Pandemic-related economic factors are likely to continue to present challenges across many industries in 2021. While the global pandemic has certainly taken the world by surprise, the security industry excels at planning for the unexpected & is resourceful in times of crisis. However, at a time when budgets are tight, many businesses, cities, critical infrastructure and transportation agencies need to be creative about how they use, update & redeploy their security systems across their organizations. When thinking more broadly about the role of physical security & what it can do beyond traditional applications to deliver more value, organizations need to think beyond the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic. They need to work to ensure that their investments not only solve today’s problems, but also continue to play a strategic role even once the pandemic is finally in the rear-view mirror.
One of the first challenges created by the pandemic, and one that is likely to stay with us for some time, is the need to know exactly how many people are in a building at any given time. When COVID-19 first appeared, many organizations used manual people counting. This involved having an employee sit at the entrance with a manual people counting device, or worse, require each customer to use a shopping cart regardless of their needs. In addition to being incredibly inefficient, it also increased the risk of transmission between the counter & building visitors. Manual counting is imprecise first & foremost because humans are prone to error. In order to get an accurate read on how many people are in a building, counts need to be made of all those entering & exiting, thus multiplying the likelihood of errors. Additionally, and even if manual counting is reasonably accurate, it provides no way of knowing where visitor traffic flows as people move throughout a building.
Many security professionals are hesitant to deploy entirely new solutions that mightn’t stand the test of time. However, if you already have a physical security system built on open architecture components, you’re better prepared to meet these evolving challenges. For example, when it comes to compliance with health authorities COVID-19 regulations, an occupancy management solution can be easily deployed on an existing system to standardise, digitise, and automate SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). And, as the environment & the nature of the threat changes, you can update your SOPs in accordance with ever changing regulations.
An occupancy management solution such as the Genetec Occupancy Management Package expands existing Genetec™ Security Center features to allow businesses like bricks & mortar retailers or banks to count people in real time, visualise data & respond accordingly. For example, the system can be set up to deliver notifications when occupancy reaches a certain, set threshold to allow security teams to intervene before maximum occupancy is reached. Reports can also be produced to demonstrate compliance with local measures.
Occupancy management solutions can also be used to inform other activities, like cleaning processes. In the past, cleaning was once done according to a preset schedule, now the system can notify the cleaning staff when to clean a bathroom based on the number of people who have used it.
Many organizations are unable to ensure individuals maintain a constant, 1.5 metres of social distancing between them due to the nature of activities. To minimize the risks of outbreak, screening checkpoints are often established. Employees and visitors are then asked questions to help determine the risk of contagion they present. But manual tracking slows down screening, disrupting business, & like manual counting it’s highly error prone.
Customers across several industries including airports, critical infrastructure organizations & security departments have deployed Genetec Mission Control™, the decision management system for Genetec Security Center, to help automate the screening process for employees & visitors entering facilities. Using Mission Control, organizations can easily digitize the screening questionnaire. The system then walks personnel through each step, identifying individuals requiring additional screening. It also centralizes the data collected & automates notification to supervisors, leading to a faster process that minimizes operational disruption.
Supporting Contact Tracing
Increasingly, we’re seeing that occupancy management is more than just counting people coming & going. Through the pandemic we’ve come to recognise the importance of knowing who was where, and when, throughout our facilities.
We know that if a person tests positive for COVID-19, everyone who has come in close contact with that individual should be contact traced. This allows those who have potentially been exposed to the virus to monitor their symptoms, get a COVID-19 test, and self-isolate until they receive their test result. But this can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, in the case of large buildings or venues, particularly if staff is only counting people at the main entrance.
A unified security platform can help. By bringing together access control events with metadata from multiple sources, including LIDAR & video analytics, and then generating reports, this set-up can mitigate the spread of the virus by supporting contact tracing.
Early on in the pandemic, Genetec responded to a customer request by developing the “Synergis Proximity Report” that can be generated if an employee or visitor tests positive. An Operator can quickly see which passages (doors, elevators, turnstiles etc.) that person had accessed. The activity report, available in the Genetec Synergis IP access control system, provides a list of all of individuals who came into close proximity with the known infected individual having used the same passages within a defined time period. The report also links any associated video footage. This allows operators to see who may have been in contact with the infected individual to generate a list of people who may have been exposed even if they did not use their credentials to access a door. This type of forensic analysis can be extremely beneficial to organizations seeking to use technology they already have to better protect employees, visitors, and the broader community.
Maintaining personal privacy remains important
Of course, we cannot lose sight of the fact that many of these measures require seeing & sharing personal identifiable information. So, how do organizations keep people safe & informed without exposing personal information? The answer is deploying a video surveillance system that provides the ability to automatically blur faces or objects during both live & recorded video.
Then, organizations can enable authorized personnel to see those faces only when absolutely required. This means, for example, that security operators monitoring live feeds or reviewing stored footage see figures whereas supervisors or other authorized personnel see identifiable information.
Sharing Evidence in the Cloud
Avoiding physical contact is key to staying healthy these days. So, physically delivering and handing over paper reports, CDs, or other digital storage media can be risky. A solution such as the Genetec Clearance™ cloud-based evidence management system, lets you avoid the physical hand-off to partners & speed up the transfer of critical information.
Managing occupancy density in public spaces and on the roads with ALPR
To adhere to occupancy density guidelines, public-facing businesses as well as parks, beaches, and recreational facilities can adjust their security measures using automatic license plate recognition (ALPR). An ALPR-based solution can measure the occupancy of a parking lot & assist in its management, by displaying and notifying employees when limits are reached. Reports can also be produced to demonstrate a parking manager’s compliance with local measures. As many jurisdictions around the world implemented curfew hours during the pandemic, ALPR technology offers an effective way to ensure that only medical staff or government authorities are on the roadways during a curfew hours.
Preparing for the future, whatever it may be
The security industry has been challenged in unpreceded ways during the pandemic & security professionals were pulled into the forefront during this crisis, showing extraordinary resilience and resourcefulness. They have been able to repurpose & adapt their business models & leverage their existing security infrastructure to meet some of the new challenges created by the pandemic with video analytics such as people counting, occupancy management, ensuring that hand washing and mask-wearing guidelines are being observed, and much more. This crisis has given the security industry an opportunity to redefine its role & value proposition. During this crisis Security leaders are consistently showing that physical security investments are not just a cost of doing business, but a true strategic value-add to the organization.
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