Guard companies looking to control costs often find it difficult to strike a balance between a customer’s needs and bottom line. But there is a solution. Many are turning to a mix of staff and technology, or eyes in the sky, boots on the ground, to answer their security needs.
We contacted Brad Gordon, CEO of “eyes- in –the- sky” provider Viewpoint CRM, to learn more about the technology side of the equation, and to better understand its applicability to the security market. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. Tell us a little bit about what Viewpoint is
A. Viewpoint is a remote video and management firm that fuses CCTV / Audio / and proprietary software to provide services that range from simple incident identification to full on interactive security, safety, and facility management services. Viewpoint is designed to integrate with existing systems, limiting costs.
Q. What has been the response from the guard industry?
A. Companies that contract security services increasingly opt for blended solutions, a mix of remote video monitoring and live security guards as a way to reduce security costs over the long term. Many businesses rely on traditional onsite guarding as an important piece of their security program, but it comes with a significant cost; late night guarding can average between $3K – $6K per month depending on the site and level of protection needed.
Q. What’s the typical ROI?
A. Viewpoint built its business around a proprietary voice-enabled camera technology that provides a physical presence and reinforces that cameras are involved. ROI is typically one year, if a company is replacing guard hours.
Q. What if I don’t already have cameras?
A. For customers without existing cameras or CCTV equipment, Viewpoint can design and install a cutting edge, scalable, user-friendly system.
Q. You have a law degree, so you’re not exactly a techie. How’d you get involved in this?
A. I served in the Marine Corps so I was always interested in security, but my interest really peaked after 9/11, as security threats heightened. At the time, remote camera monitoring companies didn’t really exist. Even if they did, what would the person watching the cameras do if something really happened? The answer took years to develop. We invented a box that would allow us to speak from anywhere in the world, regardless of the software platform. There are dozens of camera companies out there and they all have different software; Sony, Panasonic – they’re all different. Once we had that technology, we started Viewpoint.
Q: What was your biggest challenge in the first year of the company? How did you overcome that?
A. The biggest challenge was and still is convincing decision makers that there are other ways to provide security services than the traditional. We overcame that by demonstrating our willingness to prove our effectiveness. Basically we had many beta sites the first year which is a fancy way of saying “we gave it away” to show what we could do!
Q. The system’s hallmark is its audio component, or voice-down. By creating a virtual presence, Viewpoint is able to respond to and diffuse unwanted or criminal behavior. Can you give us a real life example?
A. There was an incident where a large crowd gathered late at night. The guard on site called and asked for help; he didn’t want to go out alone and address a large rowdy crowd. Using voice technology, the Viewpoint agent politely informed the group that the location was being watched, the incident recorded, and that the police would be called. They quickly left.
Q. So the technology can be used to enhance the guarding situation, acting as a backup for an onsite security officer?
A. We are a guard’s best friend. We offer a balance between personnel and technology.
Q. Viewpoint does more than just watch cameras; it also collects data. What types of information do you gather, and how does it benefit the customer?
A. Our sophisticated analytics can report on everything from customer habits to employee theft to ways to tighten the supply chain. For example, we have a client with dozens of donut shops who hired us to make sure employees are at work and stores are clean. We even check the refrigerator and freezer temperatures.
Q: What is your typical day like in running your company?
A. Luckily for me, no day is typical! I get bored easily. Lately we’ve begun a marketing campaign so I’m spending a good amount of time with these super creative folks, which is a lot of fun. We hired a creative group out of London (long story) and they are developing a new website for us along with all sorts of marketing/sales collateral. That’s all going to be followed by an advertising campaign in both traditional media as well as social media. I have an amazing team here and that allows me to spend much of my time being proactive and service oriented.
Q. Funny you should mention getting bored. One of the greatest questions surrounding security is this: can a human being continually do something over and over and do it well? How is this any different than a security guard watching a camera on location?
A. Under any circumstance, most security officers would find it difficult to watch a bank of cameras for more than 30 minutes at a time without the mind wandering to another activity. To cut down on the tedium, Viewpoint varies the duties an agent performs. So, an agent might do a proactive video patrol of a shopping mall in Houston, and when finished, might receive an alarm signal from a retail shop in Boston, then take a phone call from a resident in a large housing complex in Washington, DC.
We might need to watch that shopping mall in Texas, but we’ll have 30 people watching it. Having multiple sets of eyes also adds perspective; one agent might catch something or view a situation differently from another.
Q. The Boston Globe described Viewpoint headquarters as a command center of which NASA would be envious. Could you give us a visual?
A. The large room seats 55 agents. The seats are arranged stadium style, so that each agent faces only one way. In front are three, 20-foot screens, and every station is equipped with three flat-screen monitors. Behind is an elevated stage where management overlooks every moment of this 24/7 operation. Two supervisors walk the floor to assure that everyone is active and alert.
Q. You’ve been around since 2005. Who are your customers?
A. We monitor in 40 states across the U.S. and are also in Canada. Our customers include housing developments, college campuses, retailers, hospitals, office buildings.
Q. How’s Viewpoint doing? What are the company’s plans for the future?
A. Sales grew 50 percent in the last 12 months, with similar growth expected in the coming year. We recently added 3 sales reps and expect to hire more. In the coming years, we plan to open a west coast monitoring center.
Q: What is your biggest challenge today?
A. We already work very hard trying to provide excellent service that surpasses our customer’s expectations, our biggest challenge is working smarter…We are perceived to be a technology company and it is expected that we are always on the ‘cutting edge’. We look to better use our existing technology and to discover and implement new technologies as they become available. Everything works great when it is demonstrated in our conference room…How it works out in the field is often a different story. So, doing more for our customers while keeping our labor costs down is a big challenge today.