The Security.World community voted during the summer of 2016 and selected the Physical Security and Video Surveillance industry’s Top 12 Influencers. This Profile is one in the series of 12 of those individuals that are making a difference in our industry. Congratulations to Fernando Pires, CEO, Morse Watchmans. We reached out to Fernando to get his views and insight on what is happening in the physical security and video surveillance market.
The vast Security.World community of physical security professionals has just selected you as one of their Top 12 industry Influencers for 2016. What is your reaction to that?
I’m honored by the recognition. With so many deserving individuals in the industry, I am both humbled and grateful to have been chosen for this honor.
How long have you been active in the physical security/video surveillance industry and what brought you into this industry?
More than 30 years ago, my brother and I recognized that with security concerns growing year to year, there was tremendous opportunity in the industry. So in the early 1980s, after doing extensive research, we purchased Morse Watchmans. We started out focusing on the company’s Guard Tour technology, but as we were providing more and more product demonstrations, we realized our training sessions were constantly being interrupted by someone needing a key. A lot of the times, these interruptions were rather prolonged because no one knew exactly where the key was, which would cause somewhat of a panic. It was at that point that we realized key management was a real problem, and that there weren’t products available to adequately solve it. The opportunity to fill in that gap was the genesis of KeyWatcher, our flagship product.
How did you get started (what was your first job) in this industry?
My first —and only— job in the industry is owning Morse Watchmans, which my brother and I purchased because it was not only a company that interested us, but we also felt that it had a promising future as well.
What are some of the changes in the industry that you saw coming and are most proud about being accurate?
Early on, it was apparent that just as in consumer and other industries, security technology was advancing rapidly, with new innovations introduced on an almost continuous basis. Certainly, keeping up to date with the latest technology advances has been a challenge, but the rewards have been well worth the effort. Because we recognized the industry’s continual technological evolution early on, we’ve been able to position our company to take advantage of innovation to introduce newer products and solutions that are more advanced and, quite frankly, just better than their predecessors.
We’ve been able to take advantage of several new technologies to introduce our products that are more user-friendly and can be deployed for a wider range of applications. For example, advanced technologies have allowed us to evolve from a two-line display with a keypad in the early days to the interactive touchscreen user interfaces our solutions feature today. In a more general sense, innovation also allows us to offer solutions that are more scalable and can be integrated with a growing number and variety of solutions and systems from several companies.
How have you seen the industry change over the past few years?
The past few years have been ruled by the move toward IP-based systems and products. We’ve seen a vast number of innovative network solutions released in recent years, and the ability to seamlessly integrate many of these products with one another has created seemingly endless possibilities for deploying smarter, higher-quality and more effective systems. With security already a major concern for virtually everyone, these IP-based systems allow end users to better protect people, places and assets, and will continue to play the biggest role in the industry’s evolution for years to come.
What do you see has been the single most impactful technology in the industry?
There is no question that networking technology has had the biggest impact on security, particularly over the last decade or so. Internet connectivity has made it possible for virtually all networked products to communicate with one another, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities for improving security.
For Morse Watchmans, this has meant that all of our units work together under one umbrella and communicate with each of the various KeyWatcher systems. Integrating key management, access control, surveillance and other security and non-security systems into a seamless environment has been tremendously beneficial in providing security staff and others with valuable situational intelligence, as well as insight into policies and practices and much more.
As an industry influencer, can you share with us a business success story or case study that you are most proud about?
Over the years, we have accumulated a number of excellent and unique case studies, so it’s difficult to choose which I’m most proud of. But if I had to choose, it would be a municipal fleet management installation, which involved managing more than 180 keys for a city’s sewer district. These were stored on a pegboard, with extras kept in a box. With 150-plus employees needing to operate vans, bulldozers, cranes service trucks and more 24/7, it was difficult for the department to make sure the right key would be in the right place at the right time – or even who had a particular key last. Needless to say, the delays caused by this inefficient and unreliable system were causing major problems.
The sewer district deployed three of our KeyWatcher solutions side-by-side at its large garage, with an additional three in other locations. One cabinet is programmed for customer service, another for repair, a third for inspection and cleaning and a fourth for heavy equipment. Each employee has access to the keys they need to perform their job, with some keys restricted to individuals or small groups. The cabinets can be opened by scanning an employee ID/access card with an embedded RFID chip. All actions are tracked, making it easy to determine who had a key last, what time they removed it and when it was supposed to be returned. If a key is kept out of a cabinet for more than 20 hours, the system will alert authorized users, who can follow up to ensure that key will be where it is supposed to be when the next person needs it. Reports generated by the KeyPro III software show how often a vehicle is used and who was using a particular vehicle at what time.
Since deploying the system to increase individual accountability, the department has been able to increase the efficiency of its employees while also keeping vehicles and equipment safe and secure.
Please share with us your visions of this industry and what it will look like for manufacturers, integrators, installers, central stations, and end-users in the near future.
For security professionals and end users alike, the future will bring even more technology-rich products – including more sophisticated software and complementary components – that enable even greater connectivity to deliver advanced features and functionality to improve the usability, efficiency and effectiveness of security. With the ability to integrate an enterprise with locations and systems around the world makes more robust network security crucial. For example, while our PCs and mobile devices include strong security measures, there are many, many other networked devices and products that lack this level of protection. As a result, refrigerators, cars and TVs can serve as a weak spot for hackers to exploit to breach a network. These relatively unsecured endpoints are where encryption, firewalls and other security measures can and will play a key role.
Tell us about a newer technology that you think is going to significantly alter the industry landscape:
This is by no means a new technology, but the one thing I believe will have a major impact on the industry landscape is the use of mobile devices and technologies. Every year, mobile capabilities become more and more advanced, so as I think ahead five years or so, it’s hard to imagine that there will be many functions – both security and in our daily lives – that don’t lean heavily on these technologies. It wasn’t that long ago that people relied heavily on their PCs, but today, they reach for their smartphone instead. In addition to the convenience factor, mobile devices provide faster access to the Internet than ever before – and are getting faster all the time. It’s safe to say that we will continue to see rapid innovation in mobile technology – many of which we can’t even imagine yet – which will change our lives drastically.
What vertical market do you think is going to witness the biggest impact of industry advancements and why?
More or less every vertical market will benefit from advancements across the security industry, so it’s difficult to choose one in particular. Obviously, those areas that require the highest levels of security – airports, seaports, educational facilities, hospitals, law enforcement and utilities – are where the greatest innovation will be seen.
In light of recent developments, airports and educational facilities tend to be top of mind when it comes to security, and these are probably the two areas that will benefit from the most advanced security technologies. We are already seeing this in the education market, where we have been selling more solutions today than at any point in at least the last five years. And I would be surprised if this weren’t also the case for security manufacturers across all segments of the industry.
What are your thoughts on laws or legislation that are currently being considered or do you think may be forthcoming that will have an impact on the industry: ( i.e: Banning of LPR cameras for police, cruise lines to requiring shipboard video surveillance, schools banned from collecting biometric data on students, drone legislation, etc).
Privacy laws could definitely have a major impact on the security industry as a whole. Take video surveillance, for example. There are some who question where cameras are installed, who sees the video and what is done with that video once it’s recorded. Another example is biometric access control, which some customers or companies shy away from because of privacy concerns. Among the fears are that once recorded, fingerprints will not only be stored somewhere but may even be shared with law enforcement or others. As manufacturers, we must recognize the role of privacy in security and adapt to the level of privacy end users want and need from their solutions.
What is your position on where the privacy line is located today, where you see that line in the future, and do you personally agree with those positions?
As stated earlier, privacy is a chief concern for many. From video surveillance to data security and more, people want to control what information about them is collected, by whom it’s collected, who has access to this information, what they plan to do with it and more. Whether you agree with these concerns or not, the reality is that this is the world we live in, and there’s no reason to expect that to change anytime soon. If anything, privacy will become an even greater factor in security and many, many other areas of life.
What are your thoughts about technologies that may be intersecting with more individual/personal applications (i.e.: biometrics, cloud, IoT, wearables, etc.)?
In general, user-friendliness and ease of use are paramount when it comes to intersecting security and personal or more consumer-oriented applications. An excellent example of this would be biometrics, which have gained significant traction in both areas in recent years. The ability to log into a smartphone or access banking information using a fingerprint is incredibly convenient for end users.
My opinion on the cloud is a bit different. Some people love it, but there are valid concerns about the concept from a security standpoint. With the cloud, you’re storing all your files, photos – basically your entire life – remotely on someone else’s server. That’s a lot of trust to place in someone else, but for the most part, people seem to be OK with that. Just about everyone is using the cloud in some way, shape or form, so it’s here to stay, despite the inherent security concerns.
How can the industry support or accelerate these synergistic partnership opportunities?
Partnerships are important, as they allow integration of two or more products to create a more advanced solution for end users. People tend to be more likely to purchase a solution that’s integrated with other manufacturers’ products because partnership integrations reinforce the wants and needs of customers. Security providers can support this by integrating with more partners to build broader and deeper relationships with other companies. This requires keeping up with the latest versions of software from several providers, and those that are built on open architecture or offer API can remove much of the complication of integration to significantly ease the process.
What M&A activity do you think has been significant and what do you see happening with companies in the near future?
The last few years have definitely seen a lot of M&A activity in the industry, and there’s good reason to expect that trend to continue. With integration becoming more or less the norm for security systems, many providers are looking to round out their offerings to take advantage of the demand for a broader range of products and solutions. Given the time, effort and expense involved, it’s simply not practical for these companies to attempt to build something from the ground up. It’s much easier to acquire or merge with another provider who offers technologies that complement existing offerings. Innovation is another key driver for M&A. As the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” so rather than try to replicate an innovative product, providers – especially those of the large, multinational variety – will often simply buy the company that developed it and fold that product into their portfolio.
Is there anything in the “lab” that you’re currently working on or involved with that you would like to share with our readership?
Right now we have our AssetWatcher solution, which employs RFID technology to deliver the same reliability and capability to reduce end users’ risk as our key control systems. With multiple configurations available, AssetWatcher provides flexibility for tracking smartphones, handheld radios and other assets in virtually any application. We’ve also incorporated a bright 7-inch touchscreen to provide the same easy-to-use interface as our KeyWatcher Touch.
We also offer an upgraded enterprise version of our software that allows KeyWatcher systems to be installed on much more of companies’ distributed architecture. For example, a large national chain store could deploy our products, with each reporting back to a central database for management with the software.
A final new development is our Gen2 CPU for our KeyWatcher Touch system, which is faster, stronger and more adaptable to meet the needs of current and future applications. Driven by a powerful upgraded processor and operating system, the new CPU’s faster speeds improve sync time when encrypting and decrypting communication data. Increased processor speed, coupled with memory, offers vastly improved performance with a much more sensitive touchscreen, faster user interface and improved sync times that are seven to 10 times faster than its predecessor. Together, these new capabilities allow users to experience enhanced system operation with the added benefit and confidence that overall physical security is improved.
Who do you look to as an industry influencer? Who or what are some other resources that you follow?
We rely on the different security industry trade publications, which we have found to be the best resource for learning what’s going on in the industry, as well as what customers are looking for.
Please provide any other feedback or comments you wish our readers to know about you or your position in the industry.
Since recognizing the need for key management solutions early on, Morse Watchmans has constantly sought to take advantage of the most current and emerging innovations to provide end users with the most advanced, effective, easy-to-use and secure products possible. This has been our goal from the beginning, and we will never waver from that position.