to work around 7.30 am on Saturday. The door and the strong room were found open. From the footage, the police have learnt that the burglary took place between 8 pm and 9 pm on Friday.

Was the Bank being pennywise and pound foolish by not using night vision cameras? Were the Bank officials unaware of features like e-mail alert and alarm based on motion detect? Was the vendor not competent enough to recommend a better surveillance solution which would have cost just a few thousand Rupees more?

While novice players are the bane of every industry, such untrained system integrators in the Security business are harmful not only for the clients but for Society at large. There has to be some sort of certification for solution providers and only qualified vendors must be permitted to operate. Will the various associations like FSAI,  ESAI etc. take a note of this lacunae?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cause for Concern

It is heartening to know that people are becoming security conscious and have started installing CCTV systems for safety. In the UK, CCTV operators must be licensed by the SIA (Security Industry Authority), and to obtain a license they must show they have been appropriately trained. In India, most of the vendors (myself included) do not have any formal qualification or certification and whatever knowledge we have is based on experience. There is no certifying or monitoring authority like in the case of Financial Investments or Insurance. This leaves the field wide open for everyone to become an “Expert” and sell solutions. Unfortunately, very few vendors are equipped with necessary skills to provide an effective solution. These so called experts sometimes implement a solution which is not at all effective.

Moreover, as this involves creating infrastructure, such mistakes are not easy to reverse in a cost-conscious Society. This also leads to a general perception that such solutions are not effective. While some of us have taken the pains to understand the technical aspects, many of the vendors just put together a solution designed to fit the clients’ budget. No effort is made to access the requirement and to educate the client about the best possible solution.

For example, most camera systems are designed to observe human activity. The application, however, can range from crowd control / public safety (where the movement of large numbers of people needs to be monitored over a wide area) to access control (where close-up, high quality imagery is required to enable individuals to be identified). The choice of CCTV camera in particular will depend on the nature of the activity to be observed.

You may wish to:
Monitor a large area
Detect individuals approaching a building
Observe the actions of a group
Recognise known individuals at an entrance
Obtain images that would enable you (or the police) to identify an unfamiliar individual

The above example illustrates the need to select a vendor who has the indepth knowledge of the subject and the patience to evaluate and propose an appropriate solution. Merely selecting the one with the lowest quote or handing over the project to an existing IT vendor can lead to a disaster.