How Prosegur innovates to remain at the forefront of its sector
On 21 April World Creativity and Innovation Day will be marked, an opportunity to review the technological transformation model that is enabling Prosegur to launch new products such as electronic locks, smart alarms and predictive models for insurance companies.
There is a quote from Marcel Proust that captures the essence of innovation: "When life walls us in, our intelligence cuts an opening". It is a question of not of resources, but of attitudes. Graham Bell said that innovating simply involves "acquiring the habit of thinking in a different way", without inertia, without prejudice, because "those who always follow the beaten track will end up going only where others have gone".
The United Nations General Assembly decided five years ago that 21 April would be World Creativity and Innovation Day. A document promoted by UNESCO states that "creative multidisciplinary thinking has become the true wealth of nations in the 21st century", the key resource available to modern knowledge societies to "solve problems in the context of economic, social and sustainable development".
We took the opportunity to talk about the resources of creative intelligence and the habit of thinking differently with a professional in the field, José Daniel García Espinel, Global Director of Innovation and Product Development for Security at Prosegur. Espinel agrees that innovating, as Graham Bell said, is a matter of not just of attitude but of method: "The most competitive companies are those that endeavour to create structures that are permeable to new ideas," he tells us. In this regard, Prosegur is adhering to the main lines of action of its Strategic Plan for the 2021-23 period, a guidance document based on two principles: Perform, the willingness to persevere in a job well done, optimising processes day after day, and Transform, the ambition to build a future based on a solid foundation of technological innovation. As Espinel says, Prosegur "has been at the forefront of the private security sector for 45 years". This tradition is "both an endorsement and a stimulus to continue innovating", because leadership that is not consolidated through a process of creative transformation will sooner or later languish.
Locks and rockets propelled into the future
Beyond the general principles and declarations of intent, Espinel chooses to stick to specific examples. To begin with, the Come In Open Innovation programme, launched "in March 2020, coinciding with the start of the pandemic". The first edition involved 190 start-ups from 33 different countries, despite the challenges of the health crisis. According to Espinel, the aim is "to capture the entrepreneurial talent of some of the most disruptive emerging companies, which are presented with a series of transformation challenges and asked to put forward practical solutions".
A specific example of the fruits of this programme is the project carried out with the start-up Thinger.io. Thinger.io designed "a high security smart randomised lock for use in our Cash Today cash management devices". This product was the winner in its COME IN category and a pilot programme was subsequently developed involving Prosegur and the company behind the idea. The final testing phase of this solution is currently being developed in Argentina. In 2022, Prosegur will carry out a new open innovation initiative focused specifically on the United States, "a strategic country", in the words of Espinel, "because it accounts for almost 50% of global turnover in the field of private security".
Another important initiative is the "The Rockets" intrapreneurship programme. Espinel describes it as "the creation of a channel that will enable the talent of our staff to flourish: we have 150,000 staff in 26 different countries and we are sure that many of them will come up with excellent ideas, so our challenge is to be the first to listen to them and see if they can be put into practice". The figures are very striking: Since this entrepreneurship promotion tool was launched, 7,000 employees from 21 countries have used it, and this has resulted in the emergence of 1,135 ideas, some of which are especially innovative, as well as ambitious and viable.
Espinel highlights one of them, Crete, the winning proposal from the Prosegur AVOS business line. This is "an algorithm to predict the risk that an insurance company's customers will change company in the medium term to optimise their loyalty strategies". Espinel describes the process that such initiatives go through, the idea of one of Prosegur's employees: "First it's about identifying the most promising ideas, what we call The Best Rocket. We then launched The Explorer Rocket, the internal entrepreneurship process with which we tried to turn this idea into a commercially viable product. The final phase would be the launch of the Pioneer Rocket, the finished product ready to open a new market or business segment for the company."
Digital twins and autonomous vehicles
Also noteworthy is the role played in the company's innovation policy by the so-called Tech Studios. Jose Daniel describes them as "proofs of concept carried out by internal teams of specialists in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things or cloud technologies". Its function is to identify advances in these crucial technological areas and find a practical application for them in the business areas in which Prosegur operates. Two of the company's big medium-term commitments have emerged from this fertile project launcher, both applied to protection systems for physical spaces through smart alarms: "On the one hand, we make use of the surface mapping system with the creation of digital twins. This enables us to create virtual environments identical to the physical environments that we must protect, which means we are able to carry out a much more accurate diagnosis of the situation when a sensor trips and establish priorities for action taking into account factors such as whether or not the area in which the incident has occurred is critical".
The other initiative is related to Lidar technology, which is mostly used by autonomous vehicles: "Thanks to our adaptation of this system, we can create volumetric images of up to 200 metres of the perimeter of the area we protect. This will enable us to identify possible external threats or create a composite of the place with a high degree of precision, since we will have a three-dimensional image of the environment, detailed and valid in any type of weather conditions, be it with sun, rain or fog".
Finally, Espinel stresses that the real challenge facing any company that aspires to be in the technological vanguard is to "turn innovation into habit". For Prosegur, this involves consolidating a "mature and flexible product development model, receptive to both internal and external talent, focused on opening up to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, identifying potential partners and accumulating knowledge". Only in this way is it possible "to start from the most innovative technology and create new reliable, scalable and robust products". Which is to say suitable for reaching a large number of customers in a reasonable period of time. The type of solutions, in short, with which creative intelligence cuts an opening when life walls us in.