The battle against crime demands increasingly sophisticated security and surveillance devices. Kevin Kevany looks at the latest tactics and technologies for locking down business premises and stock.
It’s generally regarded as a given that we all drink and gamble more when times are tough. To that we can now add security – in all its manifestations. It seems we become far more concerned about our possessions, our businesses and our personal safety when the hard and volatile times hit.
That’s all good news for the security industry obviously, even if some firms have had a tough time keeping up with demand. But that’s a problem everyone would like to have right now.
‘Security’ has moved on rapidly from the days of the physical barrier, guards stumbling about to reach their clock-in points, and barking dogs designed to intimidate any would-be intruder with burglary in mind. Today, security is about adapting, inventing or adopting state-of-the-art technology to not only deter and deflect, but also to provide the evidence to prosecute those who choose crime. We even have ‘DNA’ in the mix.
Shoplifting alone is costing New Zealand retailers millions of dollars a year with lipsticks, shaving products, perfume and infant formula being the favourite products to snatch.
The latest Global Retail Theft Barometer, which surveys more than 1,100 retailers around the world, shows New Zealand and Australian stores lost nearly $3 billion of goods due to customer or employee theft, or administrative error, in the year to June 30. And, remarkably, that constituted the first fall since the survey began in 2007.
Retailers’ Association CEO, John Albertson, reckons theft costs New Zealand shopkeepers an estimated $600 million to $800 million a year. Employee theft has cost New Zealand and Australia over $4.7 billion over the three year period.
Worldwide, retailers lost a staggering $154 billion this year along. India had the highest rate of loss with 2.72 percent of retail sales, while Taiwan had the lowest with 0.87 per cent. We sit somewhere in the middle.
And that is just one aspect of the massive crime wave the security industry is trying to counteract.
In our last security feature, about a year ago, we highlighted two emerging companies we thought had innovative products, but also the structure and savvy factor to be winners. SelectaDNA and Mi5 haven’t disappointed. And, of course, our first global player in the security business, Gallaghers, just keeps on racking up contracts and awards too.
Mi5, operating out of the proverbial garage and home office back then, has taken off and kept zooming in on its goals to such an extent that they aren’t only world famous in New Zealand, but now look to conquer the Asia-Pacific region too.
The mantelpiece in their new Grafton premises is already adorned with a David Award for Most Outstanding Fledgling Business 2010 and, at the time of going to press, were listed in the prestigious “Red Herring’s Top 100 Asia Awards” – honouring the year’s most promising private technology ventures.
“Despite the global economic situation, there were many great companies who are producing really innovative and amazing products, so we had a difficult time narrowing the pool and selecting the finalists. Mi5 Security shows great promise, and therefore deserves to be among the finalists,” says Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring.
Understandably, Helen Wattie, CEO of Mi5 Security is excited, to put it mildly. “The growth and expansion we are experiencing is very rewarding. In addition, our expansion has attracted a lot of interest in our business, particularly over the past six months, from potential partners and investors from all parts of the world. This award is great recognition of the strength of our team and our united vision.”
Key to their success this year has been the combining of their “MyMi5” new generation VSaaS (Video Surveillance as a Service) user-friendly platform (allowing secure access from any location via the Internet) with their established RedEye wireless camera, which can remotely identify people and objects and immediately notify the customer.
“Customers can now view and control these affordable, state-of-the-art cameras and their output from anywhere in the world, something there is a huge demand for,” says Scott Wattie, COO, Mi5 Security.
“It means that remote and rural areas, where surveillance has not been available in the past, but for which there is a huge international demand, can now be served by the world’s first wireless and wire-free range of outdoor portable surveillance.”
Wattie is particularly buoyed by a national customer survey which said “Mi5 continually delivered creative and appropriate solutions”.
SelectaDNA has been no slouch in the period either. Ten days before our catch-up session, the New York Times featured the Kiwi company, and days later they were on the home page of the doyen of social gossip, Perez Hilton’s website; being described as “the coolest security system EVER”. An indication, if ever it was needed, that security is top-of-mind for so many individuals today.
The company, under the leadership of co-founder, David Morrissey, provides a kit which allows the home, business or institutional customers to apply forensic marking to about 100 items of valuable or targeted property; usually laptops, games consoles, jewellery, televisions and art. If an item is stolen and later recovered by Police, it can be examined under UV light and matched against a database of registered owners.
‘You steal, you’re marked’ notices are placed around the premises, warning would-be criminals that SelectaDNA has been applied. Those silly enough to ignore this are also, consequently, going to find it hard to ‘fence’ or sell their ill-gotten goods.
The unique DNA code in the solution will link each item to the individual owner, without damaging the marked property in any way.
SelectaDNA has been fortunate enough to so impress the BNZ with its technology, that the bank has installed its identification system in a hydra-spray form at the entrances to branches – anyone up to no good entering or leaving their premises around the country gets turned into a readily identifiable “blue being” for weeks afterwards. The bank is also distributing SelectaDNA kits at its branches – that’s taking endorsement to a unique level.
BNZ customers who purchase the property marking kit alongside their BNZ home insurance policy no longer need to pay a standard excess if they make a burglary claim. The average excess is about $250 for claims under the policy.
Morrissey is delighted with the progress achieved in its joint schools project with the BNZ too. Any regular viewer of TV news broadcasts will know that schools are a particular target, especially in vacation time. In recent months, the Property Marking Projects have been in full force across Manurewa, Rotorua district and the Waikato.
The three Randwick Park schools in high-crime Manurewa haven’t had a burglary in more than a year since the project launched.
Following on from that, all 44 schools in the Rotorua District received kits and communities were informed about the product. Results for the project are already showing a halving of the previous crime statistics.
And as proof that the Police are taking the system seriously, they are to phase out their old standard torches to a lighter white/UV light unit.
No doubt the company will call it a coincidence that an even larger scale Waikato Project, with 276 schools, recently kicked-off in Hamilton. SelectaDNA point to Kate Gabriel of the Waikato Police, as the driving force behind the project, through Operation SNAP (Serial Number Action Partnership) – community-based initiatives aimed at beating burglary and stopping the trade in stolen property.
Which brings us to Gallagher Security Management Systems, with more than 70 years of experience in researching and developing arguably the world’s leading electric fence systems.
Typical of well-established security companies, Gallaghers tends to keep a low profile, which adds to their appeal with major utility sites, military installations, prisons, and other strategic sites and customers around the world.
The company is anything but doddery, however, celebrating success again – this time as the winner of the 2010 New Zealand International Business Awards $10-50 million category – in mid-October. The award “recognises and celebrates companies who are successfully growing their business in international markets and New Zealanders who are leading the way in international business”.
CEO Bill Gallagher notes that while the security unit is very successful in its own right, “what sets it apart is its ability to leverage the competencies and resources from other divisions within the whole Gallagher Group”.
“Our in-house resources for tool-making, plastics and electronics manufacturing and logistics mean that production can be controlled end to end from concept design to manufacturing. The benefits of this include quality control, rapid development and deployment to manufacture, and the ability to produce economic short runs as well as large production capability. All of this is centrally managed on our Hamilton site.”
Gallagher says the Group’s R&D team of 90-plus staff have detailed and deep knowledge of the security sector, including electric fence technology, radio frequency identification, IT and security requirements, data encryption, high security applications, systems integration and industrial design.
“Our significant investment in R&D ensures we win a competitive advantage in the security market, proven by over 160 patents worldwide.”
The company has moved on from its iconic paddock fences to “identity analytics” or ID-recognition building access control.
“What was once considered a ‘security access control decision’ can now be thought of in broader terms as a ‘business workforce enablement decision’,” says Erin Rangi-Watt, brand manager.
“Whereas access control based on ‘who can go where and when’ delivers relatively fixed, non-dynamic results, it can now be greatly enriched when informed by data from integrated systems – including business and regulatory policy – defining an individual’s suitability for access, e.g. their status in terms of induction, training, certification, licences and fitness for work.
Identity analytics basically ensures people are competent, safe and accountable as they move around on site.
“We deliver this via our Cardax FT physical security management system. Identity analytics provides a high degree of control and certainty by ensuring the right people (who are inducted, trained, licensed and competent and therefore compliant with regulations) are in the right place at the right time, and by alerting system operators to exceptions. This greatly mitigates the risk of accidents, partial or full site shutdown and corporate liability,” Rangi-Watt says.
The sophistication and practicability of our security market leaders is both encouraging to new entrants and challenging in that you are taking on some of the world’s best.
Kevin Kevany is an Auckland-based freelance writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org