Physical security is an essential aspect of the overall security posture of any organisation. It has become ever more important in today’s world since many cybersecurity breaches start off by someone gaining physical access to a company’s premises.
In fact, all information security measures such as firewalls and encryption become pointless if a malicious attacker can break in and access open ports or steal assets and data.
Many large enterprises thus have a GSOC (Global Security Operations Center) where operators monitor alerts from all of their physical security systems including the access control system (which connects to the door sensors and badge readers) and their cameras.
However, the volume of alarms is really high with a huge proportion of them being false alarms. This leads to operator fatigue and complacency since they have to repetitively clear false alarms. The operators end up missing true breaches amidst the avalanche of false alerts.
Enter Hakimo, an AI-powered solution that can integrate with different physical security systems in the enterprise and automatically triage alarms using camera feeds.
Hakimo’s platform can significantly reduce nuisance alarms so that the operators can focus only on the real incidents that need manual intervention. The product has been shown to reduce the alarm volume by as much as 85-90% in real environments.
It has seen significant recognition by professional organisations, Fortune 500 companies and the mainstream media, and has been adopted by many prestigious corporations with large offices across the world.
The CEO Magazine had an exclusive conversation with Sagar Honnungar, Co-Founder and CTO of Hakimo, who has led the development of this revolutionary platform and built many of its core pieces. Read on to learn more about the product, his journey so far and his vision for the future of the company.
Please tell us a bit about your background prior to Hakimo.
After completing my undergrad from IIT Madras, I moved to the US for my graduate studies at Stanford. During my time there, I was a researcher at one of the top AI labs where I developed novel machine learning algorithms for social network analysis.
I have also published papers in the fields of computer vision and computational imaging. After graduating from Stanford, I worked at a fast-growing Silicon Valley startup called Rubrik where I was instrumental in building their first cloud-native data protection product.
This project resulted in multiple patents and has now grown into a multi-million dollar revenue generating segment of the company. After Rubrik, I founded Hakimo in 2020.
How did you go about building the first iteration of Hakimo’s software? How has it evolved over time?
We were extremely agile and constantly obtained end-user feedback while building the first version of Hakimo. In this version, we focused on specifically reducing certain types of false alarms which resulted in the highest ROI, rather than building a solution for all types of alarms.
This helped us launch the product quickly and get feedback faster, which is crucial in the initial days of a startup. We partnered with a few initial pilot customers and worked closely with them to fine-tune the product.
Over time, we have added many more features and our software now has three main components: Alarm Monitoring, which is powered by our false alarm triaging algorithms; Tailgating Detection, which identifies a security breach wherein an unauthorised person gains access to a building through a door opened by an authorised person; and Insights, which provides visualisations and dashboards depicting actionable information based on the vast amounts of data sitting dormant in the access control systems.
What kind of challenges did you face in the initial stages of the company?
One of the challenges that we faced was hiring the first few members of our team. It is difficult as a founder of a new startup to convince strong talented engineers who have a bunch of other options to believe in the vision of the company and join us at the most risky stage of any company, particularly a company engaging in something that has not been done before.
However we have been fortunate to have been funded by highly reputable venture capital firms. This provided some confidence and credibility to potential employees. Connecting with fellow alumni from Stanford and IIT Madras who seemed to have an entrepreneurial spirit also helped us in tackling this challenge.
What has been the industry’s reaction to the product so far?
It has been nothing short of phenomenal. Our product was recently awarded the Judges Choice award across all new product categories at the ISC West conference.
This is a testament to the unique and innovative approach that we have taken towards solving the top problems faced by the industry professionals.
Our customers love our product and have become our staunch supporters. In fact, one of them quipped that our software is “like the cure for cancer”, referring to how it solves a critical pain-point for them.
We have generated significant interest in end-users and have been deployed at multiple well-known companies and major airports in the US. We also recently signed a strategic partnership agreement with LenelS2, which is one of the top access control manufacturers in the market today.
This shows that industry experts see our product as filling a gap that has existed in the security market.
What is your favourite part about your work at Hakimo?
Being able to lead such a dedicated engineering team that we have at Hakimo is perhaps the best part. I get to work with an incredibly talented team every day.
I also find it very fulfilling when I talk to customers and they tell me how Hakimo has made a huge impact in their security operations and, in turn, made an equally substantial impact on their business as a whole.
Our customers take delight in the speed at which we deliver new features and this in turn gives me great satisfaction.
What are the core values that you have maintained over your time at Hakimo?
Having a customer-first mindset is one of the core values that I have incorporated into myself and the team at Hakimo. Being non-judgemental about failures is also very important. This has helped us move faster and take more risks. It also encourages the team to be more creative in their endeavours.
What is your vision for the future of Hakimo?
My vision for Hakimo is to be the de-facto platform for adding AI capabilities to the physical security operations in any enterprise. We started off by integrating with access control systems and cameras and we hope to eventually bring in data from all kinds of physical sensors and cybersecurity systems.
Hakimo has become the single pane of glass that can ingest, analyse and visualise the entirety of security data and augment the security operations using cutting-edge AI techniques, and the future of Hakimo will certainly see a continued ability to increase its ability to secure businesses in ways that have never been done before.
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs and technical leaders?
I think one of the most important qualities that an entrepreneur should possess is resilience. It is a given that there will be a number of challenges that will come up because of the limited resources in a startup and the ambitious nature of building a new product from scratch.
So it is essential to be able to go through ups and downs and learn from them as building a successful and pioneering technical product is a long and arduous journey.
For technical leaders, prioritising what to focus on is also crucial and sometimes tricky. Using a method of scoring features with an appropriately weighted combination of customer impact, difficulty and time commitment involved has been useful for prioritisation based on my experience at Hakimo.