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Specifically Speaking with Bill Durso, The Durso Group

Specifically Speaking with Bill Durso, The Durso Group

Specifically Speaking with Bill Durso

YARMOUTH, Maine—Security Systems News’ monthly column Specifically Speaking features Bill Durso, CPP, Founder and Principal Advisor, The Durso Group (TDG), LLC, formerly Secure Protection Solutions, based out of the Greater Philadelphia area. “I have had a company since 2006 doing small projects and is now a full-time provider of unique security and business advisory services,” Durso told SSN.

SSN: What kinds of systems do you design/specify and what services does the company provide?

DURSO: The Durso Group has a few strategic partners when it comes to design and specifying systems ranging from fully integrated video surveillance, access control, intrusion to mass communications and intercom systems.

The Durso Group provides security advisory services for corporate clients who require customized security management services in an agnostic, independent and unaffiliated way. TDG can effectively and efficiently fill the gap that exists between companies without security expertise, those needing security services, and the integrators who want to provide advice to these prospective clients and the manufacturers that provide the products.

Most consultants perform security assessments and outline at a high level what is needed for a client, but some don’t have the required expertise to implement the plan from start to finish. Most consultants are also out of their depth when it comes to security technology solutions, and many lack the proper training on processes and procedures involved in creating a successful security program. This is where The Durso Group comes in to fill the gap from operations, physical security, and security technology in making sure all these objectives are addressed and meet the clients’ needs.

The Durso Group is the hub that brings together the many spokes of a project, the manufacturer, the integrator, the unknowing client, the user experience. Each of these spokes has their own needs in mind; however, TDG will make sure the manufacturer’s equipment fits the client’s needs, TDG will make sure to validate the integrators are certified to install the products and equipment, and TDG will make sure that when the project is completed that all these items meet or exceed the client’s vision.

SSN: What vertical markets does the company specialize in? Any interesting projects that you can mention?

DURSO: Unfortunately, I can’t mention any current projects as they are confidential and proprietary, but over my career, I have worked on many different types of projects in a variety of verticals from most recently hyperscale data centers nationwide to commercial high-rise real estate in major cities, regional international airports, and high-end lifestyle centers to school districts and supply chains, to name a few.

One project that I can mention, and quite proud of, is a pro-bono project that I am currently working on - the “Sixth Man Center” powered by Philadelphia Youth Basketball, a non-profit organization in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. This organization is filling a substantial gap in an underprivileged part of the city, and I was invited to participate and build a security master plan, assist, specify and oversee the security technology being installed and outline all security operations in their new 100,000-square-foot facility. This facility will be a community gathering place, a basketball centerpiece with courts and programs all throughout the year, a financial center and down the road upon expansion, a specialty skills labor generator for many skilled trades. Target opening is early 2024.

SSN: How did you get started in security and designing/specifying?

DURSO: Great question, and I may date myself a bit by answering this, but if you recall the Tom Cruise movie “The Firm,” based on a novel by John Grisham from the early 1990s, one of the characters played by Wilford Brimley was that of a director of security, and this appealed to me. His job was to clean the firm’s dirty laundry and make sure the firm was always protected. The premise of the movie was a bit much but gave me a different idea of a corporate job that always had something different happening almost every day and involved something I was passionate about as I was always interested in criminal justice and the law.

I took an Introduction to Security Systems class at Penn State. It covered all aspects of all different types of electronic security systems from cameras, access, alarms, etc. I still have the textbook to this day and graduated with an B.S., Administration of Justice degree, and the rest was history. I had many friends and family who were police officers, in the military, or were state or federal law enforcement, which at the time was the traditional way of entering the security industry, but that did not appeal to me. I always wanted to be more proactive and not get the call after something bad had happened. This drew me toward the private sector of security and safety.

From that point on, I was an investigator who handled white-collar crimes like insurance fraud and was later hired as a security specialist with a management consulting firm. This position started as issuing badges, changing videotapes to training to eventually overseeing projects for adding security systems to newly added or renovated floors in the high rise we resided in. I enjoyed the conceptual design and discussing needs to specify the equipment with my integrator partner and seeing the project and technology be built-out and come to life, and I have continued to do this throughout my career as a security director, facilities director and most recently as a security advisor.

SSN: Can you talk about what new or emerging technologies you are seeing or specifying today?

DURSO: Robotics, video analytics, cloud-services and data mining and machine learning-type tools. I have clients that ask about all these emerging technologies all the time. For instance, we are seeing more and more contract security companies and manufacturers getting more involved in the robotics market or setting up partnerships with each other so the contract security company can augment those hard-to-fill shifts, like the weekend third shift. We are going to see this explode over the next few years as the technology continues to improve.

With video analytics, there are many manufacturers and companies that are doing video analytics - how is an end-user supposed to know which is better or worse and what those algorithms are looking for and how they are written.  Each company differentiates their analytics, and this will continue to evolve. I compare what is happening with video analytics to when we saw an explosion of IP-based cameras come on the market. You would walk the ISC or GSX show and you saw so many camera manufacturers that eventually those with staying power became a player, were acquired, or just went away over time, I think you will see the same with video analytics companies.

With cloud services and data mining, both go hand in hand. We are collecting so much data on our security systems these days, with the previously mentioned video analytics and all, we need to be able to sort, analyze and react to the data being collected. Traditionally, you or I would have been reviewing videos for hours; now it can be done in seconds if you have the computing power and key in the right search query. In addition, we are seeing these same security systems being used for non-security uses and collecting more and more data.

Many of my clients are moving more and more toward the cloud for two reasons. The first is having access to the data and the computing power to analyze the data at once, and second, instead of spending on the cost to build out and maintain their own data centers or MDF/IDF rooms, they are letting a third party do it. This is a double-edge sword as yes, they may be saving on the capital expense of having a data center with all servers, but there is also an ongoing expense to gain access to that data through that third party. My thought is a hybrid solution, have some on-premise servers for your data to access in the near term and then after a certain time, archive to the cloud.

For machine learning, please don’t call it artificial intelligence! Again, with video analytics and other types of analytics on our security systems today, we will see more and more capabilities for machine learning for the purposes of leveraging the data collected to improve performance on some security tasks. We see machine learning in email filtering and speech recognition already, and we will see this more and more in the security industry with a plethora of more and more information being available to the end-user. But the end-user does not have the manpower to process and review the data being collected, and this is where I think machine learning will come into play.

SSN: What is your view on the industry moving forward?

DURSO: There are two items that I see with the industry moving forward.

The first is that the security industry is at a crossroads as security technology is moving ahead faster and faster, whether it be robots, drones, etc., and the traditional security view is seeing a wider and wider gap and being left behind. Companies and manufacturers that recognize this and can be flexible and adaptable to react will be successful, and those that do not may be left behind.

As an example, we already see this with many contract security guard companies, as I mentioned previously. These companies are utilizing robotics or drones to augment the third-shift security officer shift that no one wants to work. As margins get tighter and tighter, you will see companies, and some already are, offer Robotics/Drone as a Service, or something to that effect. It eliminates personnel to manage and gets a robot or drone in place to tour buildings, areas, and report back to a SOC for as long as their battery will last.

Another aspect is that as this technology gap gets wider and wider, who will service and maintain this technology? Right now, those with the technical expertise are very successful, whether it’s a technician, programmer, or installer; however, there is not enough to go around. As an industry, we can’t be taking each other’s technical expertise for a slight increase in salary, but instead need to cultivate and build the next generation of programmers, technicians, and installers to service and maintain all this technology at our disposal.

The second item, which I feel we see moving further in this industry, is the overlap of other industry needs as it relates to security systems and building management and smart buildings, etc. As previously mentioned, a camera five, 10 years ago, would capture an image and that would be it. Now that same camera is a sensor for still collecting an image, but now may have a speaker, a warning light, a siren, added sensors for temperature, occupancy, heat mapping and on top of that have all the analytics and machine learning needed to process all this data as I previously mentioned.

I can remember early in my career being asked by my manager when I was director of security to run access reports on smaller remote offices to see if offices were being accessed. Although rudimentary and not full proof, this is how we could get a glimpse into whether employees were utilizing the office space and based on these access control reports, could help in making decisions on leasing space, expanding offices, etc.

Now that same request, with the right cameras and sensors, can tell you all of this and more. This is where I see technology and sensors being the next big thing in the security industry. You will see more smart vehicles, smart cities, smart traffic systems, smart buildings, to name a few. The cameras, card readers, biometrics, drones, and robots and many of the sensors we use today in our industry will be the backbone of not only being a part of client’s security system but also a part of how that client manages their property and their portfolio. Sharing this data with other buildings in the area and cities that have nothing to do with security will become the norm, like we do in some cases when sharing video with local law enforcement.

As a former director of security and facilities, I can appreciate this and the technology to come and can’t wait to provide unique security advisory and business services to those clients looking forward. I hope the security industry is ready as there are some exciting times ahead!




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