"Smart security" refers to monitors used in facility security systems that are integrated with the Internet and cellular phone systems to enable a variety of alerts and actions.
The big advantage in smart security systems is the reduced cost of monitoring. In most cases, you -- the person responsible for facilities security -- can make the call yourself, deciding whether or not to summon police or take other security measures you can now activate remotely. That includes such things as:
- Access and perimeter controls
- Remotely utility shutdowns for water, electrical, or Internet
- Remote shutdown or rerouting of computer networks
- Activating location cameras to record and/or transmit video
- Remote access to real-time video from smartphones and tablets
Everybody is worried about cyber security, but don't lose sight of the need to keep your physical premises protected from the traditional threats of theft and vandalism, or destruction caused by fire or a burst water pipe. As Michael Brown, writing in PC World, points out, "The best cyber security measures in the world are useless if a thief breaks into your office and makes off with your computers."
Smart Security Systems Available at Modest Prices
Fortunately for small businesses, some highly effective security systems are very affordable. A basic do-it-yourself alarm system can run less than $200. That's for a system designed for home use, but for a small office or small business, that may be all you need. Even a basic video surveillance system can be had for as little as $300. And, thanks to the Internet, even at this price point you may get real-time monitoring and alarms sent to your smartphone!
For more sophisticated systems -- those to protect larger or multiple locations with more access points -- professional systems require an installation cost as well as a monthly fee that includes monitoring of the premises and automatic police and/or fire department notification in case of alarms. Here, the monthly fees range roughly from $50 to $100 for a small office with a single entry, to $2,000 or more for a large facility, depending upon the options you need and the number of locations and access points.
Assembling a Smart Security System
Smart security systems can run the gamut from a smoke detector to 24-hour video monitoring, with price points to match. You can hire a security services firm to manage the entire process for you, but most likely you'll have to piece a custom security system together from these components:
- Monitors. Sensors that detect motion, or the use of doors or other access points when a location is closed, can be set to trigger an alert. Sensors can monitor such important conditions as the temperature in an industrial freezer or the humidity in a floral greenhouse, and send an alert or take an action if a certain threshold is met.
- Transmission Methods. Historically, alerts have been transmitted via a telephone landline to a monitoring station. There is always a risk that the phone lines will be down in an emergency, and most systems today offer additional notification through cellphone networks and the Internet.
- Wired Versus Wireless. Wired video systems are more expensive than wireless systems due to the added costs for materials and installation. However, they are generally less prone to failure than wireless systems. A wired system may be best for new construction or if you're confident of staying in the same facilities over the long term. For temporary locations, a wireless security system can be taken with you when you leave.
- Remote Control Video Activation. These systems automatically trigger video recording and/or transmission when a threshold event has occurred, such as motion detection. They run the course from taking, storing, or sending still images to allowing you to control the direction and zoom of the camera lens from your phone.
- Access Control. Electronic access systems allow entry to secure locations by authorized personnel only. Ways to gain access range from swiping an employee identification card, to entering an access code, to even using photo or biometric recognition technology. The movement of authorized personnel throughout a facility can be tracked with some systems. Notifications can be sent based on the location of specific individuals at specific times.
- Monitoring Services. If you want your system to actually respond to a security breach, you need some kind of monitoring. In some cases, that could be a notification sent to you or a designated employee via smartphone. An extra level of protection is added with direct notification to local fire and police departments. For more peace of mind around the clock, many security firms offer affordable 24/7 monitoring services.
Don't be dazzled by bells and whistles. As the Yahoo Business Advisor points out, "Using a high-tech solution to solve a low-tech problem can result in wasted money and effort. If you have vandalism problems in a parking lot, adding lights can be a far cheaper and more effective solution than installing cameras."
You can also outsmart yourself with some smart security systems. When the smart thermostat company, Nest, which was purchased by Google, introduced their Nest Protect Smoke Alarm, it included a feature that allowed users to wave a hand in front of the alarm to turn off a false alarm. This "smart" feature made the alarm unsafe, in the opinion of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Nest had to recall the smart alarms.
In the end, security system technology continues to improve. Those in charge of facilities security can get more and more information sent to them in real time to keep them aware of what is happening in the spaces they're responsible for keeping secure.