Interview with the Security Industry Association

Read about us on the SIA web site:

New Security Industry Association (SIA) member Anekanta Limited is a boutique innovation and consultancy hub that solves problems and adds entrepreneurial value to technology-focused organizations with an interest in artificial intelligence (AI), video surveillance and safety domains. The United Kingdom-based company has global reach, predominantly serving the UK, Europe and U.S. regions working with industry bodies, governments and private clients.

SIA spoke with Pauline Norstrom, founder and CEO of Anekanta, about the company, the security industry and working with SIA.

SIA: Tell us the story of your company.

Pauline Norstrom: Anekanta’s name is derived from the philosophy of Anekantavada, which suggests that the search for the truth is infinite and requires the input of many perspectives. This philosophy is applied to the services Anekanta provides to the security sector – a sector whose purpose is to deliver the best version of the truth about a situation using the maximum available inputs from technology and enable authorities to make decisions to take action.

Anekanta was founded in 2016, and operations commenced toward the end of 2019. Prior to Anekanta, my track record in the security sector dates back to the early 2000s heading up the global marketing function of Dedicated Micros during its high-growth period followed by senior board and leadership roles in related UK and U.S. technology businesses over the last 20 years. My industry credentials also include a two-year tenure as the elected chair of the British Security Industry Association and over six years as the elected chair of its video surveillance section. With a passion for continual learning, I graduated from the University of Oxford Artificial Intelligence Program in January 2020 in the highest possible grade band, and I am a fellow of the Institute of Directors, a chartered institute which promotes the highest standards of corporate governance in UK business. I am also a member of British Mensa.

Using this foundational sector experience as a guiding light to steer Anekanta’s security sector offering, we harness the problem-solving expertise of leading industry colleagues to create and deliver solutions to the complex problems arising when converging new and legacy technology. The team examines ethical considerations with the potential impact of the use of AI and challenge corporate and legal frameworks to accommodate its safe use. In doing so, Anekanta brings people along on the journey to a safer technological world.

What solutions/services does your business offer in the security industry? And what makes your offerings/company unique?

PN: Anekanta’s core services are as follows:

  • Research and Strategy: Based on primary and secondary research, due diligence and strategic analysis, we assess and determine the current position and challenge the plans. We develop new strategies, examine the value chain and create the value proposition and growth strategy. We determine barriers to entry, recommend diversification, facilitate the use of AI/machine learning and evaluate product road maps, technologies and innovations that enhance situational awareness and improved decision making.
  • Stakeholder Management: Through stakeholder mapping and the development of effective engagement strategies, we act as the bridge between the technology provider and government, regulatory and certification bodies, industry and the public. We help to raise the bar, lobby, influence and act as a catalyst for change within an ethical and legal framework. We manage the stakeholder to achieve effective, measurable engagement.
  • Boutique Consultancy: We provide high-level non-executive board advisory and support to define and refine the purpose, develop the leadership agenda and consider the ethics and impact of physical security technologies and, specifically, the application of AI and machine learning. In this context, Anekanta works with its clients to define the corporate governance framework of the future. For technology businesses from seed to startup, midlife to exit, we help the board create the information framework to enable safe, effective decision making. We challenge the status quo and solve problems with innovative ideas and strategies which add the most value.

What’s something we might not know about your company – or What is your company’s vision, and what are your goals for the security industry?

PN:The company has a strong focus on the convergence of technology in the security sector and the definition and promotion of the use of AI machine learning and deep learning within an ethical, legal and cyber-secure framework.

What is your company’s vision, and what are your goals for the security industry?

PN: Anekanta’s vision is 1) to become the most creative innovation hub for the sector and more widely, generating new ideas and guiding our clients to the best platforms which add the most value to the physical security industry estate to enable situational awareness and fast action when needed and 2) to help to raise the bar and set the standards for ethical behavior, influence legal frameworks and best practice resulting in an inclusive and highly differentiated environment in which security professionals can operate effectively.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities in the security industry right now?

PN: The ever-increasing global threat of terrorism creates a continual demand for improvements to situational awareness and, specifically, to enable the mobilization of the response quickly and precisely and provide the maximum protection to the public.

Migration of populations towards cities is creating a demand for smart modern living enhanced by high-tech management systems whose outputs are delivered through easy to use apps. To achieve this, convergence of systems is required both on and off site to add value to existing security infrastructure through the use of AI and machine learning. These technologies are maturing, as is the trust in their effectiveness, due to companies getting better at integrating and distributing the automatically generated analysis from multiple disparate sources, which in turn enables better decision making and more effective security and safety management.

Converging systems and enabling data sharing create a new problem for the physical security industry. Security systems have historically been managed by discrete resources, and often these systems operate on independent analog and IP networks. For AI to be most effective, disparate systems must communicate with each other, which opens up the Internet of Things security debate and puts a spotlight on the need for robust standards which require security from the ground up and from the edge to the cloud. This is to ensure that the systems are not recruited as an attack surface or disabled altogether by malevolent actors. Convergence creates opportunities for product and software providers to develop solutions, APIs and apps which solve the challenges associated with secure disparate system communication.

What are your predictions for the security industry in the short and long term?

PN: AI will become more effectively applied across disparate systems to analyze and present relevant and useful actionable information within an ethical, legal and cyber-secure framework. There will be an increased awareness of the importance of the private security industry as a substantial united force which protects the public. The reputation will be enhanced as success stories which promote the safe use of AI emerge, as will new standards and legislative frameworks. Innovation through improvement and disruption will result in new, faster, better methods of categorizing security system data and distributing the right information to the right people. This will challenge existing infrastructures and leverage communications networks. The vast estate of security sensors, many of which are not currently used at all, can be embraced into the security net. These improvements will facilitate the creation of closer partnerships between police authorities and the private security industry which are enabled by technology.

What are the biggest challenges facing your company and/or others in the security industry?

PN: Although great forward strides have been achieved over the last decade, there is still a lack of regulation and enforcement of good working practice in the industry. The industry still largely self-regulates and relies upon the ethical practice and corporate and social responsibility of the players involved.

Lack of regulation results in low barriers to entry into the sector, which creates confusion for the buyer, who may struggle to differentiate one provider from another. This can lead to a focus on price rather than quality and value.

Multiple disparate legacy systems left unsupported due to industry consolidation may result in invisible barriers to the adoption of new technology due to the loss of know-how and the cost and difficulty associated with change.

What do you enjoy most about being at your company – and in the security industry?

PN: I enjoy being in a position to make a real difference by adding value to the safety and security of the public. The private security industry works tirelessly 24/7 to protect the innocent, although it is often considered to be a discrete niche sector which is not fully appreciated until there is an incident. My goal is to continually add value to the purpose of this industry, working across multiple vertical markets such as retail, transportation, education and utilities, and promote the use of the latest technology to ensure upgrade, update and change to new ways for the greater good of society.

What does SIA offer that is most important to you/your company? And what do you most hope to get out of your membership with SIA?

PN: SIA membership provides access to a wide range of resources, from market research to industry commentary, networking and ability to influence the development of standards and best practice. It is a globally respected organization and one with which we are proud to be associated.

How does your organization engage with SIA? What are your plans for involvement in the next year?

PN: Our engagement is mainly online and through the working groups to add value to the debate around cybersecurity. Events are important to us in order to meet face to face and develop relationships and trust, and we hope to participate more in 2020.

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