The security landscape has grown and changed as society has evolved. Office security used to be just about door locks and guards with badges in the lobby. Then, connected devices created the need for cybersecurity teams and expertise. Now, IoT building infrastructures have brought physical and cybersecurity together and the past year has presented the latest function of security: the health-safety imperative that will be a priority for security teams for the foreseeable future.
At the start of the pandemic, the lockdowns called for us to work from home, isolate ourselves from others, and cancel in-person plans. Fortunately, the end of that is near with aggressive vaccine rollouts taking place in the United States. People will soon be trickling back into offices, shopping at stores, and cautiously returning to their day-to-day routines that were put on hold exactly a year ago. After the global pandemic we collectively experienced, the expectations about safety and security have changed and security teams and the buildings they manage need to be prepared to meet these new higher standards.
The old way of thinking about building security needs an update. Threats have evolved, people are nervous, and security and facility managers have the opportunity to create an environment that is not only safe and secure, but promotes productivity, collaboration, and success. Brivo, a cloud-based security and property technology company, recently released its 2021 Smart Security Trends Report. The report revealed that 75 percent of respondents see increased importance in security since the pandemic at their organization and that nearly 30 percent do not have centralized security solutions.
For a safe return to the office, new security measures need to be in place and building occupants and their employees are looking for them. These measures are an opportunity to bring back the workforce with confidence. New technology-enabled security measures can include access control, using mobile credentials, and using the cloud for ease of remote access. “COVID and the PropTech boom were unrelated but coincidental drivers that have pushed three things to the forefront: access control in general, mobile credentials, and cloud for everything,” explained Steve Van Till, President & CEO at Brivo.
Especially after last year, building occupants and companies could use less worry. There’s great value in getting ahead of security concerns before we start returning to the office enmass. Right now, specifically, physical security has tangible and immediate benefits, to both the confidence and health of people who are going to start coming back to work each day. Combining mobile access control with AI-supported surveillance technology can detect whether a person entering a building is wearing personal protective equipment such as a mask before they’re admitted and enforce mobile self screening before access is granted. Visitor reporting enables security professionals to configure interactive COVID-19 screening processes such as a customized questionnaire regarding the visitor’s health which can help determine if they pose a potential health risk. Occupancy tracking technology allows facility managers to set occupancy limits by site based on corporate or local restrictions and track the number of people inside a facility. These capabilities support safer environments for employees to come back to.
The case for increasing security is a solid one, and judging by the survey results, an agreed-upon one, but adoption hasn’t taken off yet. What are the barriers that companies are running into? “Our respondents noted a lack of budget as the main barrier to adopting new physical security technology,” said Van Till. “There is a disconnect between the understanding of the critical importance of access control, especially as organizations prepare for returning employees back to the office and allocating the appropriate budget to make the upgrades necessary to protect businesses and employees health-safety.”
For something that is at top of mind with urgency as offices reopen, the lack of agreement about budget to solve security issues can be confusing. “Within IT, cloud migration is typically one of the top priorities. IT leaders understand the cost and efficiency benefits of cloud services as well as the real-time security updates that can better protect their interconnected infrastructure,” said Van Till. “However, the challenge comes with the allocation of dollars as many organizations have prioritized cybersecurity technology over physical security.”
It’s true, the issues of cybersecurity are nothing to ignore. The recent breaches of SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange have re-elevated the public’s awareness of cyber vulnerabilities and the potential exposure of confidential and sensitive information. Vulnerability, at both company and individual levels, is something to avoid and while IT teams concentrate on the cybersphere, buildings need to manage what they are able to control. “I would argue that physical security needs the investment to modernize today, in order to meet the changing dynamics of the workforce amid COVID and what comes next,” said Van Till.
The popularity of cloud access control has been on the rise for years and has only been accelerated by the pandemic. Buildings are connected and interactive environments now. People now use buildings differently and have different expectations for how they exist within them, especially post pandemic. Security practices and technologies need to evolve with them; the door readers and badges of yesterday simply don’t cut it in today’s modern and connected world. The level of security in buildings and the safety of those within them should be understood with comprehensive and real time data so employees and management know that everything possible is being done to bring back the workforce safely. It’s been a tough year, let’s reopen our doors to healthy and comfortable spaces and an enjoyable return to the office.