History tells us that the most significant drivers for inventions and innovations were in times of war, famine, and pandemic. This has never been illustrated more accurately than in the past year. 2020 challenged the physical security industry like no other year in recent memory. If nothing else, it taught the security industry and the world to be prepared, expect the unexpected, and be ready to pivot. To meet these challenges, the security industry has had to step up and embrace new technologies, and in some cases to adapt existing ones to address the changing security landscape. 

Touchless Technology and Access Control Systems

Touchless technology is not necessarily new. Public restrooms have deployed contactless technology for years. Sinks, soap dispensers, overhead lights that detect motion, and even self-flushing toilets that monitor movement have been used in public spaces for a long time. But during the past year, with the general public avoiding any unnecessary physical contact with shared surfaces such as door handles, elevator buttons, and PIN code entry systems, the development of touchless access control systems has accelerated dramatically. The use of facial recognition technology, palmprint or fingerprint recognition, smartphones, NFC and QR codes are now routinely used in various facilities every day. 

Video and Data Analytics

Security firms, especially those protecting complex environments, have relied on video analytics more than ever since the start of the pandemic to track what’s happening on the ground without having to be physically present at all times. The importance of data is also becoming increasingly crucial as security companies are starting to recognize the tremendous value of data and invest in tools and technology to use that data effectively. If you don’t know how serious organizations are about data analytics, the worldwide big data analytics market, which was valued at USD 37.34 billion in 2018, is expected to grow to USD 105.08 billion by 2027. 

Before 2020, many companies already collected data but simply didn’t understand how to leverage it. Today, it’s no longer enough to merely respond to alarms and incidents as security officers may not be onsite. You need to understand how data contains information that can help companies monitor incidents and activities, spot trends, and share real-time insights across the organization to drive change. 

Digital Transformation

While the security industry was already undergoing a digital transformation, the pandemic has, in some ways, accelerated the digitalization of business processes. Security isn’t only about protecting property and people anymore. A true digital transformation ensures that people, processes, and technologies are synchronized and seamlessly connected, which is more important than ever in a world where many workers choose to remain remote.  

Cloud Migration

The need to move to the cloud also accelerated across the security industry during the last year. More and more businesses, from large enterprises to small security firms to in-house security departments, started to leverage cloud solutions to extend the flexibility of their operations and respond to the changing business landscape. Cloud-based security workforce management solutions – which bring together security operations, mobile services, administrative functions, and analytics – helped security firms quickly transition to remote operations and work-from-home mandates. 

Security and Self-Driving Disinfection Robots

Robots also became more heavily relied upon during 2020, especially in locations where security is challenging due to logistics, safety, or cost reasons. Utility plants, for example, are often located in remote areas that require round-the-clock protection. There are also organizations with ever-changing security and surveillance needs. For these types of organizations, security robots provide perimeter intrusion detection and integration with existing security workforce management solutions. In hospital settings, autonomous robots that emit ultraviolet C (UV-C) light are being used to control the spread of the coronavirus. 

Lessons Learned 

“Necessity is the mother of invention” is a quote from the dialogue Republic by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. 2020 was a year that the physical security industry relied heavily on invention and innovation because we needed to. It also prompted an outpouring of creativity. From disinfecting robots to a wristband that buzzes whenever you are about to touch your face to hygiene-friendly door-hooks when you need to open a door with sanitized hands to an anti-microbial coating that destroys the coronavirus on impact to decontaminate commonly used surfaces to elevator motion sensors that require you to wave a foot or a hand in front of a sensor to call the elevator, the possibilities are endless. Without a doubt, 2020 demonstrated what resourcefulness and inventiveness looked like in the face of adversity.  

If there is a lesson to be learned from 2020, it is that the security industry needs to be prepared to adapt to rapidly evolving situations. By working closely with developers, manufacturers, and partners, physical security professionals can take advantage not only of new technology but also adapt existing technologies to meet new challenges. Let the innovation continue.

This article first appeared in the Autumn edition of City Security