Quadrant Security Group (QSG), an independent integrator within the Synectics Group, has existed in one form or another for more than 50 years. During this time it has come to be a well-respected voice in key sectors, including: high security, blue light, city, finance and commercial, and public space. As austerity measures continue to have ripple effects in local authorities and across public services, we spoke to Ian Moore, Sector Lead of Public Space for QSG, and discovered that tight budgets don’t have to spell the end of innovative security solutions.
So, just what makes QSG qualified to comment on security in public space?
“QSG used to be primarily a video only business,” says Moore, “but when the Home Office announced a push for CCTV in public space more than 20 years ago, we saw an opportunity to expand our business and we began working with local governments from there. Huntingdon and Newark was the first town centre installation we worked on, and from there we went from strength to strength. Even though the sector as a whole has slowed down since 2003, at any one time QSG is working with one in four of the UK’s local authorities as a result of our unrivalled success at maintaining strong relationships with our customers. In fact, many of the original clients we took on during the boom in the ‘90s are still with us.”
Since the financial crisis, local authorities are among the many institutions being forced to make do with ever decreasing budgets. Moore highlights that this is leading to some difficult decisions being made in the area of public space security, particularly with regard to CCTV systems.
He says, “We are seeing changes in public space on an almost weekly basis in terms of cameras and CCTV being switched off. This obviously leads to public outcry, with people being worried about their security when walking through town centres and what will happen to crime rates in the area. But there are ways local authorities can utilise their budgets and ‘spend to save’.”
According to Moore, many local authorities are simply unaware of the many options available to them that would help make the most of their existing systems. QSG’s aim is to educate local authorities in the best ways to use their allocated ‘spend to save’ and innovation budgets to breathe new life into their surveillance systems. Some of the simple steps QSG shares with its clients include replacing dated monitors that take too much electricity to run or generate too much heat and require excessive air conditioning to cool, changing to wireless transmission to save on expensive wired solutions, and making the move to an IP system with HD cameras that would mean fewer cameras are needed.
One particular trend QSG has seen since belts have tightened is local authorities combining their security resources and sharing control rooms. With money-saving measures often involving the sale of properties in which CCTV control rooms are housed, adjacent authorities have been coming together to use a single control room for multiple systems.
“This process of innovation targeted at evolving existing systems is the cornerstone of our business. We’re not about putting in the newest, flashiest technology, we’re about extending the life of installed equipment and upgrading it over time.” Moore adds, “Security is often considered as a ‘grudge’ spend, so the more you can do with a security system, the more useful it is; and the more people can tap into it and use it, the easier the spend is justified.”
Luton is one local authority which has benefited greatly from QSG’s approach. The company runs the whole operation for Luton, even down to control room staff being QSG employees.
“Luton were looking to do things differently,” says Moore. “They had contracts with QSG for CCTV, they had contracts for staffing of the control room, and they had access control contracts with various people for various buildings, and they had manned guarding contracts. They realised that if they handled it all as security and bundled it together they would get a better deal. We were pleased to be awarded that contract to actually run and operate the control room for Luton Borough Council.”
Recognising that its target market is evolving, QSG is evolving with it and adapting its approach to meet market requirements. Both the Nottingham and Watford Innovation Suites are currently being revamped. The Innovation Suites, according to Moore, will be set up so that clients can experience QSG’s range of solutions in a ‘real world’ situation.
Moore says, “Local authorities are not as naive about CCTV as they were when the concept of surveillance for public space was first introduced, they are much more savvy about what works and what doesn’t. This means it’s no longer a case of simply selling a solution; clients want to see how it will work and be completely sure that they are spending their money on the best possible solution for their needs. That’s why we’re adapting to be able to offer our clients this service.”
In addition to the new Innovation Suites, QSG encourages its clients to speak to each other, even facilitating visits for new clients to see a successful installation in another area so they can see it in practice. Moore says networking and knowledge sharing is vital to maintaining strong, ongoing relationships with clients.
Moore claims that QSG is the only provider in the market to have a dedicated public space team on hand for every phase of the process. Not only does the company have specialist public space project managers that are involved from start to finish, it also has over 60 dedicated engineers across the UK on hand for continuous maintenance.
Despite the success of its current approach, QSG is keeping an eye on potential future developments.
“There are definitely going to be more cuts to come over the next five years, and as local authorities are not obliged to provide CCTV in public spaces it’s important that ‘spend to save’ is put to good use and systems adapted to be more cost effective in the long run,” says Moore.