Eliminate guards to transform security industry

A security guard in his guard post at a condominium in Upper Bukit Timah, on Feb 14, 2019.
A security guard in his guard post at a condominium in Upper Bukit Timah, on Feb 14, 2019.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

For years, the incumbent stakeholders - the Government, the public, taxi companies and taxi drivers - struggled to address the demand for taxis during peak hours, rainy days and in remote areas not served by traditional taxis.

Then Uber came along in 2013 and triggered the transformation of the taxi industry.

Today, the security industry seems to be struggling to transform itself in spite of the various measures proposed (Major upgrade for the security industry, Feb 20).

Perhaps there are lessons from the taxi industry that can apply here.

First, focus on security outcomes, not security guards. With all the human lapses associated with security guards, one approach is to eliminate the guards.

By doing this, all the human lapses - sleeping on the job, being drunk while on duty, using threatening or abusive language, and failing to respond to a request for assistance - would disappear.

Today, there are a number of technology solutions that can eliminate the guard and provide better security outcomes, such as the use of video cameras and analytics to replace routine, labour-intensive patrolling.

They are spelt out in the Security Industry Transformation Map launched in February last year.

Why are they not broadly adopted by the industry? I suspect there may be little business motivation for the incumbent stakeholders to do so.

Why would the Security Association of Singapore, which represents the interests of security agencies, push for the adoption of solutions that eliminate the guard?

Neither can we expect the Union of Security Employees to do so.

As the largest buyer of security services at over $350 million annually, the Government can take the lead.

For example, the Ministry of Education, with more than 300 schools, can be the first to eliminate night guards with technology solutions.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2019, with the headline 'Eliminate guards to transform security industry'. Print Edition | Subscribe