Property protection: AI surveillance or more guards? Finding the balance between humans and technology

Aug 2, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

With more than 548,600 security guards employed around South Africa according to the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA)’s 2019/2020 report, it’s clear that physical presence is a top choice when it comes to protecting business and private properties.

Faced with an increasingly tough economic climate and rising crime statistics, security companies are under growing pressure to cut costs while increasing effectiveness. The solution does not lie in hiring more security guards, nor does it require labour force cutbacks. Instead, the solution lies in augmenting the human element with technology: remote CCTV monitoring made more effective by intelligent video analytics and false alert reduction software.

Manned security vs off-site CCTV monitoring: which is better for business? In most cases, the answer is both. 

Advantages of physical security guards:

  • Maintain a physical presence which is useful as a visual deterrent. 
  • Handle on-site tasks like access control, checking that doors are locked or walking staff to their vehicles late at night. 
  • Useful for enforcing parking regulations 
  • Provide tenants and clients with a tangible sense of security. 
  • Greet visitors, provide directions and patrol premises as necessary.
  • Respond to other on-site issues such as weather damage.

Disadvantages of physical security guards: 

  • Like all human resources, they need to be managed by other humans.
  • Human resource issues such as job satisfaction and working conditions can affect a guard’s performance. 
  • Guards can be coerced by threat of violence to “look the other way”.
  • On large premises, it can be tricky for a single guard to respond rapidly to threats.
  • The monthly cost of a security guard is significant. The monthly cost of a single guard could cover the licence fees for ai video analytics for approx 200 cameras!
  • Actions of security guards could result in legal action/insurance claims (wrongful detention, excessive use of force etc.) which can cause reputational harm.


It’s clear that guards have their place in the security value chain, providing a valuable service. However, there’s room for improvement in the effectiveness of that service and that’s where remote monitoring via CCTV can make all the difference. Remote monitoring is a cost-efficient way of enhancing the effectiveness of on-the-ground guarding without increasing headcount. Video surveillance enables monitoring operators to keep watch over numerous sites, along with the ability to alert security guards so that they can respond quickly and accurately to security incidents, like break-ins.

Advantages of remote video surveillance monitoring:

  • Cameras combined with motion sensors (combined with intelligent object identification software) provide effective, reliable surveillance around the clock.
  • Unlike human guards, cameras cannot be distracted or easily disarmed and visible cameras provide a deterrent against crime, while enabling operators to respond to alarms in real time.
  • Where incidents do occur, cameras record evidence of crime for later use in criminal investigation and incident reporting. 
  • Security cameras combined with video analytics can survey a large surface area more effectively than human eyes and can also be used to perform remote patrolling, through regular viewing of specific checkpoints. 

Disadvantages of remote video monitoring:

  • Initial setup cost for site survey and installation of monitoring equipment, however the average annual maintenance cost is relatively low. 
  • Cameras combined with motion sensors can be effective in catching potential criminal activity, but these can also generate a high number of false alarms triggered by wind, vegetation or animals, for example. These alerts have to be assessed by a human operator, which increases their workload and distracts from genuine alert events. 
  • When operators become overworked or inundated with excessive alerts, there is room for error, which means they could miss real alarms. 

What is the solution to false alarms in video monitoring?
AI-powered video analytics software is a game changer. An accurate AI-powered object detection system with customisable alerts can reduce false alarms in the monitoring system by up to 95%. Using AI to filter out false alarms operators can focus their attention on genuine alerts, and dispatch security guards to the correct location in response. 

Should I choose physical security guards or remote video monitoring?
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for security guards in public places such as shopping malls and hospitals. Instead of placing more workers at the frontline and exposing them to the risk of contracting the virus, video monitoring can save lives. For the protection of assets and property, remote monitoring is cost effective. However, most cases will benefit from an approach that combines physical guards and remote monitoring with video analytics in a cost-effective manner to achieve multiple security objectives. 

Advantages of a combined approach to security: human guards + artificial intelligence 

Introducing AI to video security monitoring can drastically streamline operator processes by filtering out up to 95% of false alerts. In a busy control room, this can greatly enhance operator efficiency. Any alert that relates to a  possibly genuine threat can be delivered to the video management system within seconds, giving the operator the ability to dispatch the appropriate response as quickly as possible. This gives security officers the advantage of rapid response which is important in situations like a break-in or armed robbery. 

How does technology augment the effectiveness of human security guards?

  • Live Camera View: Instead of rushing in blind, security guards will benefit from situational awareness communicated from the monitoring control room.
  • Accurate, actionable alerts: By filtering out the majority of false alarms through accurate object detection, operators are free to focus on genuine alerts and initiate the appropriate response action within seconds. 
  1. Global analytics model: aggregates learnings from all cameras through a deep neural network that improves accuracy in object detection, which means that the system gets more effective with time.
  2. Historical search function for previous alerts: Efficient search functionality for past events, based on time, site and alert type – making it easier for operators to search for footage relating to specific events. 
  3. Live system health reports: Provides instant alerts if the system is compromised in any way, making it possible for security personnel to intervene and remedy the system quickly, before an incident takes place.

With rising crime levels, the possibility of missing a real intrusion makes it clear that a single approach to security – either physical guards or remote monitoring – is insufficient. Current security practices need to be reviewed in order to find the best way to combine human and artificial intelligence in order to maximise the efficiency of both. 

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