By Allan B. Colombo
From the August 2021 Issue
Security in this day and age is not an option, it’s an absolute necessity whether it involves physical or logistical protection. For a facility manager, it’s important to understand the common risks, uncommon security threats, and cyber security issues, along with the most efficient and available solutions. Although it seems as though the sky’s the limit, so far as the number of concerns involving the security challenges we face today, the following five trends appear to be foremost. These include:
- Multi-tenant building security
- The proliferation of mobile devices
- Touchless operation
- Advanced forms of integration
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) in security
Within each one lies several areas of concern. As we progress through these, we’ll look at underlying issues and solutions that security integrators have employed.
Multi-Tenant Building Security
For multiple tenant structures and campus settings—both residential and business oriented—there are many advances on the electronic side of physical security that industry professionals see. One of them involves the full integration of access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, visitor-tenant communications, and more.
“As a manufacturer of electronic security solutions, our typical customers are multi-tenant residential properties, apartments, condos, gated communities with single-family homes, etc.,” says Wanchai Siriwalothakul, sales manager and founding partner with Smart Entry Systems of Miami, FL. “They want video intercom for visitors to make video calls to residents’ smart phones; RFID access control to the gym, pool; temporary guest QR codes; etc.”
Another aspect associated with this particular trend is the advent of a cloud-based, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) subscription service. Although an on-site investment in hardware is necessary, a significant portion of the overall cost is within the cloud.
“Cloud technology has dramatically changed the way data is stored and even categorized. In video surveillance, it is important to understand what architecture makes the most sense, as it’s rarely practical (nor economically feasible) to transfer all video data to the cloud. Instead, a hybrid approach where data stays local, but devices are managed in the cloud is often preferable,” says Fredrik Nilsson, vice president of the Americas, Axis Communications, headquartered in Lund, Sweden.
This all but eliminates the customary high start-up costs associated with traditional electronic security which often relies entirely on an on-site computer network. It also eliminates the expense of upgrading, updating, and maintaining the head-end.
Mobile Devices And Advent Of Applications
Another trend in security is full integration using mobile devices in conjunction with building management platforms. This includes intrusion detection, video surveillance, communications, access systems, fire, and a variety of building automation features.
“Smartphones make it possible to not just see what’s happening at an entrance point, but they can interact with individuals, communicating and providing access control of doors, electrically-controlled gates, and more,” says Israel Pagan Jr, President of Smart Building Integration (SBI) of Fort Lauderdale, FL.
It allows building occupants to have a level of control over their environment, and also provides the knowledge that they are living or working in a building equipped with a higher level of protection from intrusion and other security threats.
“The ability to turn building access over to tenants to manage remotely offers a seamless way to access a building and help manage access to shared common areas. For example, a gym in a commercial building, or laundry room in a condo facility.,” says Brad Kamcheff, Aiphone marketing manager of Redmond, WA.
If there’s any one takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that touch-free control has finally come of age. However, the security industry was headed in this direction long before COVID-19 emerged.
“As the world glimpses a return to more ‘normal’ life, one change seems likely to endure: the preference for touch-free digital experiences. The global pandemic both accelerated the world’s digital transformation and re-oriented it to a model that reduces or eliminates physical touchpoints and in-person contact,” says Jim Dearing, director of product marketing, Physical Access Control Solutions with HID Global of London.
Low-energy door operators in conjunction with rugged outdoor PIR (Passive Infrared) motion detectors is a great example of a touch-free application. Approaching the door will automatically activate the low-energy operator, opening the door. Another example increasingly encountered is that of the ordinary smartphone and a radio frequency (RF) technology referred to as Near Field Communications (NFC). NFC and Bluetooth allow automatic opening of a door through a low-energy door operator while qualifying the individual’s identity. This eliminates the need to press buttons on an outside keypad; present a hand to a palm reader; or swipe, insert, or present a prox card to a reader.
Manufacturers also have developed a variety of methods in the quest to automate contactless egress. Where in years past it was often necessary to activate a Request to Exit (REX) device, now the person waves their hand in front of a single-gang device. An exit bar equipped with traditional micro-switches across the inside of an exit door also can be used to exit by using the body to press it.
Advanced Forms Of Integration
Today, because of the pandemic and the constant need for essential goods, such as groceries and other commodities, To-The-Door delivery service has become the norm. It wasn’t long into the trend, however, that buyers began to see criminals take advantage of packages sitting at entryways.
Large corporate suppliers responded by devising ways in which the security of packages can be better assured, and that meant providing access to garage doors, front doors, and the driveway gates that that protect gated communities and industrial parks. Curtice Jarvis, owner of Far Out Design Inc of Seminole, FL, is paid by these online retailers to facilitate this access.
“I’m paid to go in and add the necessary equipment or programming that gives these delivery people unbridled access to businesses and even front doors,” says Jarvis.
Another advanced form of integration that professionals see involves gunshot detection. According to Mike Anderson, President of Safe Zone of Melbourne, FL, “The Safe Zone system responds within 10 seconds to an active shooter [event], analyzing the on-the-ground situation and automatically communicating with all key personnel, from first responders to school administrators, to parents and management.”
Communication with stakeholders is carried out in three ways:
- Alerts through audible means, amplified and distributed by a local public address system, or through the audio notification portion of a fire alarm.
- Law enforcement is notified of an active shooter situation through traditional central station operators.
- Mass notification alert system using SMS/cellular, network messaging, and other electronic means informs stakeholders.
A general lockdown may also be performed using wireless radio-frequency door locks on offices and, in the case of a school, classrooms. It’s not uncommon for this to include the release of security doors within a building as well as lockdown of outside doors.
The Advent Of AI In Security
Professionals across the board see the need for higher forms of integrated security. A good example of this is a security room equipped with a wall of video monitors that is now, more and more, seeing the advent of AI data analysis.
“AI is merely a fancy way to say computer controlled. It goes by a set of guidelines which is just programming. Automation is coming along faster with AI interfacing into supply chain needs and package tracking. The solutions are unlimited,” says Steven Valentin, project manager for Jacksonville with BCI Integrated Solutions of Tampa, FL.
According to most integrators like Valentin, AI technology is being introduced into almost every facet of security and life safety, video surveillance being one of the most logical. He adds, “More and more systems are starting to integrate into camera systems. It’s getting to the point that large enterprise systems will be used to completely integrate all facets of a business from people counting, safety and security, facial rec, scene validation, hardwire contacts as well as the ability to interface with many systems.”
Another area where AI will play a major role in both physical and logistical security is cyber security. According to Jason Ouellette, director of technology & business innovation, ACVS Building Technologies & Solutions for Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, WI, “Cyber security is core and table stakes for all our products, cloud enablement for on-premises, hybrid and true cloud that supports modern deployment, scale and resiliency, AI for both data and computer vision, facial and non-contact biometrics and the move to support for mobile and higher secure credentials for our physical access control are all active development efforts.”
As society continues to recover from the pandemic, facility managers continue to find it necessary to adjust their security and safety precautions. In this effort, it’s important to 1) stay abreast of the issues that local law enforcement and fire protection agencies face, 2) stay in close contact with your security integrator or alarm company so you can take advantage of technologies as they emerge, and 3) keep your employees up to date on safety and legal issues that involve regular tenants and/or general public who visit.
A longtime trade journalist in the security and life safety markets, Colombo has written numerous articles on these and other building topics. He is a recipient of the prestigious Jesse H. Neal Award.
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