The excitement around using managed services to secure outdoor assets continues to grow. The key to the success of managed services for physical security is accurate alarms that can be quickly verified. First responders need to trust the legitimacy of an alert and be able to determine the urgency and scope of the situation in real time to take appropriate actions.
Until recently, managed services have primarily been used for indoor systems, where the stable environment has allowed automated systems to function well. Outdoor security applications, on the other hand, are subject to many more variables that until now have made them more problematic for third-party management. For this reason, the success of security as a service for outdoor spaces is dependent on using very smart solutions that can overcome the difficulties of the outdoors and produce accurate alerts.
There are two critical needs to make managed services viable. The first is a sensing system that is accurate, 24-hours per day, particularly in detecting and distinguishing between what is relevant and what is not. The second is a system that first responders can use to see what caused the alarm, providing credibility.
Of all the sensing systems used to detect intrusions outdoors, smart thermal cameras represent the best approach for generating the accurate, verifiable alerts needed for successful managed services. Because smart thermal cameras “see” heat rather than light, they are a perfect “human detector,” and will ignore headlights, reflections off water, or other activity. Today’s thermal cameras now operate very accurately in both complete darkness and bright sun, making them a stable 24-hour-day solution. They can be used in all environments around the world, from the arctic to the middle east desert, and are impervious to harsh weather conditions. Smart thermal cameras can employ very accurate size filters to eliminate small animals and other unimportant activity, reducing nuisance alerts and raising detection accuracy.
In short, smart thermal cameras extend the functionality of an indoor burglar alarm to the outdoors – with virtually none of the nuisance alerts or misdetects that have plagued other solutions in the past.
Conventional wisdom would make one think that visible camera solutions would be the least costly approach. The reality is that thermal cameras can cover greater distances – over 600 meters in some cases – reducing infrastructure needs such as poles, cabling and power that would be required with a visible camera solution. They can run over wireless, further reducing infrastructure costs. And smart thermal camera prices themselves have been dropping significantly in recent years, and are now available at an MSRP as low as $10/foot.
Most important for managed services, these systems deliver not only accurate detection, but they also combine 24-hour video verification into a single system. Such verification is needed to give credibility and priority to first responders. Rather than having to purchase, deploy and integrate two disparate systems for detection and for video, smart thermal cameras utilize a single system to accomplish both. This is clearly a more cost-effective strategy for installation, maintenance and use.
A similar situation arose in the early days with home burglar alarms; when their accuracy improved, the business model for monitoring services became a viable and lucrative market. With the accuracy and affordability of smart thermal solutions, security as a service is now viable for outdoor physical security as well.
An earlier version of this article originally appeared in GSN Magazine.