Why should you draft in an external security specialist and what should you expect them to bring if you do?

Aug 16, 2021


by Frank Crouwel

In this article Frank Crouwel, Managing Director of security technology integrator NW Security Group, answers the question: ‘Is it sensible, given the seismic changes going on in video analytics, for most CCTV systems to continue to be managed entirely in-house?’

In an England-wide market study which we commissioned during May 2021, 93 per cent of all 103 medium and large sized firms running video monitoring systems supported by video analytics software we contacted, reported having CCTV systems which generated excessive numbers of false alarms.

Of this group, 41.7 per cent of systems were managed entirely by in-house IT departments. Nearly as many, 37.9 per cent, were managed by either in-house Security or Facilities Management departments. Just one in five CCTV system owners (20.4 per cent) were either using an external outsourced security service (13.6 per cent) or had an in-house team working with an external CCTV installer/integrator (6.8 per cent).

Time for Collaboration?

The question I wanted to address here is: ‘Should new multi-disciplinary in-house security management teams be seeking outside expertise bearing in mind a growing plethora of opportunities to extract operational efficiencies from careful application of next-generation video analytics software solutions and the complexity associated with configuring this software to make the best use of it?’.

Our analysis of the findings from our market research study, which was focused on deployment levels of video analytics software, reveals the answer is definitely in the affirmative. For example, we found a number of key video analytics including ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition), VMD (Video Motion Detection), OCR (Optical Character Recognition), and people counting was much more heavily installed and deployed in existing systems where an external integrator, installer or third-party security services provider was involved.

In some cases, deployment levels were over 20 percent higher when third-party expertise was working with the companies concerned. However, video analytics adoption levels don’t reveal the success or otherwise of those analytics implementations per se.

CCTV systems need to be measured on wider array of business benefits

For that, we need to look to what is being achieved by these deployments and explore whether results look more positive where a third party expert is lending a hand in specifying, installing, configuring, or even managing systems day in, day out.

I decided to look at what video security systems decision-makers’ expectations were for their systems if they were managing entirely in-house, as compared to the expectations of those pulling in outside expertise. Analysis revealed that, where a third party expert is involved, many more firms are using their CCTV systems to extract more than one key business benefit – often going beyond purely security, to deliver operational benefits as well, such as health & safety or goods tracking in the logistics sector.

Respondents’ targeted business benefits Only Internal Teams involved External Experts involved
For monitoring of equipment, production processes or operational procedures 73% 86%
For Health & Safety purposes including keeping our premises ‘COVID Safe’ 63% 76%
Securing our property and assets 65% 67%


So, the only percentages which are similar – when comparing in-house only versus using external support – are in the traditional role of CCTV systems in helping to secure businesses’ property and assets. But as we know the latest generation of video analytics, combined with potential integrations with multiple other networked systems, makes it possible to do far more with what was once just a video surveillance system. Involving external expert support provides an opportunity to get much more out of your camera system, our independent research finds.

CCTV systems extended to support new COVID Safety requirements

There also has been widespread deployment of video analytics in existing video security systems to help keep high street retail shops and business premises ‘COVID Safe’, for example. You can add video analytics to measure crowd density in high footfall areas in shops; or monitor room occupancy numbers in offices’ meeting rooms as they have started to refill post-lockdown.

Offices and hotels are using facial recognition analytics to provide contactless access to guests and staff alike to reduce risk of viral transmission on access control devices. Our research showed 60 percent of respondents use facial recognition for the purpose of access control.

Some in retail are using access to video systems for visual merchandising purposes – essentially remotely reviewing new store layouts, observing, and directing adjustments to goods being displayed in stores to make it easier for customers to move around their stores and view more items. I could go on.

Perhaps the key point is that CCTV systems need to be seen now as a route to visual ‘big data’ gathering and analysis for whatever business benefit can be derived from this process. Of course, all within natural legal, and moral constraints associated with any systems which are potentially gathering and using personal, identifiable data.

Is your video monitoring system cyber secure and GDPR compliant?

It does not end there. It’s also clear from our market research that where board-level concerns such as GDPR compliance, cybersecurity protection, and system resilience are at work, again external security specialists are more likely to be involved in shaping the right solutions for those companies.

Nearly half (43%) of all companies supported by external security specialists had a live ‘top priority’ project ongoing which was designed to harden all networked systems to combat cybersecurity threats. Whereas for firms running their CCTV systems in-house, just 35% of them were focused on hardening their physical security systems against cyber-attacks this year.

Over half (52%) of all firms supported by external security specialists had a top priority project running to improve the ‘GDPR compliance and data protection procedures surrounding our CCTV system’. Whereas for firms running their CCTV systems entirely in-house, 45% of them were focused on improving their GDPR compliance capabilities associated with their physical security system by the end of this year.

‘Improvement on the CCTV system’s resilience and back-up systems and procedures’ was a 2021 top priority for over half (52%) of firms where third-party security installers, integrators, or alarm receiving service providers were involved. Whereas for firms running their CCTV systems entirely in-house, 48% of them were focused on system resilience, backup systems, and procedures.

CCTV systems management becoming board level concern

Over two thirds (70%) of the chief executives responsible for their physical security systems which we reached in this study, put ‘Improvement on the system’s resilience and back-up systems and procedures’ as a top priority for 2021 and 62% of proprietors and business owners placed ‘Improvement of GDPR compliance/data protection procedures surrounding our CCTV system’ as 2021 ‘top priority’.

By contrast, the top priorities for CCTV systems improvements, where in-house teams are solely in charge, tend to be narrower-focused on physical security systems functionality improvements such as finding and retrieving required footage of security incidents easier and quicker.

The more strategic the issue and the larger potential threat it poses to business continuity, the more likely an outsourced specialist is being pulled in to help senior decision-makers to ensure not only the functions of security systems are working; but also, broader operational and higher-level risk management mitigation demands of the board are also considered and designed into security system improvements and extensions.

External security specialists offer the opportunity to explore the use of CCTV systems to address many more business issues and derive more value from systems

Every measure in our research shows that using an external security integrator results in better use of technology and system management. Where a good specialist is involved, in-house security, FM or IT departments are more likely to get an opportunity to look up from simply keeping CCTV systems running; to considering what new video analytics solutions could be applied for the wider benefit of the business longer term. Bringing in an expert who has already worked wonders for others and getting them to share ideas and improved outcomes is a good place to start when looking at which new video analytics’ capabilities to switch on and optimise for your business.

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