Can technology ever replace security officers?

technology security officers

Share this content


Kevin Meagher, General Manager (Europe), RSPNDR explains that instead of replacing people in the industry, new technology will drive a need for more boots on the ground than ever before.

The advent of computers was expected to herald the end of the road for millions of workers that would no longer be needed because technology could do their work. In reality, the only posts that disappeared inside most organisations was the typing pool. All computers did was make it possible for us to do more, better and in a shorter time. Clearly, the advent of computers had a massive impact on our efficiency, but it did not replace people – it just allowed us to do more. 

The internet has been the next big step in the silicon revolution. As with computers, there is a view that the ability to use internet connectivity to monitor control devices remotely will remove the need for people. There is no doubt that this new connectivity will create disruption for people in some areas of business, but it is becoming clear that, like computers, it will open bigger and better opportunities elsewhere.

In most industries, monitoring and response services are becoming increasingly important so new connectivity and technology is creating work and not removing the need for people.

In industrial applications, remote monitoring – coupled with effective response for repairs and predictive maintenance – is becoming an essential requirement in any new designs. Everything from combine harvesters to boilers are being connected to IP so they can be monitored and sometimes repaired remotely. In these applications, monitoring centres play an increasingly important role, but ultimately, it’s the quality of response services that underpins the value proposition and delivers the ROI. These response services need people on the ground.

In security, it is recognised that CCTV and access control has somewhat removed the need for boots on the ground which has been bad news for security officer providers. However, what is less well recognised is how connectivity is going to sprout new opportunities for professional security officer providers to grow in other areas such as alarm monitoring and response.

Connectivity is not new to the security industry. Alarm systems have been remotely monitored for years, but they have had their problems and the market has struggled to realise potential. In the commercial sector, where risk and insurance requirements drive demand for specific security services, the market is robust – however, it has traditionally had low single digit CAG and security companies largely fight amongst themselves for market share to achieve growth. 

In the domestic market the industry has significantly underachieved. Penetration of professionally monitored security systems is below 4% with less than 1% of homeowners committing to police or keyholding response services. Arguably, one of the main reasons for this underachievement is that the industry has developed effective ways to monitor alarms through ARCs, but the value of monitoring is seriously undermined by lack of effective and affordable response options.

Poor response links back to historic issues

Police in the UK have somewhat distanced themselves from the security industry because of an extremely high rate of false alarms. Years of regulation and ever more robust technical requirements have done little to make material change and have simply increased cost and complexity; in turn, this serves to deter customers from buying.   

For many buyers, the core value proposition underpinning a purchase of a security system is the deterrent value and the peace of mind gained from knowing that if they have a problem, someone will respond. This is behind the US success, where 24% of all homes have professionally monitored systems. The UK market could see similar growth with the IoT and connectivity enabling better response services – response services that will actually create a need for more boots on the ground.

Using local professional security officer providers to respond to alarms rather than police could help the security industry grow. It relieves the concerns associated with false alarms and gives more work to local security officer providers that can easily fulfil the role by getting to the property quickly to see if there is a problem and then calling the police if there is an issue. 

Making this a reality

There are new entrants to the UK security market that believe they have the answer. Canadian company RSPNDR has shown how new cloud technology can be used to enable a radically different approach to security officer response services. In just four years, the company has secured hundreds of thousands of customers by partnering with all major security brands in North America and passing tens of thousands of responses to networks each year.      

When there is an alarm event, RSPNDR’s Uber-like platform instantly passes details to the nearest available patrol, tasks and guides them to the site where they conduct an external check of the property before reporting the findings. As 98% of all alarms are false, keys are rarely needed and events can be quickly closed by the ARC. Where there is a need to give security officers access to a property, RSPNDR has partnered with Loxal to offer a digital key safe that they can access by using their app.

The technology has allowed RSPNDR to reinvent the traditional business by creating an insurance model for security officer response. Customers can pay less than £1/week for security officer response; this covers up to two call outs/annum with the guarantee of a 30-minute response time or the call-out is free. 

Whether it is a domestic system or small business, the knowledge that someone will react quickly to an alarm adds significant value to both the security systems and professional monitoring services. More significantly, it proves the case and shows how, far from introducing efficiencies that reduce the need for people, technology can create new opportunities.

These types of technology-led businesses will grow the market for monitoring and response services by making them more flexible and affordable. The new business models will open the way to expand the services offered into other areas such as routine mobile patrols, holiday checks, key access etc.   Technology will also give companies that provide security officer services the opportunity to move beyond traditional security to deliver more personal responses.

Opening up the security market

In the US, Amazon Ring has moved firmly into the security space with companies like Google. They are linking their new offerings into monitoring centres and using security officer response services rather than police. This type of development is a lesson for the industry. Alarm systems and monitoring is important. However, response services are a critical part of the value proposition. If you can offer credible response services at a reasonable price points, more customers will subscribe to the value of alarms and monitoring. 

The use of technology for remote CCTV may have created efficiencies that reduced the need for security officers in one part of the security market, but it has opened a much bigger opportunity for growth in another.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox