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Back to the Future

July 23, 2024 by Alistair Enser

At Reliance High-Tech we were thrilled this week to win the coveted Security Installer of the Year award at the Security and Fire Excellence Awards!

Now in their twenty-first year, this year’s virtual event was held online and celebrated the people, projects and processes that represent the best the industry has to offer. Award entries were judged by a panel of independent experts from all areas of the fire and security sector including end-users, academics and the police. This year the organisers made a number of category tweaks to make the event even more company, people, team and project-focused.

Winning this award is very much down to a team effort and I thank our customers and everyone at Reliance High-Tech for making this happen. Ordinarily, I would have said, in the words of the much-missed Prince, tonight we are going to party like its 1999 – the year when the Security and Fire Excellence Awards first started – but this year with the awards being virtual, we will just have to wait, and say a proper thank-you to our team and customers when we can!

It was twenty-one years ago today…

Winning this award got me thinking about what the world – and the security industry in particular – looked like back in 1999, and how different it would seem today.

At that time, the organisation I worked for was still selling many video recorders for security applications, which were fed on e180 videotapes. We did have digital recorders in the product line up, but it would still be a couple more years before they really took off.

Back then, a technology gap existed across markets. For example, when I joined Bewator in 2004, which we latterly sold to Siemens, 90% of its access control systems in Sweden were on a network, while in the UK some 80% still communicated on RS-485. Analogue CCTV cameras were still the norm and IP CCTV was still in its infancy in terms of the number of cameras and, indeed, manufacturers that supported it. Intruder systems were also analogue and building occupants had to look after their magnetic swipe cards, as they were typically the means of gaining access to their place of work.

A wider look at 1999 reveals things we now take for granted. If you were lucky enough to have any internet access at all, it was likely a 64kbps connection – which in layman’s terms would be 150 times slower than a 10meg (10mbps) broadband connection of today! Smartphones didn’t exist: the first iPhone only arrived in 2007. A rudimentary version of the iPad could be found in the grey-screen Apple Newton, although many still relied on their brick-like trusty Psion Organizer II, with its massive 64k memory. Do you remember them?

The risk climate was different also. Of course, 9/11 had yet to happen and the 7/7 bombings in London were six years away. So, despite incidents like 1999’s London Nail Bombings, and a number of IRA attacks in the mid-nineties, much of the attention paid to security by commercial and public sector organisations at the time was centred on the protection of physical buildings, and the assets within them. It was more about preventing unauthorised people walking in and stealing your laptop if you were lucky enough to have one.

Today… and tomorrow

Would we have ever guessed that 21 years later, we would be in the throes of a global pandemic, that cameras were being used to ensure people wear face masks, and that we would be more interested in cybersecurity, risk and reputation than simply theft and vandalism alone?

I suggest we would never have imagined waving our ‘yet to be invented’ mobile smartphone at a door to gain touch-free entry, relying on the mobile credential it carries instead of a magnetic swipe card. We could only have dreamt of the quality of images that today’s 4K HD cameras obtain, especially in low light. Nor that these cameras could be so easily integrated into a security system and work alongside access control and intrusion detection to provide a complete solution, perhaps hosted in the cloud, or instantly available on your phone or computer.

As I have written before, the biggest development most recently has probably come in the form of analytics, and the intelligence this delivers through a better understanding of how buildings and public spaces are actually used; insights that allow users to not only increase security but gain efficiency and save money. We are in ‘the world of data, information and analytics’. No longer is the security system the dusty relic in the corner of the room waiting for something to happen. Now it is an integral part of your business intelligence.

Over the last 21 years, the security industry has adapted to new technologies and new risk environments. But it’s true to say that this adaptation has accelerated over the last year as a result of the pandemic and, judging from the massive interest we see in clients in new technological solutions to meet their needs, the pace of change is not about to slow down any time soon.

Change lies ahead

In recognition of the changes over the last 21 years, the culture, skills, competence and focus of Reliance High-Tech continues to transform and evolve on a daily basis. We have moved from installing town centre CCTV systems to providing fully integrated systems across diverse geographic networks, looking after utilities, Government departments, Police forces, University estates and enterprise-level customers with demanding ends. We constantly invest and adapt, building our knowledge to remain relevant and ensure we provide the best service to our customers in an ever-changing world. No doubt the whole industry is on this journey too.

It’s nice to have our commitment, investment and willingness to adapt confirmed in the award of Security Installer of the Year. Which only leaves me to consider one question as we ready ourselves for the next challenge: what will things look like 21 years hence, in 2041?

Answers on a postcard – it would be interesting to receive your views.

Stay Safe.