By Rob Spinetti
Facility safety and security are light years beyond the days of having several guards and an alarm system, and navigating a complex array of the technologies available. Whether the focus is on compliance and driving efficiencies, or simply bolstering efforts already in place, it is important to be aware of the trends currently shaping security and how they can benefit business. Following are five developments to watch.
Biometrics goes Mainstream
Biometrics is no longer the domain of sci-fi movies and top-secret bunkers; it is increasingly employed for mainstream security purposes. This authentication method uses unique human characteristics such as fingerprints, retina scans and even the veins in a person’s hand. It can help drive greater operational efficiencies, like getting people through facilities quicker, while maintaining a more controlled environment by knowing exactly who is on-site and not just who cards in on-site, which is all part of enhancing security. If using a biometric-only technology, then losing or forgetting an access card is no longer an issue. Typically, biometrics is used in a layered approach, securing high risk in critical areas where one must know exactly who is entering or leaving. The pinnacle biometric solution within the next few years will be DNA – still a work in progress, but eventually commercialisation will define it as the most accurate of all the biometric measures.
Intelligence Moves to the Edge
Gone are the days of relying solely on a central server for powering applications. Now, the storage and intelligence can be found in the device itself – or at the ‘edge’. When talking about closed-circuit television, this concept is coming to life through video enhancements, which provide the processing power to run advanced analytics or video analysis and capture extremely high-resolution footage within commercially available cameras. This speeds up the automatic identification of potential issues through smart analysis and gives security personnel a clear view of the situation in real time or post event.
Edge intelligence is also shaping new innovations like electronic locks, or e-locks, which provide wireless access control. Rather than having to run wires from individual readers to a central panel connected to the building management system, the ‘smarts’ embedded in an e-lock cuts out the controller hardware in the middle, providing a quicker response and saving the need to run miles of cabling. This gives better control and can significantly reduce installation costs. Controller-less architectures do not only apply to smart locks, but can be smart readers as well. Combining smart cards with smart readers and mesh network communications, this powerful wireless architecture becomes easy to deploy and easy to maintain.
IT and Security Converge
Central decision making is no longer limited to a security or facility manager. Physical and network security are converging and IT is becoming more important as security, building and enterprise systems connect. As a result, both sides need to learn new competencies and develop the expertise to manage processes and technologies that merge physical and logical security. One of the benefits of convergence is unified identification and credentials (also known as tokens) for easy, more accurate management. The earlier plastic cards containing a string of 1s and 0s to determine access rights now flow to more secure encrypted security certificates or electronic signatures which can be authenticated on-site or at a centralised repository. The sophistication of encryption and authentication technologies needs to keep up to speed with cyber criminals and hackers; the systems are only as secure as the layers of any defence strategy and audit framework.
When was the last time anyone forgot their smartphone at home? People increasingly rely on their smartphones for everything, from checking the weather to hailing a car to the airport. So it makes sense to use these ubiquitous devices for access and other security applications. Leveraging mobile technology allows security personnel to manage systems from any location, improving control and increasing response time. Similarly, mobility simplifies visitor management and way-finding as it is easier to swipe a phone to get access to specific areas in a building, or use a smart app to book or find the way to a conference or meeting room. From an end-user standpoint, mobility provides a more seamless experience and, since there is no need for a badge or other ID, it means one less thing to remember in the morning.
The User Experience is Paramount
The idea of taking a class to learn how to operate a smartphone, tablet or laptop may sound absurd, but complex user manuals and start-up guides are the standard with facility technologies. People expect an out-of-the-box experience both in their personal lives and at their workplace. As a result, the commercial and industrial world is starting to see easy-to-understand interfaces and intuitive technologies; ones that do not require significant training to operate, instead introducing new ways to visualise information and manage processes or guided workflows. While simple in concept, the impact is significant. When it comes to security, an enhanced user experience helps minimise operator error, increases the incident response time and ensures technology remains as an enabler to maintaining facility security. Guided workflows are known to reduce stressful situations, guide operators to calm, controlled decisions and ensure no critical steps are missed or forgotten. This is done through a recorded sequence of events replaying any critical incident, which allows operators and organisations to hone skills and improve processes and speed to response for next time.
At its core, security ultimately comes down to quickly identifying issues and mitigating risk. These trends are a sample of the ways technology is providing a more efficient, effective means to those ends. And, in many cases, they are also reducing the resources and costs necessary to get there.
Rob Spinetti is a Principal Technologist with Honeywell Asia Pacific’s Major projects & PPP team.
The Major projects team is responsible for the overseeing and governance of Honeywell project bids ranging from 10 to over 100 million US dollars within the Asia Pacific Area, Middle East and South Africa.