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Better budgeting and improved intelligence from cloud physical security

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Scott Gray, Head of Sales at Morphean, looks at how embracing cloud can represent a prudent financial move as well as vastly improving security and operations…

The days of standard CCTV systems are coming to an end, and for good reason. Today’s technological developments mean that modern network cameras can deliver so much more than their one-dimensional forebears which can offer only the most basic security provision. Digital transformation has brought with it the many merits of cloud connectivity, which further opens up a vast array of possibilities for connected devices, offering the highest levels of protection while unlocking many additional benefits for the modern business, based on collected data, analytics and AI.

Yet even when armed with full knowledge about its capabilities, some are reluctant to embrace cloud physical security, preferring instead to rely on dated, legacy methods to protect their premises and assets. This may be because taking the plunge seems too great a risk, and many are perhaps fearful of stepping away from a world they understand into one which seems uncertain. In reality, cloud physical security offers great promise while simultaneously removing many of the headaches related to more traditional setups; chief among them being cost implications and the justification of budgets.

Move from CapEx to OpEX – and secure IT budgets

Recent research shows that 51% of current IT budgets will be channelled towards cloud-based systems’ development and operations by 2025[1]. It is therefore time for those businesses that have not already embraced cloud to change how they think about security. The rapid growth of cloud presents an opportunity to make use of connected, integrated solutions for a wide range of business and security requirements. Demand for more flexible working processes is driving a continual shift towards cloud infrastructure, and as more applications are moved to cloud platforms, so being able to centrally monitor and control every aspect of operations, including security, will become a necessity.

Traditionally, taking the decision to implement a new security system would involve a substantial financial outlay in the form of capital expenditure (CapEx). This places a significant drain on existing budgets, and funding may prove extremely difficult to secure during the ongoing financial crisis. Cloud physical security, however, is built around a monthly billing cycle with no large upfront costs. This allows businesses to make small monthly payments which can be regarded as operational expenditure (OpEx). And those responsible for finance and budget allocation are more likely to approve smaller incremental costs in return for a solution that represents the cutting edge of security.

Employ cutting-edge solutions that represent value-for-money

A move to the cloud will require a shift in mindset for those organisations that are more comfortable with the static costs associated with traditional systems. However, the pay-as-you-go cost model of cloud crucially allows businesses to make use of the latest technology and services as soon as they are available, often through simple software upgrades and remote updates. This removes the need for disruptive onsite maintenance or the overhauling of technology, and the associated cost implications, every time an upgrade is required. With cloud, changes made quickly as business strategies evolve result in a fluid system that adapts and responds to business growth, with security that is constant.

A modern security solution needs to be robust, intelligent and reactive. Adapting business, finance and technical operations to take advantage of cloud’s many benefits will mean that a company’s technology infrastructure becomes much more flexible and responsive as a result. The introduction of new capabilities such as remote monitoring of the security system mean that, via a powerful dashboard, the system can be monitored instantly by mobile device, bringing complete peace of mind to security personnel even when offsite. Those with administration rights can control which members of staff have access to the system, ensuring data protection policies are upheld.

Forecast accurate cloud expenditure with flexible billing

A significant benefit of the cloud billing model is its flexibility, enabling change without up-front cost or commitment. Instead of trying to estimate the use of resources based on what might be required in the year ahead, cloud allows the system to be scaled up or down at any time with businesses only paying for what they use. As activity can be closely tracked, cloud expenditure can be forecast more accurately. Cloud also makes it much simpler to identify business areas where other savings can be made. Intelligence from collected data in real time can be used to report back on staff movements, enabling rules to be set. Automated heating, for example, could be set to activate only in the most frequented areas, driving down running costs thanks to the insights that cloud makes possible.

In the past the installation of a security solution was a task that ended when the system was operational. Now, the deployment of a cloud solution marks the start of an ongoing partnership which is intended to help businesses make the most from their chosen system. Working closely with a provider will enable organisations to ensure that the solution meets their exact requirements. Use of AI and analytics even means that the system will become even more accurate over time as it aggregates and interprets data about the business’ security and operations, ultimately improving ROI.

As new services and tools are released, cloud enables businesses to access the very latest technologies and use them to their optimum potential. Cloud is revolutionising physical security with its cost system and simplified budgeting making cutting-edge physical security widely available to all. Those businesses that are willing to make the move to cloud will be those that continue to benefit from the many new capabilities that the digital transformation in security makes possible.

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DOWNLOAD: Cloud physical security now a critical link in digital transformation agenda

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A new practical guide has been published by Security-as-a-Service specialist Morphean to help security businesses understand and adopt the digitalised world of physical security.

It argues that cloud physical security is now playing a critical role in the digital transformation agenda, as AI-driven analytics help unlock superior security and intelligence benefits while helping to mitigate the rising cost base being felt by many security businesses across Europe.

Digitalisation has ushered in a new era of hosted security platforms that are disrupting the industry. With the cloud providing the critical infrastructure, exciting new technologies and systems are emerging that enable the sharing of powerful data-driven insights from surveillance data. These benefits relate not only to improved security, but also to operational intelligence to drive efficiencies and profitability for end users. It will increasingly be those security professionals who can combine a physical securityskillset with knowledge of the cloud, networks and systems, that will reap future rewards.

However, as the cost-of-living crisis deepens with energy and fuel prices running at their highest rates in decades, the guide reasons that cloud, AI and analytics have multiple economic benefits for partners. Switching to the cloud not only represents more predictable budgeting and recurring revenue for the partner business, but also leads to cost savings by making better use of people and internal resources, while helping them to gain a competitive edge as customer requirements rapidly evolve.

Cloud physical security, charged per device per month, offers the partner a route to more sustainable revenue growth and contracts to be leveraged by upselling more features. In addition, with cloud, a highly skilled technical engineer can set up systems remotely, not only saving money on fuel but completing several customer jobs in the time that it would take to set up just one system at a customer site. Selling and deploying faster and more efficiently represents a better return on the individual’s salary investment.

Key areas covered in the guide include:

  • Cloud physical security: A new digital dawn for CCTV
  • The business case: Reduce costs and streamline operations
  • Analytics and data-driven decisions: Improve security and business performance
  • Employing sustainable practices: Achieve green targets
  • Improving cybersecurity knowledge: Protect networks and systems
  • Trusted partnerships: Build relationships that lead to long-term success

Martyn Ryder, VP Sales and Marketing at Morphean, explained: “Such is the nature and complexity of the modern threat landscape that companies are increasingly turning to external partners to strengthen their security posture. To remain competitive physical security specialists need to arm themselves with knowledge of network connectivity, AI and the power of analytics to help them position cloud physical security technology as more than just business security, but also business intelligence. In so doing, the partner can also access many potential cost-saving benefits to future-proof their business.”

The guide also explores the importance of establishing trusted partnerships to work more collaboratively, in order to minimise system vulnerabilities and to mitigate cyber security risk. Learning to recognise the cyber risks will help security professionals and their customers ensure the most appropriate security protocols are in place for maximum protection of networks and systems.

Seven security tips for SMEs that won’t break the bank

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When you set up your own business, you want to do everything you can to protect it. It’s your baby, after all. With so many threats out there, both on the internet and in the real world, you’ll want to spend every pound you can to wrap it in metaphorical cotton wool and keep it safe. But that isn’t always realistic.

We understand that many SMEs and start-ups don’t have the biggest budgets; we know that every penny counts when you’re trying to grow a business! But we also believe that protecting your business is going to be one of your top priorities. So with that in mind, high-tech security and software specialists, Morphean, has come up with seven security tips both on and offline that aren’t going to break the bank. 

1. Protect from internal attacks

Before you start looking at your business from the outside, it’s important for you to make sure you’re protected from the inside out first. Although you may not want to consider the possibility that one of your employees would wish harm on your company, it happens more often than you think. In fact, did you know that the UK High Court saw an increase of 25% in the number of employees stealing data?

Rather than looking at all your employees with mistrust from now on, take some easy steps towards protecting yourself. First of all, conducting background checks on new starters is a standard policy to have, so don’t be afraid to implement it. Second, have the correct policies and procedures in place to ensure that certain systems and pieces of data have limited access. And finally, take a look at how your company handles dismissals. Not everyone is going to be thrilled at the idea of being let go, but being empathetic and sensitive when it does happen can greatly lessen any feelings of anger and resentment. 

2. Cyber education

When it comes to staff old and new, it’s important that everyone is educated and trained on how they can do their bit to protect your business. That goes for security both on and offline. And it’s not expensive to do!

You can start by providing training on keeping computers and devices safe. That means how to create secure passwords, how to spot phishing emails and the correct procedures to follow when using own devices or when working from home. If your business is growing, schedule regular sessions so that everyone entering is up to date, and anyone can attend for a refresher course if they need to. 

3. Update your systems

We’re all guilty of hitting ‘remind me tomorrow’when your computer suggests a systems update, but it’s more important than you think, especially if that update is for your anti-virus software. A lot of SMEs and their employees will neglect software updates, often due to having more pressing issues to deal with, but failing to stay up-to-date can actually leave you vulnerable to some of the most severe types of cyber security attacks. 

Having anti-virus software in place is fantastic and a real must-have investment for your business. Not only does it keep your device virus free, it also protects your identity when browsing online, the identity of your business, and can help to detect and neutralise fraud attempts when shopping online.

4. Store your data externally

Where does all your company information go? What happens when your computer breaks or in the event of a hack or systems failure? It’s essential that you have a current remote backup of your entire system and data, and the best way to do this is by having a cloud solution. This is stored external of your business on a cloud system where you can access it remotely and add new data as and when you need to. 

Undoubtedly this is the most expensive of our tips; good cloud storage from a trustworthy and reputable provider isn’t going to be cheap as chips, but it’s going to be one of the most important investments you’ll ever make. Your data is the lifeblood of your business, so make sure you protect it accordingly. 

5. Lock and key

Whether you’re in a building of your own or share your office with other businesses – more on this later – it’s important that you invest in strong and high quality locks. Anti-snap locks and deadbolts are good for exterior doors, and roller shutter doors for warehouses provide that extra layer of security. 

Rather than giving a key to all staff members, consider giving keys to just your senior management team, as long as you can guarantee that one will always arrive early to open the office. The fewer people have access then the security risk is lessened. And remember to instill good practices in those who do have keys; perhaps you could have an ‘end of the day’ checklist near the door that reminds people to check windows, blinds and front door locks?

Work on building a strong relationship – this costs nothing! – with your local locksmith as these are the ones you will be asking to come out at short notice should anything go wrong. 

6. Take a look outside

If you’re an SME or start-up, then chances are you’re going to be based in a larger building with other businesses. With that in mind, there may already be a number of security measures in place, which is fantastic. But if you’re in a building alone, you’ll want to make sure your premises is protected. 

How does your building look from the outside? Lights outside the building at night can be a great deterrent as criminals will like to work in the shadows for fear of being seen, and these are cheap and easy to install. Is it worthwhile investing in a CCTV system? If you’re only talking one or two cameras these don’t have to break the bank. Perhaps consider installing blinds that can be pulled down at night to stop any valuable items being seen from outside. And finally, internal lights on a timer can also be an effective deterrent and aren’t expensive at all.

7. Triple check your vendors

Our final security tip is about keeping the operations of your business safe. Many SMEs will use external providers and vendors for equipment and resources in order to function properly, but it’s important that you do your due diligence.

Make sure you check out all vendors and contractors before entering into a contract with them. Check out their reviews, speak to other businesses who use them (better yet, use recommended vendors) and take a look at their credit report; are bills paid on time? Could they go out of business soon or unexpectedly? How long have they been up and running? If anything raises a red flag, no matter how small, then don’t be afraid to take your business elsewhere. 

Image by Mabel Amber, still incognito… from Pixabay 

GUEST BLOG: Are security cameras the future of sales?

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Ask somebody what they immediately think about when someone mentions CCTV and their mind often jumps to the idea of; being watched, invasion of privacy or even the phrase ‘Big Brother’, writes Andy Martin, Vertical Segment Leader at Morphean

The tussle between security over privacy remains, but there are new benefits that may be changing the balance in favour of the “security camera.”

Take a look at retail for example. Retail brands are fighting on all fronts to establish an understanding of and a connection to their customers.  Omni channel retailers need to understand the role of their stores in their overall sales strategy, and brands still compete against each other and pureplay retailer for sales.  Could security cameras actually be the secret to their survival? With new technologies developing all the time, it seems that CCTV could be the silver bullet that the high street was looking for this whole time.

Looking ahead

Of course, one of the biggest reasons shops install security cameras is to protect against theft and anti-social behaviour – and that means security cameras pointed at entrances and exits and till points, watching over valuable and expensive items and the people going about their day. But were they ever anything more than deterrents? Sitting, watching and waiting for someone to commit a crime?

The old saying about surveillance is that 99% of CCTV footage is never watched. And that’s because the only way to ensure capturing anything of interest was to constantly monitor footage. Retail manpower has fallen significantly so now retailers scramble around after the event and try to retrieve footage so images tend to be corroborative rather than insightful.

Rather than waiting for something to happen, nowadays it’s all about thinking forwards and looking for and spotting potential risks before they become an issue.

CCTV has come a long way in the last 10 years alone, and the latest models are now using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to try and detect suspicious behaviour before it escalates into an actual crime. For example, if someone is stood at a cash machine and hasn’t presented their card for 10 seconds, or if two expensive items leave the shelf at the same time, a security alert can be activated. The footage recorded and a clip pushed out to the responsible stakeholder.  While this doesn’t mean that a person should be questioned on the spot, it alerts staff members to observe them more closely in case an incident should arise.

AI can also be used to keep staff and customers safe, and technology has even gone a step further into examining human emotions through aggression detectors. If the cameras detect that a customer is become irate, angry and perhaps even physically violent, alerts can be activated by the central control system to escalate the issue to local police if necessary.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and this new ‘smarter’ CCTV can help in a huge number of ways by looking ahead to the future and working to prevent problems from arising.

Consumer behaviour

Now onto that silver bullet. There’s so much that we can learn about the way that ordinary people shop through the new technology in CCTV ; so much so that it can inform and change how stores are laid out and where items are displayed. We can learn where customers move to, how much time they spend in each area, and how they navigate the aisle and store layout, and all this information can be harnessed to help improve the customer experience; ultimately helping shops sell more products.

As customers walk around shops, IP cameras are constantly gathering information called ‘customer metrics’, such as:

  • Queue length
  • Dwell time in aisles
  • Dwell time in front of promotional / sale areas
  • Footfall
  • Seasonality changes
  • Faces of returning customers
  • Age and descriptions
  • Demographics
  • Customer direction after they enter

That kind of information is incredibly valuable to retailers, who can tweak store layouts to their advantage and encourage customers to spend more time in certain sections or sale aisles, for example.

One example of customer flow data being critical to store development is in the food sector. With four different ways to transact, self scan checkout, scan as you shop, pay at the counter and now scan and go “frictionless” shopping, there is nothing such as a typical shopper behaviour anymore.  Will layouts change to reflect this?  Then there are differing shopper trends, vegan, free from, changes to more sustainable packaging that will change the way food is displayed.  Video analytics can give great insighta as retailers navigate this journey. 

And the changes are rapid.  Look at convenience shopping.  From giving the customer the option to self checkout as an exception only a few years ago, to the vast majority of transactions are self checkout.  Only age restricted products now need to be paid for using  an operator. How long before these products can be machine vended using biometrics to validate a customers age? In light of these changes, how does staffing the store correctly look?  How are promotions best placed? How many self serve counters?  Importantly, video analytics can also measure the impact of changes in sore layout and resources.

The future

Things are changing, and they are changing fast. And with all of these incredible new developments come new challenges too. One of the biggest is the fine line that exists between privacy and security; which one takes precedent? The recent introduction of GDPR has made this even more complicated, and it’s up to the industries themselves to ensure that customer data is not being exploited.

But ultimately all of this data that can be gathered, and how it can be used to make shopping smarter, more efficient and more effective for both retailers and shoppers, is incredible. It’s an exciting time for the future of sales and retail and one thing is for certain, artificial intelligence is leading the way and will continue to revolutionise how we shop.

New security system ‘delivers 36% reduction in staff injuries’ for Post Office

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

An integrated security system that includes new IP cameras and two-way audio technology has seen the rate of injuries as a result of attacks on Post Office staff decline by 36% in three years.

This follows the deployment of a sophisticated monitoring and intelligent threat detection platform from Morphean, a Video Surveillance-as-a-Service (VSaaS) innovator, which helped to keep staff safe and also protect ATMs from attack.

The Post Office is responsible for the safety and well-being of 14,500 workers in 11,600 branches. Opportunistic attacks on staff and equipment, and the use of expanding gas to break open ATM machines is not uncommon.

In rural communities, attacks on equipment can leave branches out of operation for long periods. In the last year alone, there were 13,437 violent attacks on convenience store workers, 27% of which involved a weapon and 39% led to injury, according to The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) annual Crime Report.

The Post Office security team wanted to build on its existing threat intelligence and response system, Grapevine, with a network of IP cameras and two-way audio into branches. Axis Communications cameras, microphones and speakers, connected to the Morphean Platform and hosted in the cloud, were installed in pilot branches by Kings Secure Technologies. Now that trial implementations have been completed successfully, the security team plans to expand coverage rapidly.

In addition to the cameras, the networked speakers enable control centre staff to speak directly to customers and suspected criminals, alerting them to the fact they are under surveillance. Further integrations are under way to bring security automation to other branches, such as providing the ability for remote agents to lock on-site safes in the event of an attack. Because of the challenges around connectivity in the areas where the most vulnerable branches are situated, the solution is also optimised to use low bandwidth data and is capable of streaming video over a 3G mobile network.

The built-in intelligence of the Morphean Platform means staff are able to monitor footage for suspicious behaviour, such as individuals loitering near an ATM, and issue an alert to security teams who can then decide on the appropriate course of action. If it’s someone trying to find their wallet, no action is taken; if a crime is in progress, police will be notified along with video footage.

In addition, staff are able to trigger an alert manually using an under-the-counter activation button, which can be investigated immediately by control centre staff at the alarm receiving centre (ARC).

“The safety of our staff is our number one priority,” said Physical Security Manager for Post Office, Mark Dinsdale. “We’ll never completely eliminate crime in our branches, but we are also not powerless against it and we are able to make significant differences to the safety of our people, as demonstrated by the new technology we are deploying. Post Officers, particularly those in remote areas without access to a nearby police station, value the easy access to help and now report feeling much safer at work,” he concludes.

Paul Ottley, Account Director at Kings Secure Technologies, said: “Footage goes straight to the Morphean cloud, and the platform compresses video and is fully encrypted end-to-end. This means that even if criminals attempt to destroy cameras or on-site storage appliances, recordings of any incidents are secured in a manner that is admissible as evidence. This eliminates the challenge of sending out an engineer to collect footage. It’s a simple solution that is flexible and fully compliant with regulations such as the GDPR.”