For this article, we are delighted to be joined by Jonathan Sturley of Arc Monitoring. Jonathan is the founder, owner and Managing Director of Arc, a leading UK-based CCTV monitoring company.
With over 35 years of industry experience, we welcomed the opportunity to talk with Jonathan, to discuss the security industry and topics surrounding remote CCTV monitoring.
For this interview, Jonathan is joined by Chris Clifton one of Safeguard System’s directors.
Let’s get started with the interview.
Jonathan, tell us about your experience in the industry, and how you got into the security sector.
“My career in security dates back to the 1980’s. I was employed by a top 10 NSCIA (now NSI) security company. They specialised in intruder alarms and monitoring. I was living in London and during this time I really cut my teeth in the industry and grew my experience within the trade.”
What were your motivations to set up Arc Monitoring? A gap in the market, or an opportunity to simply do a better job than the competition? Tell us more.
“By this time I’d moved to Bristol. I was made redundant from a security company there and so my hand was forced somewhat. That said, technology and importantly broadband was starting to develop, and I saw a clear opportunity to build a better business than the one I worked for.”
Starting a business from scratch is challenging. You’ve made a huge success of Arc Monitoring, what’s the secret?
“Hard work and perseverance. As technology has developed over time, we’ve adapted along the way.
At first we offered alarm monitoring, and as technology allowed we moved into CCTV monitoring.
Going back to my first comment around perseverance, I recall a time when I was given an opportunity to potentially win a contract for a company in Norfolk.
The company was looking for an early warning system for the risk of flooding. We devised a system to identify high tides. I drove all the way from Bristol to Kings Lynn at 5am, stayed up half the night, delivered a brilliant demonstration to show the benefits of remote video monitoring and left feeling like we could do a lot to help that company.
21 years later, I’m yet to do business with them!
On the other hand, sometimes things just fall into your lap when you least expect them to.
However, you have to be there to have a chance.”
That’s a really honest account of the realities of starting a business. You must have seen some changes in the CCTV monitoring space over the years. Over the last 20 years, what have been the major changes you’ve seen in the industry?
“Within the CCTV monitoring space, the advancement of video analytics has shown it can really improve system effectiveness; identifying threats while reducing false alarms. Then there is infra-red and low light technology which has improved detection and helped with monitoring systems in remote locations or when visibility is poor.
In addition to advancements in tech, it’s worth noting how markets affect our industry. The 2008 financial crash for example had a significant effect on the remote monitoring industry. During recessions we often see an increase in crime, and with that, a greater focus on security precautions becomes evident. Recessions force companies to look at budgets and headcount. With the advancements in technology, CCTV and alarm monitoring enabled companies to improve security and reduce spend on manned guarding. Recessions are like that, some sectors suffer while others can flourish.”
More recently, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted businesses’ security considerations?
“Simply put, security is about asset protection. If you are a company with substantial assets to protect, security is key as you are more likely to be the target of organised or opportunistic crime.
During the pandemic, companies have looked hard at their security set up. As I said before, recessions can bring crime. What differentiates the pandemic from the financial crash in 2008 is that some businesses have been forced to temporarily close, and remain unstaffed. Nonetheless, the property still needs security. This has presented new unprecedented challenges. Monitored security solutions can present the perfect answer to these challenges by being capable of quick deployment at reasonable cost. We have seen an uplift in some sectors during the pandemic.”
In your experience, which types of businesses benefit most from remote CCTV monitoring?
“It’s important to note that CCTV monitoring isn’t effective for all businesses. Typically, CCTV monitoring is best suited for properties operating on sites with perimeter fences and gates. For these businesses the perimeter is the first line of defence, in protecting its assets.
In general terms, when outside of operating hours, these businesses are often unstaffed. Therefore CCTV cameras can transmit alarm images to the monitoring centre in the event of someone being there who shouldn’t be.”
So, I guess these businesses are likely to have physical guards in place, viewing the footage and patrolling the site. As we know, physical guards are costly. Therefore, the wider opportunity for these businesses is to improve security and reduce costs?
“Yes, that’s right.
When you look into the cost of deploying security guards against the potential cost savings CCTV monitoring can deliver, the argument for a technological solution is convincing. It’s simple economics really.”
That leads nicely onto the next question. What are the main benefits of CCTV monitoring?
“There are so many to mention. I think we have touched on the main one. If a business can maintain its security function effectively, and save money, it’s a no-brainer.
There are other less tangible benefits. One in particular springs to mind. Remote monitoring is by definition, remote from the site. Our SIA licenced operatives all work externally from the site, and this provides additional value, particularly when considering organised crime.”
There’s less chance of there being a ‘plant on the inside’?
“Correct. Being remote from the sites we protect certainly helps to prevent security being compromised.”
Also, technology will likely spot more threats that a human eye could miss?
Indeed. Guards can miss things for legitimate reasons. Physical security is expensive and there have been more than a few interesting tales over the years of guards, shall we say, not performing their duties in full.
Interesting, does anything spring to mind?
“There is one story I can recall of a car dealer in Bristol. His security guard was working Christmas Day. He was a kind employer, so prepared a Christmas dinner for his guard and drove it down to the site as a surprise. I think you know where this one may be heading! He got to site, and shouted up to his guard, only to no reply. No wonder he didn’t get a reply. When the car dealer walked in the office, there was his guard, fast asleep, drunk!
Interestingly, there’s another story where a company had agreed to work with us and would be replacing their security guard with a monitored camera system. During the process of switching over, our operatives noticed the guard would go to his car boot, around bedtime, grab his sleeping bag and head back into the security hut. The cameras would clock him getting into his sleeping bag, fully clothed. And, then in the morning he would arise, and pop the sleeping bag back in his boot!”
Over the years, what changes have you seen in the CCTV monitoring space, and how have you adapted?
“When the CCTV monitoring industry was in its infancy, I wouldn’t want to say it was like the wild west, but actually it was! There were limited barriers to entry, no real standards or best practices in place.
As a business, and as an individual we, and I, wanted to provide a professional service. One that was consistently good and delivered for the customer.
With alarm monitoring, the process is simple. The alarm is triggered, an alert raised and the authorities contacted.
With CCTV monitoring it isn’t always so black and white. The operative has the discretion on how to respond once an alarm has been received and the footage viewed.
The basic yet critical premise is that the control room views and responds appropriately to video alarm events received. Acting on the ones that need a response and ignoring those that don’t. The main changes we have seen revolve around tech, however, process, professionalism and consistency remain key.”
Fast forward some years, how do you maintain consistency of service?
“Process process process! Providing a consistent level of service is so important for our customers. By doing this, by sticking to the agreed plan, it builds confidence in our proposition.
To ensure this happens isn’t easy. We are launching our alarm event management system, called arcHIVE which will add further consistency to our service. arcHIVE logs all events and our operatives respond accordingly. It’s the culmination of at least three years’ development at Arc.
arcHIVE is very exciting as it helps the operator to make the right decision (they are human after all), and gives the customer exactly what they are looking for. We think it’s a gamechanger.”
Advanced technology is now playing an ever-increasing role in remote monitoring. Video analytics, thermal cameras and more are helping to improve detection and minimise false alarms. Where do you see the future of CCTV monitoring heading?
“As a remote video response monitoring centre and irrespective of the detection methods utilised at the sites we provide services for, we are tasked with identifying human presence and responding to it. That said, it is incumbent on the detection methods on site to adequately perform the function we have been engaged to provide a response to. We rely on that.
For visually verified monitored systems to be effective, the quality of the alarm video event is critical. Until recently conventional detection coupled with cameras has performed this function. We are now seeing video analytics starting to replace this arrangement, and with care they can and do reduce false alarms. Also artificial intelligence in the form of false alarm reducing algorithms are reducing the number of false alerts presented to control room operators. These quality improving techniques can only serve to improve the services provided by alarm and remote video response centres.”
In your opinion will these improvements lead to technology completely negate the need for security guards or traditional forms of detection?
“It’s possible. As technology advances at pace we will definitely observe the decline of legacy security detection products together with manned guarding solutions as tech solutions improve.”
So, in the next ten years, do you think physical guarding will be a thing of the past?
“It’s very hard to answer or quantify.
I would suggest over the next decade, the emphasis will substantially move from physical guarding towards electronic security system monitoring.
Security will be driven by AI, with the overall impact being a reduction in the utilisation of physical guards.”
Jonathan, thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure.
“Thank you in return. I enjoyed the conversation.”
Looking to protect your assets and save money on the cost of employing physical guards?
If you are currently looking to protect assets, improve security and reduce costs an investment in CCTV monitoring and perimeter protection will meet these objectives.
Here are some useful links.
Looking for a CCTV monitoring system to protect your business assets? Find out how Safeguard Systems protects business assets through effective CCTV monitoring systems.
Operate a site with a large perimeter and are looking at your security options? Visit the section of our website dedicated to perimeter protection and detection systems.
Looking for a company to monitor your CCTV footage, spot threats, and take action? Find out more about Arc Monitoring’s CCTV monitoring services.