It’s safe to say that 2020 has been an unusual year; the impact of COVID-19 has been felt around the world. Everyone has begun adapting to what is commonly called ‘the new norm’. Individuals, families, companies, organisations and even countries are having to change the way they operate, how they interact and how they travel. The impact on businesses has been massive, home working has become standard for many people. Some sectors have been devastated and very few have been left unaffected. The future remains uncertain and this has had an impact on the global financial markets. Companies are tightening their belts in readiness of a predicted recession – it’s certainly not the easiest time to do business. From a security perspective, there has also been changes in the way assets are monitored. Sites that were once busy are now empty and unmanned, lockdowns and travel restrictions have put further pressure on manned security teams and operators and crime rates also tend to increase as a result of economic uncertainties and increased unemployment.
So how will security managers and asset owners react? Some key decisions will need to be made upfront:
- Costs – How do we get value for money? Can we reduce the whole life cost of deploying risk mitigation including maintenance over the systems lifetime?
- Personnel – How do we plan for further lockdowns and the risk of staff shortages?
- Decision Making – How can we improve operator information in real time to enable them to quickly assess a threat and affect an appropriate response?
For an electronic security solution costs can fall into one of three categories. These are; the upfront technical costs, implementation costs including any civils, power requirements, etc. and finally, ongoing maintenance costs. Future security investment will most likely to come under even closer scrutiny, as company FDs or CFOs look to reduce costs from each element. The cost-effectiveness of the solution over its complete lifespan will be taken into consideration. What’s the upgrade cycle? What does the product lifespan look like? What will be the cost of annual maintenance commitments? Are there solutions available with a low infrastructure cost and are there low or even no maintenance solutions out there?
The manufacturers and installers creating valued engineered solutions that do not impact risk mitigation will be the companies that win the business over the next 12-36 months. Long product lifespan, low installation costs, and minimal maintenance without compromising detection capability will be the security procurement motto in the short to medium term.
2020 exposed a key flaw in any risk mitigation plan that is heavily reliant on people. Even if guards were classified as essential workers and exempt from lockdown, reduced transportation has made it challenging to reach certain sites. This means security managers have had to prioritise areas to be protected and manned.
It’s important that the industry learns from this and ensures that any risk mitigation plan allows for the possibility of further disruption to travel. Security technology wasn’t impacted by social distancing, isolation, or travel disruption. In fact, such infrastructure continued normal operation, with the only impact being perhaps fewer operators in control rooms to monitor said equipment.
It’s easier to manage and prioritise security in a controlled environment, but what about outside? External areas or sites with long perimeters, how do you manage these areas with a potentially reduced guard force? In cases like this, it is important that security technology becomes the eyes and the ears of your security operation.
So, what are the main drivers of a fit-for-purpose technology security plan? Do these drivers change during a pandemic crisis? Let’s look at external intrusion detection as one key example.
Decision Making for Security
The need for real-time, accurate data from a potential security event is always key to affecting an appropriate response. This can be split into four aspects:
- Reliability – Operator confidence is earned with a reliable intrusion detection solution with low to zero false alarms. This is an area where there have been major leaps in security technology as the market has demanded dependability in alarm events. Advanced signal processing, complex algorithms and double knock technology have all contributed to increased reliability.
- Integration – Integrating intrusion detection with CCTV cameras also has a major impact on operator confidence. The ability for an integrated solution to automatically display the relevant camera feed without operator interaction gives an additional layer of reassurance. It also ensures the event is digitally recorded and can provide evidence for law enforcement.
- Probability of Detection – Equally important is probability of detection. Operators must be sure that their intrusion detection system is going to detect would be intruders. Achieving 95%+ probability of detection means that no additional patrols are needed, and doubt is removed from operators’ minds.
- Location accuracy has a direct correlation to a prompt response from security teams. This is especially true for external perimeter detection where there may be long perimeters of 5km, 10km or even longer to patrol and respond to. The ability to pinpoint an intruder with an accuracy of just a few metres ensures that security teams arrive promptly and stop a threat from escalating.
A security solution that can process alarm events according to priority also ensures key assets are always protected. By revisiting these aspects, asset managers can ensure that they have a plan in place that remains resilient should personnel levels be reduced, ensuring maximum coverage with minimum staff.
In summary, business continuity plans must now consider more intently the potential disruption to the availability of manpower. As a result, security technology that mitigates this risk should be given greater consideration.
This shift in focus can be illustrated by one of Bandweaver’s recent projects. With telecoms as a key vertical, the fiber optic sensing technology manufacturer has already delivered their solutions for a number of datacentres around the world. The latest of these had a set of specific demands to protect their datacentre.
Due to COVID-19, the client had reduced staffing levels and was the facility was operating almost autonomously. With high value and highly targeted assets, any outage caused by theft would have serious financial and reputational implications. They needed a market leading perimeter intrusion detection system that provided real time, accurate threat alerts with a focus on the whole life costs. The site is in a busy location with a high traffic road running alongside it. The client wanted to ensure his security team was not troubled by numerous false alarms.
Bandweaver’s range of PIDS solutions utilises fiber optic cable as its sensor, this cable has a typical lifespan of 30+ years and is maintenance free. It is attached directly to the fabric of the fence and walls so there is minimal civils or infrastructure costs. This method of installation is very quick. As a result, the system is up and running, detecting threats in a fraction of the time of alternative solutions. Meanwhile these other technologies still require trenches to be dug and power cables to be laid.
Fiber optic sensing also provides exemplary location accuracy, identifying the point of intrusion to a few meters. This solution ensures a high probability of detection with few nuisance alarms. This provides high confidence to the operators and reducing the need for regular patrols. When comparing technologies, the client quickly identified a substantial whole life cost saving over a ten-year period by deploying a fiber optic based PIDS system.
The system was fully integrated into a comprehensive CCTV system and, on alarm, a graphical user interface showed the exact location of the event together with the relevant camera images. This all occurs automatically without user intervention. All events could also be viewed remotely by their outsourced security team, who could respond promptly. This is just one example of how fiber optic PIDS solutions, such as those provided by Bandweaver are deployed worldwide to mitigate threats to perimeters, reducing the potential disruption of personnel shortages and travel restrictions. In an uncertain world where we face ever evolving threats, developing robust, reliable, and more self-sufficient security infrastructure needs to be a higher priority for our industry. We can’t predict the future. But we can certainly take steps to better manage the risks to protect businesses, assets, people and their livelihoods.