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Looking back on the year – and forward to 2024

February 26, 2024 by Alistair Enser

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly the end of the year: putting together my review of 2022 seems like yesterday! Still, here we are, and I thought I would take the opportunity this week to look back on the topics I addressed this year while also giving some thought to what we can expect in 2024.

The year in numbers

I have posted more than twenty blogs on LinkedIn this year, reaching a total audience of over 50,000. The engagement that these blogs receive always amazes me, and the standard of comments is very high. LinkedIn is a social network, after all, and while I am obviously keen to talk about what we at Reliance High-Tech are up to, regular readers will know that I like to get into the topics that impact on the security industry, in particular and society in general. The comments readers make on these topics are very instructive.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the most popular blog posts this year talked about the challenges created by the use of technology – a recurring theme on here. Indeed, the blog that reached the widest audience and elicited the most engagement concerned news that UK police forces were using Chinese manufactured CCTV cameras, which drew sharp intakes of breath in the media and among pressure groups. At the time, I wrote that risk mitigation is not simply about the camera manufacturer, but also who designs your system, specifies it, installs it and maintains it – as well as how it is used. I stand by that view.

Other trends I addressed included why installers should embrace AI, reasons why facial recognition isn’t a monster under the bed, and the importance of accreditation in our industry.

Of course, given our work in the retail sector, at Reliance High-Tech and Reliance Protect we have been aware of the crisis in crime for some time, and I was blogging about this subject months before it became a story in the national press. In one particular blog I wrote about the absurdity of denying retailers technology that could keep their staff and customers safe, due to overblown fears for civil liberties. I ran a poll on the subject to see if my views are out of sync: apparently not, as over three quarters (76%) of readers agreed that retailers should be allowed to use facial recognition and analytics for the use of crime reduction only.

It was heartening to see that blogs around our CSR activity also got so much attention. Over the year I wrote about our support for the Blue Lamp Foundation and Young Enterprise, while I explained why apprenticeships and training are very important to us at Reliance High-Tech: I wrote at length about the importance of developing the Engineers of Tomorrow.

Thanks for reading my blogs this year, and please feel free to share your views on what you would like to see addressed going forward.

Into the New Year

Talking of which, what can we expect from 2024?

It may not seem it, but the economy is looking a lot better than a year ago, with interest rates and inflation both lower. Conflicts around the world could spell supply chain problems going into the New Year, and the UK may have a general election, which always creates uncertainty. Yet the climate is looking better in the UK, at least.

As I write this, the EU has agreed historic regulations around the use of AI, the first of the big economic blocs to do so. Whether this squashes innovation, as many European corporations have warned, is unclear. Certainly, an initial reading of the regulations suggest that the use of live facial recognition technology would be strictly limited in the EU as a result, and this does give the industry serious food for thought.

While this proves that the challenges we have around ethics in AI and analytics are definitely here to stay, the growing reliance on AI, analytics is only set to continue in 2024 in the UK at least, where the AI Act does not apply. I would also expect to see renewed interest in the cloud, as there are technologies around the corner that will allow a more streamlined means of integrating security systems, providing better outcomes for customers. Watch this space!

One thing I am sure of is that the skills shortage in the industry will remain a challenge. For our part, we continue to invest heavily in our apprenticeship and training schemes, but are also now doing more to develop skills in younger and disadvantaged groups, whether through Young Enterprise, Drive Forward, Caudwell Youth and our own efforts.

In my blogs I talk a lot about a future built around technology, but I am in no doubt that our future relies on young people, also.