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Govt launches new digital plan to help smaller security agencies transform

SINGAPORE — The security industry may still be far from having a technology-enabled future, but a newly-launched digital plan will show smaller security agencies the different technology they could adopt to stay competitive, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo.

Govt launches new digital plan to help smaller security agencies transform

Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo launched the Security Industry Digital Plan on Wednesday (July 18).

SINGAPORE — The security industry may still be far from having a technology-enabled future, but a newly-launched digital plan will show smaller security agencies the different technology they could adopt to stay competitive, said Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo.

Speaking at the launch of the Security Industry Digital Plan on Wednesday (July 18), Mrs Teo said a majority of the security agencies here, particularly the smaller ones, continue to find it difficult to adopt new technologies in their work.

Commonly cited reasons include the lack of an in-house IT department to seek advice on the various technology solutions and the upfront costs of investing in these solutions, she said. In February, a Security Industry Transformation Map was launched to transform the traditionally manpower-intensive industry into one that leverages on technology.

The authorities estimate that most agencies here do not use any of the "basic" technological solutions, such as video analytics, that can help them stay competitive. At most, only about three in 10 use one of these solutions, said Mrs Teo, who is also the Manpower Minister.

"In other words, we are still very far from a technology-enabled future of the industry," she added.

Jointly developed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), the digital plan provides about 200 small and medium enterprise (SME) security agencies with a step-by-step guide on which technology they can adopt at their relevant stages of development.

Stage 1, which is for agencies who are just getting ready for a digital economy, lists three basic technological solutions that these agencies should adopt.

One is to have a patrol and incident management system that can be used on smartphones. This would replace the manual reporting of incidents and management of sites.

An automated visitor management system — which scans and verifiesvisitors' information — can also replace how security officers often have to record such data with a pen and logbook.

The last technology is to use video analytics to monitor a site via the closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system, which will have security officers overseeing the CCTVs and reacting when an alert is triggered.

Security agencies who already adopt these technologies can move onto Stage 2, which encourages them adopt technologies to integrate their services. This could be providing security services for a cluster of buildings, predicting and detecting risks or threats through advanced analytics and adopting wearable security technology.

The last stage, Stage 3, lists "revolutionary" digital solutions for the agencies, including autonomoussurveillance robots, artificial intelligence, tapping on aggregated data, among other things.

The authorities will also provide a list of "pre-approved digital solutions" within every category of technologies listed under Stage 1. These are solutions that have been proven, tested in the market and are cost-effective, partly so that the agencies would not need to spend time finding their own solutions.

Half the cost of these pre-approved digital solutions, capped at S$30,000 per company each year, can be covered by the Productivity Solutions Grant. At least S$7 million will be set aside for this grant over the next two to three years.

"This will help SME security agencies manage (the) upfront costs of investing in technology," said Mrs Teo.

By 2020, the authorities aim to double the number of security agencies that adopt at least one of these solutions. By 2025, these basic technologies "should be the norm and not the exception", she added.

While workers will have to be trained to operate and use these new technologies, National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Assistant Secretary-General Zainal Sapari said these skills are not tied to the Progressive Wage Model.

After an earlier review of the model for the security industry, security officers will be paid up to S$300 more over three years starting next year. From 2021, their overtime hours will also be capped at 72 hours a month.

Mr Zainal, who is also the chairman for the Security Tripartite Cluster, said they may consider tying these skills to the model in future reviews.

"If the training required under the digital plan is incorporated into the progressive wage model, in a way, it would justify why security officers must be better paid because of the better skills that they have," he added.

In addition, the Security Association of Singapore and the Security Systems Association of Singapore will lead two working groups to develop a Technical Reference for video analytics systems by the end of next year. A Technical Reference is used by the market for about two years before a full consensus is reached.

For buyers, the Technical Reference will provide them with the requirements and specifications on choosing, installing, operating, maintaining video analytic systems and ensuring that the data can be used across different operating platforms.

MHA also developed a guide for buyers of security services, which will help them focus on outcomes instead of the headcount required for such services. The guide, developed in consultation with the labour movement and industry, will provide the principles and templates for buyers to adopt outcome-based contracts at every stage of the tender process.

Mrs Teo said the government will take the lead in adopting such contracts. The Ministry of Education and the Housing and Development Board will be the latest two government buyers to adopt outcome-based security contracts once their contracts are due for renewal next year.

Mr Derek Chew, senior manager at FormTeam Consultancy said the firm is thinking of tapping the grant to invest in new technologies.

The firm invested about S$80,000 last year in new technology solutions. Grants from the Inclusive Growth Programme, for instance, helped to offset about 50 to 60 per cent of the cost.

While the new digital plan and grant are helpful, Mr Chew said security agencies need customers’ buy-in for them to adopt more new technologies, and agencies themselves will need to find the right talent to help redesign the way manpower is allocated.

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