New Delhi: Till even a couple of years ago, the financial services conglomerate India Infoline Ltd (IIFL) would rely on standalone closed circuit TVs (CCTVs) and security guards to protect their branches that offered loans against gold ornaments.

Such is no longer the case. S. Venu, chief administrative officer of IIFL, can now monitor any branch across the conglomerate’s large network from his office in Mumbai. He attributes this move to the “partnership with Zicom", which “has improved the productivity and efficiency of my auditors and vigilance team".

IIFL is just one of Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd’s clients who use remote monitoring that is being enhanced with the internet of things (IoT), a technology concept that enables things like sensors and gadgets to be connected any time, any place, and with anything or anyone.

In a recent interview, Pramoud Rao, the promoter and managing director of the Zicom, explained that the idea to set up an IoT platform for electronic surveillance was part of his organization’s move to shift the focus from simply being a hardware company to offering services, too.

In banks, for instance, Zicom has connected the sensors that it has installed at automated teller machines (ATMs) to the Zicom National Command Centre over the internet. This ensures that the electronic security system does not simply focus on recording a crime, but it also assists in preventing it. For instance, if a thief enters an ATM, a panic button raises an alarm while a quick response service (QRS) simultaneously enables a trigger to inform the police about the crime that is taking place.

This has also resulted in more savings for banks. While earlier banks would spend about Rs40,000 monthly on security and power including salaries of the guards at the ATMs, Rao claims that Zicom’s ATM surveillance service that uses IoT has reduced the cost to just about Rs4,000 a month. Currently, Zicom’s ATM surveillance service, says Rao, covers over 5,500 ATMs of 13 banks over the country including ICICI Bank Ltd, RBL Bank Ltd, and State Bank of India Ltd.

Many ATMs of Federal Bank Ltd, for instance, do not have security guards. According to Rao, Zicom has created a security model for the bank that also helps in conserving energy with the help of remote monitoring. This, he added, has helped Federal Bank save about Rs7,000-8,000 per month on each ATM. “Customized analytics can be built around personal trigger requirements—a customer wearing a helmet and entering the ATM, overcrowding, etc.," Rao said.

Rao is also betting big on artificial intelligence (AI) to provide his electronic security surveillance group of companies the fillip it needs in a digital age.

With the use of AI, for instance, Zicom is “building cameras for home use that makes use of voice". For instance, if the milk on the gas stove is going to boil and spill over, the camera will be able to alert users about the same. Zicom is in talks with some companies “to provide us with a platform for this", and Rao believes a deal to this effect will take place sometime in the first quarter of 2018. Additionally, his company is also exploring AI for facial recognition.

Zicom also remotely monitors the CCTVs for features such as video loss, hardware failure, and illegal tampering. An alert is shared with the customer even as the company takes pro-active measures to ensure the proper functioning of the camera.

Zicom also has an AI app called Ziman, aimed at helping women be safe “and even take preventive action". If any woman finds herself in an unsafe zone, for instance, she can press the “one-off" button provided by Ziman five times, following which the phone goes into stealth mode. This puts the victim’s phone on silent, and then tracks the location. Post this, the Ziman app uses the front and back camera of the smartphone for video recording and also starts recording the audio conversation that takes place. “The data is, then, analyzed to judge whether it was a false alarm or a genuine one. If the alarm is genuine, the rescue operation begins (by the police or any other member who is on the list)," Rao explained.

Ziman also has an ‘Aadhaar On-the-go’ app, which allows users to instantly verify outsourced assistants like maids, drivers and security guards by cross-checking it with the information registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Ziman also allows users to delete personal data through a remote locking system in their mobile phone to prevent misuse of the data if the phone is lost or stolen. The app provides immediate intimation to the owner of the phone when a new SIM card is inserted in their stolen handset. “It (Ziman) also captures the image of the intruder who tries to unlock the device, and shares it with the owner," Rao added.

Ziman is powered by Haptik—a chatbot platform. Haptik’s chatbot uses deep learning (a machine learning technique) to continually learn from Ziman users—their occupation, frequency of travel, number of family members, their contact numbers, etc.,—all which help in swiftly detecting any anomaly.

Ziman, according to Rao, has “40,000 actual users in India". Venu of IIFL, on his part, admits it is “very difficult" to quantify the exact return on this investment but adds that “if you see in terms satisfaction, they (Zicom) are with us for seven years, and for the last three years helping in our overall security system".

To be sure, other than the mid-sized Zicom (which posted Rs713.21 crore revenue for the year ended 31 March), there are many big companies operating in the global electronic security market such as Bosch Security Systems, Honeywell Security, Axis Communications AB, Dahua Technology Co. Ltd, Panasonic Corp., Sony Corp., Cisco Systems, Tyco Security Products, Siemens AG and Schneider Electric AG.

According to an 11 August note by the Sierra Group, a diversified commercial service, construction and security firm, some of the 2017 trends that electronic security companies are implementing to keep their customers protected include increased video surveillance, which also provides valuable analytics that is derived from such use and the ability of storage systems to handle such an increased capacity.

Surveillance systems at high-risk public locations today are equipped with video analytics and advanced algorithms that allow the detection of criminals. Other trends include the rise of biometric solutions including retina and/or fingerprint scanners; smart alarms that provide immediate notification of an unwarranted intrusion; and robots and drones that can provide uninterrupted coverage for security purposes, especially over an expansive area (usually meant hiring employees to handle such jobs).

The global electronic security market is poised to surpass $60 billion by 2024, according to a 23 October report by Global Market Insights Inc. State and central governments of various countries—such as the Indian government that set up a $125 million fund in 2014, solely devoted to the prevention of sexual violence against women—are placing high focus on the development and adoption of advanced systems in high-traffic locations such as public roads, transit stations, and malls, contributing to the growth of the electronic security market, the report added.

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