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Your New Security Detail

By Mark van Dijk

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You use artificial intelligence (AI) every day, often without knowing it. Shouldn’t your estate’s security team have the same kind of data-driven support?

If you want to see what your future looks like, CES is a good place to start. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show, held at the beginning of the year in Las Vegas, showcased inventions and innovations like super-high-resolution 8K television screens, robotic prosthetic legs, and a vacuum cleaner with built-in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that helps the machine identify – and avoid sucking up – socks that’ve been left lying on the floor.

In among the next-gen smartphones, computers and other assorted gadgets, CES’s tech junkie delegates also got a glimpse of the future of residential security. It’s a future that uses AI to make homes and estates safer than ever before, with machines working alongside humans to create and maintain unimaginably tight security systems.

Take the SimCam, for example. A CES 2019 Innovation Awards winner, this AI-powered security camera recognises familiar faces and specific objects that you’ve designated, sending you photo alerts within a second if a person enters your preselected activity zone, or if a specific object goes missing. It uses built-in, trainable AI to generate custom notifications, and cuts down on false alarms by monitoring pets and letting you know if a family member or resident takes a particular action in a specific time range or place. ‘For years, home security hasn’t been truly smart,’ Shenzhen SimCam Intelligent Technology CEO Aaron Zhang said in a statement. ‘False alarms never rest. […] We believe the on-device AI technology that SimCam is built on is the next evolution of home security.’

Key to it all is the idea that AI technology will work with – and not replace – human security guards. A famous (or infamous, depending on your chosen career path) 2013 Oxford University study predicted how likely it was that thousands of job types would be automated by the year 2030. Security guards, according to the study, had an 84% probability of being made redundant by robotics.

But if you think your estate’s walking, talking, human security guards are going to be replaced by robots or AI computer systems, then you’re looking at all of this the wrong way. Every day, you use AI to autocomplete your text messages, to curate your Netflix playlist, to guide you through the morning traffic … often without even realising it. So AI is not about firing your human security team and bringing in the autonomous cameras; it’s about letting those humans use AI the same way you do. ‘A more pragmatic approach is to stick with your existing human interfaces, and augment them with digital intelligence,’ says Ryan Falkenberg, co-CEO and cofounder of South African software firm Clevva. ‘This gives you room to learn and make mistakes, because your staff can step in when your digital logic is found wanting. It means approaching AI from a both/and position, not an either/or one. In other words, you’re including, not excluding staff in your digital mix. Only once you have perfected your digital logic do you then look to adopt purer forms of digital autonomy.’ A good example of this is the Deep Sentinel Smart Home Surveillance System, which was showcased at CES. The system combines predictive AI and human guards to create a virtual perimeter around the property, monitoring activity in real time, and preventing false alarms. ‘Our LiveSentinel surveillance team has eyes on intruders from the second they step on your front yard, making Deep Sentinel the only home security solution that includes active security guards whose job it is to shout criminals off your property,’ says Deep Sentinel CEO David Selinger. ‘Equipped with cutting-edge AI technology, LiveSentinel guards jump into action to confront intruders and alert authorities when suspicious activity is detected.’ The system also reduces costs by using AI to intelligently cut down on the number of call-outs, identifying and dismissing things like trees blowing in the wind, or neighbours driving past your front driveway.

As Derek Lategan, MD of Excellerate Service, pointed out in a recent media statement, the level of security at a residential estate depends on a mix of factors – and while outstanding systems could be undermined by the personnel manning and utilising the systems, those same security teams can only work within the limitations of the technology they have to work with … and both rely on the sensible behaviour of the residents!

‘It’s important to remember that no residential estate is perfect from a security perspective,’ Lategan says. ‘Residents still bear a responsibility; it’s vital that they guard against complacency. Living in an estate with a perimeter fence doesn’t negate the need to lock your door and set your alarm at night. The old saying, “See something, say something”, must be promoted, so that any security risks can be swiftly identified. Residents must work with security teams to keep criminal activity out of the estate, and developers need to remember that even the best security technology cannot ensure safety if the estate is poorly managed.

Sunflower Labs’ new drone surveillance system – another CES highlight – underlines how useful AI can be in supporting residential estate security management on the ground and in the air. Their system uses three pieces of tech to help security teams keep your property secure: the Bee, the Hive and a constellation of Sunflowers.

The Bee is a camera-equipped drone, which recharges at a control centre (that’s the Hive), which in turn connects via Wi-Fi to a set of garden lights (those would be the Sunflowers), which have built-in motion and vibration sensors that use AI to distinguish between people, pets and cars. If the system detects suspicious activity, the Hive sends an alert to the security team, who can deploy the Bee to see what’s going on, and respond appropriately. (The Bee could, technically, play its part automatically, but drone laws and privacy concerns prohibit that.)

Again, the strength of the system lies in a human security team being supported or augmented by artificial intelligence. AI, then, is increasingly being positioned as an essential tool for estate security. And just like you wouldn’t send a security guard out on patrol without a torch and a walkie-talkie, the technology is now reaching a point where you wouldn’t send one out without AI support either.

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