The rise of digital crime prevention tools
Apps give residents greater visibility of their homes and enhance control, but care must be taken to guard against digital snoopers
Fighting crime is big business. The size of SA’s private workforce of armed-response officers — some might say, private army — is 250% of the SA Police Service. And South Africans reportedly spend about R55bn/year on private security.
But Fidelity ADT products manager Johan Joubert says the market is relatively saturated, growing at just 2.5% annually.
The next big play for the firm is connecting "dumb" alarm systems to the Internet.
Carel Wessels, chief technology officer of Fidelity Security Services, says this fits in with global trends of connecting buildings, the city and even vehicles.
"That is where the world is going at a fast pace. We are also on this journey, connecting the home from a security perspective, putting cameras in it, making sure the customer has access to it via an app."
This means security systems now make it possible, for example, for homeowners to disable alarm systems remotely, and use mobile devices linked to cameras to watch as they open their security gate to allow someone in before reactivating their garden beams.
In 2018 ADT launched two connected products to consumers — Secure Home and Secure Connect. Both can be retro-fitted to older systems (within limits), or bought as a package (plus monthly fees).
Secure Home is the first-tier product that lets homeowners arm and disarm alarm systems remotely, and get notifications via an app on their phones.
This security element of the Internet of Things (IoT), however, really comes into its own when you take it to the next level — with video feed into the app, and artificial intelligence (AI) learning your habits. This is possible through ADT’s Secure Connect package, which can link a whole ecosystem of devices, including door sensors, cameras, smartphones and proximity sensors.
In this way, a system can recognise if a mobile phone has left a certain area (the home) and can tell if you haven’t armed the alarm, or alert you that a door has been opened that isn’t usually opened.
This has several benefits. First, customers have more granular control over their systems and the alerts they get, more visibility of their homes and the peace of mind that comes with that. From a security company’s perspective, it also means more proactive maintenance and testing because the system has built-in reminders and can warn of battery or system issues.
Joubert says a key tactic in home and personal security is in creating layers of security that lend themselves to early warnings. If you can get an alert that your gate has been opened, or a perimeter beam disturbed, this gives the occupants and armed response vital extra seconds to reduce their response time. The flip side is that the more sight we have into our homes, the more digital doors we potentially open for digital snoopers and similar threats.
Joubert says ADT, as a default, has no sight of the video feed enabled by the Connect product. And Wessels assures that the firm operates within the ambit of the Protection of Personal Information Act.
"Part of my role is to make sure that all information is protected from external access and that we follow the global standards on making sure the data is safe and that customers can trust us with this data," he says.
Vanessa Tyne is a senior key account manager at Axis — an international connected camera and security solutions company with a local branch. Its clients are mostly at the enterprise level, including mining groups and retail mall groups. The group has had huge success with connected cameras working in conjunction with other connected technologies.
She cautions that the hardware itself and the network that carries personal information must be secured — and for this passwords need to be stronger, changed more often, and owners must be less complacent about securing home Wi-Fi routers, and similar devices.
"Cyber security [on top of physical security] is vital," she says. "We are so connected in terms of IP [Internet protocol] devices — laptops, phones, TVs, fridges and so on — and the security services industry needs to do more to drive this message to consumers."