Business Development | Impact

Ask the Expert: Are There Alternatives to Having Security Guards?

August 20, 2019 | 3 min read
Security guard

The private security guard has been around for a very long time.

Imagine every fantasy film you’ve ever seen in which a hero has confronted a bad guy in a castle. “Guards, guards,” yells the villain, and in they run: medieval private security guards.

They’re a fantasy staple now, but those guards are based in historical fact. The private guards of Europe were the predecessor of the modern police force, and their jobs arose from necessity: people needed to protect their assets, so they hired people to do that job. Guards protected property, money, and acted as bodyguards. Eventually, as public law enforcement evolved, (a process that took hundreds of years in Europe) public policing eclipsed guards.

Guards are obviously still a staple of private security. Insurance companies offer discounts to policy-holders with round-the-clock guards, for example. But there’s a paradox: although guards are seen as an important countermeasure, most guards in the U.S. aren’t highly-trained security professionals. This is not the case in parts of Asia, where security officers are licensed, highly trained, and highly paid.

Very few people grow up wanting to be a security guard; in the United States, the top security-minded job candidates aspire to be police officers. Those who take security guard jobs are often paid little and given terrible hours. Being a security officer may be the only job opportunity they have.

Unskilled security guards present a dilemma for those who want to keep their assets safe. In 2019, is there an alternative to the medieval holdover of the security guard?

The answer is yes. Thanks to technology, there are several options.

Do banks need human security? Learn about the bank that stopped using guards.

Robotic Assisted Devices (RAD)

RAD develops electronic wall boxes and standalone units that can perform specific functions of a guard sitting at a security desk. When someone wants to enter a building, they speak to a television monitor, that connects them with a live person, perhaps an operator at a regional dispatch center.

The operator confirms that visitors have access to a facility and then either contact the visitor’s host to let them in, or is able to open the door themselves electronically. RAD units can also include different capabilities, like scanning for weapons and MAC addresses, and other critical capabilities.

Self-driving robots

Not all organizations want their guards stationed at a desk. For those who need to patrol areas, like halls, lobbies or outdoor areas, there are robots, such as those provided by Knightscope.

Such robots do more than patrol and detect intruders; they can also include an intercom function, recording, live streaming, facial recognition technology, and license plate recognition security.

For organizations that need outdoor patrols, more durable robots — which resemble self-driving cars — are available. But even these can’t monitor the most difficult terrain.


Drones allow organizations to patrol large, or difficult-to-access terrain; the sort of terrain that might be difficult for a human guard to navigate, like rocky, hilly, or overgrown areas.

Drone patrols, like those offered by Nightingale Security, allow a company private air support. Drones move fast, and can get to a threat quickly, so that security personnel can see what’s going on as quickly as possible. This can mean getting to a threat, finding someone lost in a state park, or simply noticing that something is amiss.

Concerned about the safety of drones? Read more about drones and security here.

Human guard or technology?

Should you hire guards or use robots? Ultimately that depends on your organization’s needs.

Robots aren’t meant to replace all human security. Instead, they act as a supplement, taking on the boring, repetitive tasks, so humans can take on the more important jobs of making good decisions.

Remember, there are disadvantages to robots and some automation. A human is still needed to make critical decisions, like evacuation, or when faced with making critical decisions.

When you’re deciding between technology and a security guard, ask yourself a question: can this job be automated? If you need someone to make intelligent decisions about how to respond to a threat or file a report with the police, you need a human guard. But if you’re using a guard to simply check badges of people entering or exiting a facility, maybe you’d be better served by an automated device or one of the other security guard alternatives on the market.

Have a question or scenario you would like to be answered next month? Email me and submit your question!

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