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New technology arrives to the security industry

New technology arrives to the security industry HELIAUS by Allied Universal, an advanced AI-driven workforce management technology for security pros

SANTA ANA, Calif.—Modern society owes quite a bit of gratitude to the Ancient Greeks, whose inventions and discoveries are still used today — the alarm clock, automatic doors, Olympics, modern philosophy and more. Yet, if the Ancient Greeks were still in existence, they too, would more than likely also feel a sense of gratitude toward modern society for keeping their myths alive.

Because these stories delve into the lives of deities, heroes and mythological creatures, creating a way for the Ancient Greeks to make sense of origin and to understand how the world functions, it seems only fitting for Allied Universal, a security and facility services company in North America, who originated a new advanced artificial intelligence (AI) platform designed to improve safety and reduce risk by enhancing on-site guarding services, to name it after a well-known Greek god. Mark Mullison, chief information officer, Allied Universal introduced their new platform, “HELIAUS,” to SSN, offering insights into the importance of data, AI and workflow, how user experience (UX) should be the main focus of technology development, concluding with a forward-looking assessment of the coming security landscape.

“If you're inspired by Greek mythology, it's sort of a play on the Greek sun god Helios,” Mullison said. “It's like Helios only with -aus which reflects our name, Allied Universal Services, at the end.”

Just as Helios was described in some literature as a god “who gives joy to mortals,” HELIAUS has also brought a type of joy, the joy that comes from saving money and increasing security. Success with the platform so far includes:

  • A major Hollywood production studio identified and addressed workplace hazards with $657,000 in potential savings due to improved reporting of slip-and-fall hazards;
  • A perishable food manufacturer saw over $55 million in potential losses avoided at a single site;
  • A Texas hospital with homeless entering the facility saw a 200 percent drop in security incidents, which increased staff, visitor and patient satisfaction; and
  • A Washington, D.C. landmark property realized $67,064 in savings from improvement to fire safety measures that directly reduced the risk of fire from ovens and heating elements accidentally being left on.

To understand how these accomplishments were achieved, we have to start at the beginning.

All about HELIAUS

The HELIAUS platform is comprised of two major components: the mobile and the platform. “There's the HELIAUS mobile, which is the device that we equip our security professionals with,” Mullison identified. “This lets them give and get intelligence as they're going about their day, making observations and reports of what's happening as well as serving as a virtual tool to make sure they're in the right places at the right times and doing the right things.

“The platform is the HELIAUS portal where clients connect and access all the information about their site and it provides great visualization tools, analytics and develops insights about what's happening.”

In the security industry there are a variety of mobile guarding technology systems that offer incident management; some in combination with other actions, such as reporting tools, but HELIAUS offers more via its three key differentiators:

Data. “The data that we have,” Mullison said, “and as I say that, you may think, 'Well, everyone has data, what's the difference?'” He answered this hypothetical question with a saying from the artificial intelligence community: “If you have the right knowledge representation, problem solving is easy.”

He goes on to explain that Allied has spent quite a bit of time organizing data into a proprietary attribute model that represents all sorts of information in a way that prepares it for use by the company's AI. “We bring in information about the weather, physical attributes about a particular site, the security professionals that are staffing the site, historical information about events that happened at the site; we bring in outside neighborhood and geographical information.”

Artificial intelligence engine. Once the right knowledge representation is achieved, the AI engine comes into play. “The engine reasons over the attribute model and understands out of that information what's predictive in nature,” said Mullison, “and once it understands what's predictive, it builds a model and then makes predictions about what is likely to happen.” Not only does it make predictions, “it makes recommendations about the prescriptions for what to do to drive a better outcome,” he added.

Workflow engine. As the AI engine produces various recommendations, the workflow engine's output makes sure on-site security professionals are doing what they're supposed to do. “Workflows can be weather qualified, time and date qualified, and they're location aware,” Mullison explained. “We use NFC technology for indoor positioning, Bluetooth beacons and GPS, so we're able to understand where security professionals are physically located.”

The workflow engine also brings to life post orders — all tasks and actions security professionals are supposed to be doing on a site, “not only while their doing a tour but throughout the day, and they can even be reminded to do the things they're supposed to do,” Mullison offered.

There's value offered in all three of HELIAUS' differentiators, separately, but most advantageous is when each are used collectively. “We've seen, on average, a 20 percent reduction in safety and security incidents on sites that fully implement HELIAUS,” Mullison said.

Enhanced user experience (UX)

Currently finishing up his master's degree at Georgia Tech, Mullison's voice “lit up” when asked about user experience in relation to HELIAUS. “User experience is a big passion of mine,” he said. “My specialization is in interactive intelligence which is a mash up of dealer experience, design and artificial intelligence.”

Mullison started with a brief background of how UX relates to technology in general. Often times the “trouble” with technology is not so much about the technology itself, but “about knowing what to know in the first place and having people use it.” Most people have a favorite app or website, and when in use, the majority do not even think about how to do whatever they're doing. Like the Nike slogan, they “just do it.”

Take Uber, for example. Users of the app don't need to think about how to make the app get them a car. “You just think, 'I need a car,' and the interface of the application disappears then all you're doing is thinking about what you're doing in that moment,” explained Mullison. “When you're experiencing that, that's when user experience design has been done right.”

Allied Universal worked hard to provide great user experiences on the mobile and the portal. HELIAUS was under significant development for approximately two years, with some of that time allotted to UX. With a disappearing interface, it allows people to think about what they want to think about, instead of thinking about how to make the tool do what it's supposed to do.

“Software shouldn't be hard to use and designers ought to do their job right — just out of professional pride, it ought to work,” Mullison said. “In our case, it's [UX] really important because one of the things that powers our AI engine and lets us understand what's going on at a particular site is the information that security professionals report.

“If it's difficult to make reports or security professionals can't create reports from their mobile phone and they have to wait to get back to their desk, all that information suffers because it's not reported timely. By making information collection a byproduct of them doing their job, then all of a sudden, you've removed a barrier to collecting that information, and you've increased both the quantity and accuracy of the collected information.”

To further enhance user experience, HELIAUS offers a data visualization widget that identifies the who, what, when and where with a heat calendar as well as other tools such as time slider. It's a drag and drop tool allowing the user to choose day and time to instantly see historically where security professionals were physically located, and see exactly what was happening before and after that specific time, giving situational and historical awareness via visualization.

A glimpse into the future 

The way in which Allied Universal perceives various technologies sets the overall tone for them moving forward as a full-service security provider. “We don't think it's an 'either or' between technology and people; we think it's about allowing people to work with technology,” Mullison explained, offering an integration example between HELIAUS and the company's monitoring and response centers (MaRCs) in which remote video monitoring data and video analytics data is accessible from the HELIAUS portal and brought into the attribute model. “So, when I talk about data and AI and workflows being differentiators, imagine, over time, those data sources will include information from IoT sensors, drones, robots, along with cameras and other sources,” he said. And, referring to workflows specifically: “Workflows today task our security professionals via text and email; in the future, workflows will be passed by drones and other automation technology.”

As time goes on, Mullison and the Allied team see the walls between physical security and cybersecurity starting to come down. He said that he's even noticing the walls between manned guarding, personnel and technology starting to come down. These walls coming down is a good thing as a physical threat can become a cyber threat and vise-versa; however, Mullison shares what is really needed: “an ecosystem that allows ALL things to cooperate at light speed and be sure we're considering everything we need to consider, and bringing all these resources to bear in a way that drives better outcomes.”


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