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7.2.20 – SIW – More Info

As more and more organizations consider reopening, safety and security takes center stage in business operations

The business disaster experts say firms should be planning for measures like fewer hours, staggered shifts and more shift changes for their staff. Across the United States, governors are rolling out a patchwork of constantly evolving plans to relax social distancing restrictions. At the height of restrictions in late March and early April, more than 310 million Americans were under directives ranging from “shelter in place” to “stay at home.” The orders varied by state, county and even city. Health officials warn that easing restrictions too soon could bring new outbreaks, but many states have forged ahead.

While all the talk of reopening the United States and reenergizing business and the economy has political talking heads battling, the reality of rising numbers of those infected with the coronavirus might make this summer look a lot like April 2020 again. Now as many health experts have warned and even some in Washington, D.C. concede, reopening America may have been premature based on the skyrocketing viral curve.

With  America’s bumpy reopening being reassessed, can we really envision business as usual anytime soon? And if so, how do risk and operations executives assess where we’re at from a business perspective? How do you forge a business plan and assess what needs to be done to get enterprise level and global operations back up and running smoothly and safely? Some business disaster experts say firms should be planning for shorter business hours, staggered shifts and more shift changes for their staff. Security and risk personnel are working closely with business continuity directors to reimagine security technology that is touchless, video surveillance that can also analyze employee movement throughout a facility and detect people with fevers, and all this is being done while rolling out a patchwork of constantly evolving plans to relax social distancing restrictions.

Dealing With the Unknown

Jonathan Moore, who is the Product Director at AMAG Technology, and manages product development for AMAG’s Symmetry CONNECT Identity Management, Symmetry GUEST Visitor Management and Symmetry Incident Management solutions, is one of those security solutions providers that has found an opportunity in chaos during these unprecedented circumstances. He admits that the initial technology and business operations began once the shutdown began and employees were forced from their traditional offices to work from home. But he also noticed that a lot of clients hadn’t expected that their entire Security Operations Centers (SOC) would also have to go remote.

“Nobody really expected to have to deal with business continuity issues, with everybody working remotely for three or four months straight. That wasn’t in the plan,” says Moore. “So, how do we deal with these kinds of situations? How do we react to a workforce that now needs to work remotely, but still monitor cameras and deal with the issues that are going on within their facilities, and protect all of their assets and people?”

Moore, like other vendors and end-users as well, are still weathering that initial challenge of operating while remote and protecting assets while off-site. And even though he admits the lessons learned are helping as organizations experience a partial ramp up, he acknowledges that once full operations resume, this staggered opening is uncovering a new set of challenges few anticipated.

“We’re getting a tremendous amount of feedback and questions about how can, not just the access control system, but all the other systems that are connected from visitor and identity and command and control and incident management, how can all of these different systems contribute to a safe return to work,” adds Moore, stressing that the majority of his clients are focused on returning to work safely and responsibly. “Everybody’s realized that there are no perfect solutions. This is a really tricky problem to solve and the best you can do is mitigate your risk as much as possible like enforcing people wearing masks and PPE, checking people’s temperature, enforcing social distancing, performing contact tracing when infections do occur, those sorts of things. These are the problems we’re all trying to solve — trying to ensure that people who are infected don’t come back to work.”

Putting the Spotlight on Technology

Over the last couple of decades, video surveillance has earned the technology spotlight because if its glitz, its penchant for proactive analysis of raw data and a symbiotic relationship with AI. However, the savvy security practitioner understands security begins at the front door and an access control system is a facility’s frontline of defense. Integrated access control solutions that incorporate advanced analytics, cutting-edge biometrics, wireless and Bluetooth capabilities are destined to play a role in the new normal of touchless and frictionless solutions that will result from the current pandemic.

“The beautiful thing about the access control system is it’s a hard barrier. You can encourage people only so much to do things, but if you turn off somebody’s access and physically bar them from entering through the front door until they comply with your regulations, that is 100% effective. I can force you to self-audit and self-certify that you feel healthy before you can come in the front door,” explains Moore, adding that is why the access control system is always the foundation of an integrated security system. “It is a real barrier to injury, and we can now guide our workforce through that access control system by enabling or disabling access. If you don’t comply you don’t come in, that’s the starting point.”

According to Moore, once the foundational structure of the access control protocols and technology are in place, end-users can start to track traffic and usage of their facilities and increase their situational awareness through the access control data itself.

“One of the things that we’ve done through our experience with analytic solutions and things that we’re working on now is a data analytics sort of solution called our  Symmetry Movement Impact Tool  If you do know that somebody is infected, or potentially infected, and they were in your building, you can now very quickly run a report and track where that person went and who else used the same readers in the same area at the same time. That allows users to begin doing some basic levels of contact tracing in terms of knowing this person went to this reader and within that same period of time these other five people were in,” Moore says. “We know they were in the room at the same time. So, now we can start to narrow down exactly who may have come into contact with that person, who we may need to isolate and remove from the situation at that point. The analytics starts there in terms of tracking where people are going and what are they doing.”

Like his end-user clients, Moore explains that reopening is a process and no facility is figuring to ramp up from zero to 100% capacity from day one, stating: “Not everybody’s coming back in one go. Buildings are going to get 25% capacity with an analytic solution that can allow you to track what capacity you are at on a given day. So, we can start to look at maybe we go to 25% occupancy in this building, but we realize we cannot overload this particular area. We’re keeping track of who’s coming in and cautiously monitoring everything to make sure that if something happens…we can contain and mitigate that risk. Data is crucial when it comes to this type of problem.”

Solutions That Meet the Need

Touchless and frictionless technology has become a top priority among many access control systems users. The spread of COVID-19 from contact with metal surfaces like door levers and other door hardware or contact with PIN pads and finger and hand biometrics has hastened an already growing market of touchless options.

“You have to separate the hype from the reality and so I’d start by saying, you have to also ensure that your door handles are touchless where you have automatic door openers and such. Otherwise, while I can give you the technological solution if you’re still touching the door handle that defeats the intent,” says Moore, adding that AMAG has several new solutions that are being developed and currently available like its Symmetry Mobile product, which is a centrally managed mobile credential management solution.

“You could go and pay using your mobile phones at the readers through secure Bluetooth to open doors. Your phone obviously operates essentially like a physical access card with the benefit of mobile being that one extremely convenient option,” he adds. “There are a lot of features and functionality around this solution. But the point that’s pertinent to this is you can centrally issue mobile credentials to your entire user base and have them capture their own photos without anybody coming into the badging office. Say tonight I have people congregating, I can issue you a credential completely remotely that you load onto your mobile device, you can take a selfie sort of photo, and that comes back, I can approve it without you and I being in the same room together, thus eliminating unnecessary sort of social contact.

“Then at the door, I can present my mobile device to the reader — it’s obviously touchless. If I have to authenticate, like typing in a PIN code, for example, or do multi-factor authentication, I’m still able to do that all on my own mobile device. I don’t touch the reader at any stage of the process. It’s completely touchless from a technology point of view. We’re getting a tremendous amount of interest in that as a solution because it’s centrally managed, people don’t have to come into badge office, and they can authenticate on their own device without touching anything.”

For technologists like Moore, providing global organizations the tools to reopen their operations in the coming months has moved to the top of the priority charts. Enabling management to increase facility capacity in a safe and secure manner depends on actionable data and real-time analytics.

“I certainly feel for the executives out there who are trying to bring their workforce back. Obviously, we have to get the economy going; we have to get businesses going. But we have to do it in a safe way. These executives are responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of employees. As a G4S company, we know we have hundreds of thousands of employees, so I understand it’s a massive headache that must be keeping a lot of executives up at night. They have to show that they’re acting responsibly and doing everything they can to bring back everybody in a safe and logical manner that doesn’t expose people unnecessarily to risk,” assesses Moore, pointing to solutions like AMAG’s Symmetry Business Intelligence platform that delivers critical information through data analysis to help identify the employees, contractors and other identities that may pose the highest risk to the organization as an important tool to safe and secure reopening.

“That’s where a product like BI, our business intelligence solution comes in because it shows them the data. It’s essentially providing them proof that they’re operating according to their own policies and rules. if you set rules where you’re only running 15% capacity in these buildings, those executives can now pull up dashboards that show exactly what capacity they are at any moment. But they can drill into that information even deeper. There’s a lot of data at your fingertips that allows you to track things like, which ways are people moving through the building…or how do I get people coming in through one door and out of a separate door so that they’re not crossing paths? How do I have visitors coming through one entrance and employees coming through another,” says Moore. “The BI dashboard gives you the data needed to make decisions related to the safest routes to have people coming in and out of your facilities. It really is a good way of planning for a return to work.”

About the Author:  Steve Lasky is a 34-year veteran of the security publishing industry and multiple-award-winning journalist. He is currently the Editorial Director for the Endeavor Business Security Media Group, the world’s largest security media entity, serving more than 190,000 security professionals in print, interactive and events. It includes Security Technology ExecutiveSecurity Business and Locksmith Ledger International magazines, and SecurityInfoWatch.com, the most visited security web portal in the world. He can be reached at steveo@securityinfowatch.com