The Value of Data in Security: In Conversation with Jon Gray, Director Security and Resilience at ADS Group

13 March 2023

Ahead of Security and Policing, the official UK Government global security event which each year attracts over 6,000 Home Office approved attendees, Leonardo caught up with Jon Gray, Director Security and Resilience at ADS Group, to discuss the value of data in security.

Leonardo: Many see Security and Policing (S&P) as being a very equipment-focussed show, showcasing the latest sensors etc. This is clearly important, but at Leonardo we focus on how to integrate sensors with our Digital Advantage products to deliver solutions and capabilities that utilise the data these sensors produce to better enrich the end-users’ decision-making capabilities.

For Leonardo, data that provides actionable intelligence and enables the user to make mission-critical decisions, is a key focus for us and we are excited to be able to demonstrate this at this year’s show. Is this a trend you are seeing, and how can ADS support the supplier and customer community in collaborating on this?

Jon Gray (JG): Firstly, since ADS are key industry partners in delivering S&P for the Home Office, many thanks for exhibiting again this year. At ADS we are definitely seeing a growing trend towards a more integrated and data-driven approach to security solutions. While equipment and sensors remain important components of these solutions, the ability to collect, analyse and utilise data is crucial to delivering effective outcomes for end-users. This will undoubtedly be a key theme across exhibitors and in the content arena at S&P this year.

Alongside the growing provision of actionable intelligence, we are also seeing some wider trends in this area, including the use of augmented analytics (enabling smart applications for decision-making); moves towards unified platforms for data integration, management, quality, governance and security (also known as data fabric); and data stories, which are a way of presenting data insights in a narrative form.

For all of this, we hope that S&P provides a valuable platform for collaborating on this trend. As a trade association, ADS focuses on providing a range of services to support our members in the development and deployment of integrated security solutions. This includes access to networking opportunities, industry events, more focussed special interest groups, and training and development programmes.

Leonardo: Data as an enabler has been flagged in recent strategy documents such as the Defence and Security Industry Strategy, the Integrated Review and the National Police Chiefs’ Council Science and Technology Strategy. Where are the key areas in security and resilience that you see data making a difference?

JG: As you say, data as an enabler is an increasingly common theme in many important strategies we have seen in recent years and is a core part of sustaining the UK’s strategic advantage. From our perspective, there are several key areas where data can make a significant difference in security and resilience.

Firstly, data analytics can provide insights that help identify potential security threats and risks. By analysing data from various sources, including sensors and other security systems, it is possible to identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate a security threat or risk. This information can inform decision-making and enhance situational awareness.

Secondly, data can optimise the deployment of security resources. By analysing data on past incidents and current security trends, it is possible to identify areas of high risk and allocate security resources accordingly. This can help to improve the effectiveness of security operations while also maximising resource efficiency.

Thirdly, data can enhance resilience and response capabilities. By collecting and analysing data on critical infrastructure and key assets, it is possible to identify vulnerabilities and develop plans to mitigate risks. Data can also be used to inform emergency response plans and support rapid decision-making in crisis situations.

Fourthly, in a policing context, data and digital technology are already being used to help prevent crime and improve operational effectiveness, public confidence and workforce wellbeing.

Finally, at a strategic level, we are seeing how data will be used to enable faster innovation cycles, better decision-making and more effective collaboration across the UK security and resilience sector. As data sources become increasingly sophisticated – with moves towards connected places/ smart cities – a plethora of data can be collected and developed to give a much broader picture of security at a strategic level in near real-time than ever before.

Leonardo: For several years, Leonardo has been supporting the defence sector on how better to use data as a force multiplier through initiatives around Information Advantage and Multi-Domain Integration. Significant efforts have been made to break down the barriers to enable data sharing.

As we just have discussed, we also see this as a key enabler to the security sector. With your UK security sector customer mapping activity, you have demonstrated the complexity of the community. What activities and mechanisms do you see could support cross-sector data use, and how can industry, government and organisations like ADS work together to drive this forward?

JG: Cross-sector data use is a complex issue, requiring close collaboration between industry, government and other stakeholders. There are a few steps we need to see in order to move this forward.

Firstly, greater standardisation and interoperability in data systems and infrastructure is needed. This will require close collaboration between industry and government to develop common standards and protocols for data sharing across different sectors and levels of classification, for example.

Secondly, we see a need for increased investment in data security and privacy measures. Loss of data has a huge impact on stakeholder confidence as well as obvious legal implications. Industry can help to provide robust security frameworks that protect sensitive data while also enabling data sharing across sectors.

Thirdly, we see a need for increased collaboration and networking between industry, government and other stakeholders, which we very much hope S&P will help to act as a platform to support.

Finally, measuring and evaluating the performance or outcomes of data collaboration will be important.

Leonardo: The UK Government is making significant investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI), and these emerging technologies will be critical in translating sensor data into intelligence, especially as the volume of sensors and data available increases.

At Security and Policing we are demonstrating the benefits of our latest application of AI in our border control solution. Where do you see the opportunities for AI in the wider security sector and what benefits can it bring to the users?

JG: There is significant potential for AI in the security sector and the growing Government investment in this area is welcome. There are several exciting opportunities where the targeted use of AI can support national security.

Firstly, AI can enhance situational awareness and support decision-making. By analysing large volumes of data from various sources, AI can identify patterns and anomalies that may indicate a security threat or risk. This information can then inform decision-making and enhance situational awareness.

Secondly, AI can improve the accuracy and speed of threat detection. By using machine learning algorithms to analyse data from various sources, including biometrics, sensors and video feeds, AI can identify potential threats more quickly and accurately than traditional methods. This can help to reduce false alarms and enable more rapid response to real threats.

Thirdly, AI can help evaluate the level of risk associated with different assets, systems or activities and provide recommendations or solutions to reduce or eliminate them. AI can also help monitor and update risk profiles based on changing conditions or feedback.

Finally, it obviously remains important to meet the challenges in deploying AI onto the front lines in an operational sense. How does the police officer or border officer at the front line have a direct interaction with the data? Challenges could include institutional uptake, investment and budgetary challenges, as well as resilient and practical user interfaces.

Leonardo: Here at Leonardo we believe resilience is vital to the security sector, yet it tends to be pushed to one side. What is your take on this and what do you see as resilience?

JG: Resilience is a critical but lesser known aspect of the wider UK security and resilience sector, encompassing non-malicious as well as malicious threats. From a national perspective, the importance of it was recognised in the Government’s Resilience Framework published at the end of last year, which set out the importance of a whole-of-society approach to national resilience.

It is an interesting concept, however, as it has different meanings in different contexts. For example, resilience can refer to the ability of a system or organisation to withstand and recover from disruption or adversity, including physical and cyber threats, natural disasters and other emergencies. Needless to say we, have seen many examples over recent years, with separate threats also impacting on the others.

As such, resilience should be considered at every stage of the security solution lifecycle, from design and development to deployment and maintenance. It can also be achieved through a range of measures, including redundancy, diversity and flexibility in security solutions.

From an industry perspective, resilience also encompasses the emergency and crisis response aspects of the sector and the crucial role our members play in helping communities across the world to recover from natural disasters. Overall, there is a need for greater awareness of the important role our industry plays in national and international resilience.

Leonardo: A key part of the UK Government investment in data and digital technologies is aimed at building an onshore UK capability. Finding the right skills is a key challenge for us as Leonardo and across the sector. How as a security sector can we ensure we have the necessary indigenous skills in the UK and maintain the resilience of the UK technology sector, and how can groups like ADS support with that?

JG: Building and maintaining our skills base in the UK security sector, particularly in the area of data and digital technologies, is absolutely crucial for the UK’s future prosperity and national security. As a trade association, we are committed to supporting our members in developing and maintaining the necessary skills and expertise to deliver innovative and effective security solutions. This is done through our strategic policy engagement, cross-sectoral initiatives like our Supply Chain Solutions Framework or through our capability-focussed special interest groups.

To ensure that the UK has the necessary skills and expertise, we believe that there is a need for a collaborative effort between industry, government and academia. This includes investment in training and development programmes that promote the development of skills in data and digital technologies, as well as joint work to highlight career pathways into our sector. Another important component of this work is encouraging more diversity and inclusion in the security sector, by attracting more women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other underrepresented groups.

Groups like ADS can play an important role in supporting this effort by providing a platform for engagement and networking between industry, government and academia at all levels. We also believe that there is a need for a long-term strategic approach to skills development in the UK security sector. This includes collaboration between industry, government and academia to identify current and future skills needs and develop initiatives that address these needs. ADS is committed to supporting this effort by engaging with stakeholders to understand their specific skills requirements and advocating for policies and initiatives that support skills development in the UK. This work is critical for ensuring the resilience of the UK security sector and delivering innovative and effective security solutions.