Investing in smart security
How the right security system can increase revenue and protect brand
Investing in smart security is not just about adhering to government regulations; here three experts reveal how the right system can increase revenue and protect a brand name
Hoteliers in the Middle East are increasingly looking at security systems as an essential tool for providing guest satisfaction and the comfort of feeling secure, according to Al-Futtaim Technologies general manager Venkat Raghavan.
“Regulatory authorities constantly review and update requirements for security systems being implemented by hotels; this is an ongoing exercise and sets standards for hotels to follow. These standards follow best practices in line with threat assessment and are required in most cases,” says Raghavan.
“In the past, most hotels viewed security features and investments as a matter of compliance to regulatory and licensing requirements and were keen to have the bare minimum. However, over the years we have witnessed this mindset change — especially with increased threat perceptions,” Raghavan explains.
Traditional video surveillance systems are mostly being used as reactive tools to review incidents rather than as proactive prevention tools, according to Raghavan. However, intelligent video surveillance systems using advanced video analytics can help hotel operators extract better returns on investment and performance from their existing or planned CCTV infrastructure.
Such solutions can be incorporated into existing CCTV infrastructure and are scalable, meaning they can easily be enhanced based on changes to threat levels or regulatory requirements.
“The system acts as a brain (artificial intelligence) behind the eyes (CCTV cameras). The platform is configured to detect and identify objects of interest, such as people and vehicles; track them to determine if they pose a security threat according to predefined rules — for example perimeter breach, a bag left behind or counter flow of traffic — and subsequently alert personnel in the field via predefined devices such as an alarm, telephone or email for example,” asserts Raghavan.
Furthermore, Raghavan adds that advanced solutions can also be leveraged as operational and productivity enhancement tools to monitor on-duty staff, regulate parking flow, and to recognise and record number plates; avoiding manual-entry registers for example.
Raghavan’s top tips
1. Make regular professional risk assessments and security system audits
2. Opt for a scalable system to accommodate new enhancements or requirements
3. Ensure in-house staff are trained on basic trouble shooting and maintenance
4. Ensure a proper service level agreement is in place
5. Consider lifetime value of the system rather than just initial cost outlay
Al-Futtaim Technologies represents brands such as Panasonic, Bosch, Miditec and Singapore Technologies.
The company recommends its intelligent video surveillance equipment, marketed as a “proactive” solution, unlike older CCTV models, which are generally only responsive to security breaches.
Axis Communications ME
New standards and regulations implemented by UAE governments have improved hotel security and in most Middle Eastern countries measures meet international standards, says Axis Communications regional manager Baraa Al Akkad.
“Last year, Dubai Police introduced a guideline to hoteliers in the UAE, which included details on where to install a camera, the storage period and the minimum video frame rate required.
“In addition, the Ministry of Abu Dhabi recently ruled that all security systems installed in hotels should be H.264 compliant. H.264 is an open, licensed standard that presents a huge step forward in video compression technology,” says Al Akkad.
What this means is that the solutions offer improved resilience to errors, provide new possibilities for creating better video encoders that enable higher-quality video streams, higher frame rates and higher resolutions at maintained bit rates when compared with previous minimum standards.
As a result, Axis Communications has seen an increase in sales for its advanced security systems in the Middle East.
“Our open standards help system integrators to provide total security solutions with a wide range of network video cameras and encoders based on H.264 compression, high-definition TV quality, unique designs and specifically developed discreet solutions that are ideal for hotels and resorts, such as AXIS M3011 and P33 series cameras,” Al Akkad explains.
Al Akkad’s advice
1. Consider brands, overall costs and who will install the system
2. Opt for a supplier with technical experience, references and open standards
3. Suppliers should also offer a service to conduct onsite and lab tests
4. Ensure replacement parts are readily available and warranties are in place
5. Network video products and systems are easier to manage and maintain
Axis Communications provides network video products and solutions specifically designed for hotels.
Its latest products include cameras, encoders and network video recorders with H.264 and HDTV, and can meet customer requirements for easy integration with other security systems and high return on investment, according to the company.
Siemens Building Technologies — Security Solutions
A worst-case security threat scenario can seriously damage a hotel operator’s brand name, says Siemens AG Head Market Development Board Hospitality SVP Michael Hartmann.
“Since the only asset owned by many hotel operators is their brand — and no real estate — this scenario is particularly risky,” he adds.
Like Al-Futtaim Technologies, Siemens has observed complacency among hoteliers worldwide, but Hartmann highlights forward thinking among Middle East hotels. “While international hotel operators usually have higher standards than those prescribed by law for their passive security systems, including CCTV, intrusion detection and higher-level security processes, unfortunately hotel investors and owners often ignore chain-specific standards for cost reasons and provide budgets that only cover the minimum required by law,” he says.
“We have highly-sophisticated, danger-management systems today, particularly at airports. Parts of them could be implemented in large hotels or connected to professional expert systems via remote security service centres.
“However, only owners and investors from the UAE are thinking along these lines.
“The rest of the world is not interested. Outside of the Middle East, people have a false sense of security,” asserts Hartmann.
Furthermore, investment in security products is not the only issue. The main hurdle is the lack of appropriate security processes, according to Hartmann.
He refers to the inter-link between security equipment and processes to protect people and assets in real time, saying in a case of a guest being harassed, for example, there are usually no people professionally trained to handle such situations, even if certain tasks are outsourced to security professionals.
“If I were a hotel GM, I would set up an exercise where a person infiltrates a regular hotel operation with the specific brief to initiate security-relevant situations to gauge the response. I guess the result will be an ideal eye opener to identify serious security gaps,” says Hartmann.
1. Choose suppliers with references/certified products and consider local regulations
2. Look out for false alarm guarantees and extended maintenance contracts
3. Fire and life security products usually have a lifecycle of up to 30 years so make sure your chosen supplier is financially secure and will be around for that long
4. Opt for products that can be connected to other Building Management Systems
5. Choose companies that can establish or outsource security processes and offer round-the-clock cover
Siemens has experience in varied markets, including hotels, and much of that experience can be used to develop integrated solutions.
The company recommends highly intelligent security systems, which can give staff electronic instructions and control all relevant building automation systems in an emergency, such as turning off the air conditioning systems, opening fire doors, opening smoke extraction vents for smoke-free stairwells, activating emergency lighting, activating CCTV systems for locating the sources of danger, individual and logged evacuation announcements, detailed information for rescue services etc.