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Kings update

A recent security supplier’s day for customers and its suppliers was about updating them on the last 12 months – and included a frank analysis of the sector and a call to arms, writes Mark Rowe.

Attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of Kings Security, the Bradford-based company, from the pencils on tables to mark your scorecard before you took to the Carden Park course in the afternoon, to the opening talk by Anthony King, MD of the private-owned company. As head of a family-owned firm, you could forgive him for being set in his ways. He is quite the opposite. Speaking later to Professional Security, he repeated a point he makes to his staff; that they are not bell-box fitters any longer: “It has to be about more than that.” And if a customer wants just a bell-box, there are other companies out there that can offer that, he added. There lay the theme of Kings’ day in Cheshire for customers and suppliers – attended by people from retail and utilities, besides sponsor manufacturers Honeywell, Axis Communications, Mayflex, Razberi Technologies, CSL DualCom, Milestone Systems, Pryonix, Risco, Tyco Security Products and WebWay.

Pictured at Carden Park left to right are Rob King; Philip Kay of The Co-operative Group; and Anthony King.

As reported in our April issue and on display at IFSEC in June, the company is taking on apprentices. “The apprenticeship scheme has been critical, absolutely critical, to feeding the growth of Kings and extending what you are trying to do,” Anthony King told the Carden Park audience. “There’s a huge skills gap within our industry … and if we don’t meet that skills gap there’s a tidal wave coming towards us. IT will take over and they will just swamp it,” such as electronic access control, “because they see it as just another device to put on the network.” Hence an IP-only distributor such as Mayflex in the room, and noticeably that firm had some big guns there – Gary Harmer, whose account Kings is, and MD Andy Percival. Gary Harmer told Professional Security that Mayflex deals with security companies like Kings, and network companies: “But the customer base is converging. The security companies are recruiting and upskilling on network technologies.”

No plug and play
Installers of IP are not being trained in our industry, was Anthony King’s blunt message. His company has put more than 100 engineers through Axis’ two-day network CCTV course. “We don’t believe in plug and play. Plug and play tome is one of the scariest terms ever, in IP security. If you are doing plug and play, it means you don’t know what you are doing. You are talking about IP for dummies. If you don’t know what you are doing, you are creating potentially a back-door for that business, to open up to hackers, cyber-attackers, anything on to that network.” If a digital recorder is not secure, for instance, it could be the way into a main corporate network. Installing not understanding what they are doing, adding IP CCTV, could be your biggest network problem, he warned. Likewise his engineers have been through Milestone video management software courses, and managers, including Anthony King, have been through security management professional courses. He’s a believer in qualifying and professionalising, for what it takes us away from as much as the ‘bigger picture’ that it delivers: “Quite frankly you can be a window cleaner one day and install CCTV the next and I think that’s disgusting.”

On training, which not only in private security is something nice to have in good times, Anthony King said: “We don’t have a training budget within Kings, because we don’t believe in restrictions in how much to put on staff, to make sure we have the best people we possibly have.” Nearly all employees will be undergoing some kind of formal education, he said: “We want to set a standard for our industry.” And with that, he went on to service delivery: “We have seen our SLAs [service level agreements] increase and increase.” Not only in more competent engineers; but through spending on stock and vehicles – by working with distributor ADI and Honeywell in particular, the average service engineer carries £3500 of stock in the van – the firm looks to do the job first time: “We don’t want to be going back, causing you hassle and grief.” The firm has grown to a £50m business this year and has a vision to become a £100m one, ‘and to get there you have to keep investing in people, infrastructure’.

Intelligence service
Next came a talk by Met Police DC Alex Toghill on the force’s use of CCTV – part of Det Chief Insp Mick Neville’s forensic image team at New Scotland Yard, featured last issue. Anthony King took the floor again to show KIS – Kings Intelligence Service. In fairness, other security providers are drawing the same conclusion – that intruder alarm activations and CCTV can detect and prevent crime; but it’s possible to go further, to offer a fuller ‘intelligence cycle’. The theory is that you have a requirement; you analyse, collect data, meet the requirement and evaluate. Yes, an installer is fitting CCTV and alarms; but why? One factor as Anthony King mentioned here was the cuts in police services, constraining what they can do, not only police officers but dogs and helicopters. “There’s a huge reality check for us, the times are changing and there’s only going to be so much the police are able to do. We as an industry have to step up. Low-level crime is something police are just not able to give time and attention to.” Either ‘we’ – private security and indeed society – let low-level crime just happen, or we take the lead. In retail terms that’s aggression over the counter, or stolen goods taken off a caught shoplifter who’s allowed to walk out of the shop. Hence the new Head of Strategic Engagement at Kings, formerly with the Met Polic, Rob King (no relation), who described KIS. He talked in terms of an opportunity to work alongside and support the police, to minimise shrinkage (in retail) and apprehend offenders. That might mean use of civil recovery, and banning notices; again, in fairness, not novel tactics. Nor is it new to identify KPIs, identify hot-spots, profile stores that are under-(or over-) performing, or hot-spots of a sort of crime. He spoke of establishing a ‘business intelligence community platform’, and including open source material, to act on alarm events, do facilities management, and profile risks; and attach documents (such as contingency plans and risk assessments, or CAD drawings) and maps to premises, that a CCTV operator can pull up. Software likewise would let you put together and store loss and witness statements, and details of exhibits, to present to police. A user could analyse crimes – what time of day and week are burglaries or shop thefts, and attempts, for example; what security measures actually work? Interestingly, for all this talk of ‘technology solutions’, Rob King also spoke of culture and willingness to change; that retailers (for instance) would share information.

High street retailer
Anthony King took us through the ‘intelligence cycle’ for a high street retailer, on a big screen as operated by Rocco Volpe, the firm’s IT director. We saw the number of ‘critical events’ in the last 24 hours, confirmed alarms or failures to set alarms, which would let the customer ask; why is that store in the north-west not setting its alarm at night far more than the others? Whatever you want recording is logged, such as key-holding calls or cash in transit staff on site. You see a pie chart of reactive and maintenance SLAs. The suggestion is that, anonymously, a customer will see data on other customers’ sites, to show whether they are having a similar problem, whether an area or a city having the same crime problems or line faults, which might need target hardening or a police response. Anthony King here again spoke of the plan of adding open source material, towards giving customers a better picture of risks; a high-risk site might need ‘tagging’ on the system, to ‘keep an eye on’, whether because it has on-site guarding or a cash machine. Or an ATM has just been installed at a store, and someone on your team has tagged that as something to watch for; you can get an email or text notification. Or, you have an area manager you are concerned about; if anything happens on a site in his area, or within so many miles of it, you want to know about it. This risk approach is not only about adding security; does a store in the Outer Hebrides need CCTV?!

Next stage: screens
Anthony King proposed a next stage, and the clue was the tablets on each table for guests. Have an iPad mounted on the wall behind the shop counter, as an interactive screen. If you see someone suspicious in the alcohol aisle, you could touch the ‘wine and spirits’ button and an announcement would sound in the drinks aisle, to make customers aware that CCTV is on site. That also helps make a control room operator aware, and an image is captured. And the member of staff sees on screen that the activation has been logged. Equally, if an alarm is not setting properly, a service request is sent via the screen; and again, a notification can be sent to the screen that it’s been dealt with online, or that engineer X is on the way; and then when he’s however many minutes from the store. The screen can be more than a security device – press alert if there’s a lost child in the shopping centre; or log a health and safety incident, or a fire test or asbestos check, or circulation of suspect £20 notes, or whatever the user wants logging. A queue is backing up and not enough staff are at the tills? Press a button and a recorded message calls for assistance; and can take a CCTV snapshot of the queue. Again, that snapshot can go to a store or area manager, to assess if a store is under- (or over-) staffed. Anthony King believes that this will change how electronic security works with customers.

Questions from the floor showed that people had been listening. First; what would be the cost of KIS? No cost for development, Anthony King replied: “It’s your data.” He was proposing that a customer rent the iPad-interactive screens. One policewoman in the audience agreed that the cuts mean change: she cannot guarantee she’ll get a police response, if her home is burgled: “We are going to have to get smarter.” Next came the point that it’d require a ‘mental leap’ about data protection, as businesses think of keeping data to themselves. Anthony King agreed. Pubs for instance were reluctant to tell police about crime, in case of trouble over their license. That said, a Head of Retail Loss Prevention thought ‘we have to learn to help ourselves’ and sharing data with competitors has brought wins; such as catching the ‘Fagin-like’ leader of a team of shoplifters. Retailers will only get results catching prolific thieves – selling stolen boilers on eBay for example – by working together, as it’s difficult to get police to take cases on. Another in the audience said: “I have been in the corporate world for about 12 years. The way police engage with the corporate world has come forward leaps and bounds.” He gave the examples of Project Griffin; and the CSSC (Cross-Sector Safety and Security Communications). Lunch, a round of golf and evening with after-dinner speaker Ross Kemp, the TV presenter, beckoned. Anthony King’s parting words were: “It’s a step change for the industry.”


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