How AI and Video Analytics Can Revolutionize Utilities' Security

  • According to Gartner's latest CIO survey, 94% of IT leaders in energy, oil, and gas Utilities prioritize location and cybersecurity. 38% are investing in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, and 17% in the Internet of Things, including sensor-based video technologies.

  • Energy, oil, & gas utilities are facing increasing pressure to reduce costs through automation while facing revenue shortfalls related to regulatory compliance costs and suspension of disconnections due to customer hardships during the pandemic.

  • Energy, oil, & gas utility IT departments are leading the convergence of cyber and physical security, often relying on video cameras as sensors to gather thermal, infrared, and night vision streaming data that provides the raw feeds that analytics systems need to find anomalies in operations or security.

Through the many challenges of operating in 2020, Utilities are learning how vital it is to have a 360-degree view of their operations' physical and cyber security. Protecting the perimeters of their remote and headquarter locations is the highest priority to 94% of North American CIOs recently surveyed by Gartner. However, just 54% have a Security Operations Center, according to a recent Black & Veatch survey titled "2020 Strategic Directions: Smart Utilities Report".


Why AI & Video Analytics Matter: Physical and Cyber Attacks Are Orchestrated to Bring Down a Utility

The thought of a physical or cyber attack on any remote location that could cripple and perhaps force a Utility to shut down to recover is a terrifying one for CIOs. It is why having real-time monitoring of remote locations using various cameras to capture thermal, heat and night-vision data analyzed in real-time using video analytics is so important. Leaders in this area include Twenty20 Solutions, who offer a series of solutions that encompass remote video security, remote access control, portable surveillance, temporary deployments, security automation, and real-time remote monitoring. Their use of video analytics, AI and machine learning can identify potential assets, machinery and remote site security risks in real-time. An example of how Twenty20 Solutions implements video analytics is shown below:

Utility CIOs, CISOs, and IT leaders need to consider how they can integrate AI and video analytics into their enterprise security strategies, sooner rather than later. By using video cameras as sensors, every threat surface a Utility business has can be monitored 24/7 and, when combined with software, secured to every endpoint.


IBM's X-Force Threat Intelligence Index provides a stark wake-up call to any CIO or IT leader of a Utility company. Here are the key takeaways of IBM's research into Utility risks:

  • According to IBM's X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, the energy and utilities industry is the 9th-most targeted industry.

  • Utility companies prove to be rich targets for remote physical and cyberattacks due to their importance as the backbone of every country's critical infrastructure.

  • What sets the energy industry apart from others is the possibility of physical disruption and destruction of Industrial Control Systems (ICS) systems and the SCADA systems that manage them.

  • A successful attack on an ICS system designed to disrupt operations can have devastating effects on customers who rely on power, gas, oil, or any other resources provided by the energy sector.


How AI and Video Analytics Reduce Risk with Real-Time Monitoring

Knowing which production processes, machines, work centers, and product lines are and aren’t operating at high levels is essential for keeping remote operations running smoothly. Having real-time data to use in SPC for continual tracking, controlling, and fine-tuning of remote manufacturing processes is key. Setting up alerts in SPC Modules to alert quality management, production engineering, and scheduling when there is a deviation in performance can help avert millions of dollars in lost production time and avoid having to replace remote production assets as well.


There are several factors for industry leaders to consider when deciding on an effective AI and Analytics-augmented security approach.


1. Use thermal, infrared and night-vision cameras to achieve real-time monitoring consistency of every access attempt to a facility, machine, or asset to understand best if a given activity is legitimate or a threat.


By having real-time video monitoring enabled across an entire network, a Utilities security team will know in less than a second if there is a security breach, vandalism, or potential theft in progress. Alerts are sent in real-time to administrators if there is a breach to physical assets. The threat surface can be locked down and made inoperable in seconds, further stopping damage to a remote sites and preventing a potential cyberattack.


2. Real-time monitoring of assets, facilities, machinery and remote equipment is invaluable in identifying potential equipment and process failures, which could be just as devastating as a security incident.


Another factor Utilities need to consider is how they can extend the life of their key assets, machinery, and even entire facilities. Given how virtually all Utilities are facing revenue shortfalls, extending the life of assets is a high priority. Combining AI and video analytics makes a direct contribution to the improvement of preventative and condition-based maintenance. Knowing the condition of remote machinery and equipment in real-time saves IT and Plant Maintenance thousands of work hours a year.


3. Analyzing raw video feeds and the events, they capture using unstructured machine learning algorithms can help create entirely new mathematical models that assess risk, site stability and machinery reliability. It's feasible that a Utility's IT team would eventually predict when a given asset or machine would fail and estimate if and when a breach would occur based on leading indicators machine learning models may have discovered. Combining real-time data and analytics and machine learning models can help predict which types of machinery or equipment will most likely be stolen or vandalized. Having these predictive insights, Utilities can launch more powerful deterrence strategies to protect their property. Combining AI, real-time monitoring and video analytics with a continual feed of data from physical monitoring can reduce false alarms and help monitor teams more effectively.


Twenty20 Solutions is a leading provider of security, access control, automation, and monitoring solutions in the utility and energy space. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you secure and streamline your utility sites and operations.


Originally published on Forbes.com.