How physical security can help you do more with fewer people

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, organisations across all sectors were adopting new technologies in order to make workplaces more efficient, employees more productive, and customers more satisfied. This adoption, known as digital transformation, has been driven by three things: technological advances, changing customer expectations, and competition. 

Now it’s being driven by a fourth. The pandemic itself. And not just driven. Accelerated. According to a survey by cloud provider Twilio, 96% of UK enterprise decision makers reported that the pandemic has sped up their company’s digital transformation plans. 77% said that Covid-19 had increased their budget for digital transformation, with 36% saying it had increased it ‘dramatically’. Meanwhile, traditional barriers to transformation such as lack of time or strategy, getting executive approval, and reluctance to replace legacy systems have broken down.

At its core, digital transformation has always been about efficiency—automating processes, cutting out duplication, saving time, using fewer resources. It’s about doing more things with fewer people. 

Physical or building security is not always thought of as a priority area for digital transformation. But the efficiencies that can be discovered are abundant and most will benefit non-security teams as well. New efficiencies in the way your physical security systems operate can help your organisation to continue delivering the same output with a smaller workforce.

Post-pandemic, more things have to be done with fewer people because there are fewer people to do them. Many organisations are currently running with reduced workforces having been forced to furlough staff or make redundancies. In effect, digital transformation has gone from a ‘must have’ to a ‘must have now’.

Physical security automation

Usually, the HR or facilities department has to manually deprovision access credentials when an employee leaves. For big corporations, that’s a lot of repetitive admin. What’s worse is that it sometimes doesn’t happen till months later, creating big security and compliance issues. With a cloud-based access control system, you can automate the removal of employees from the system as soon as they depart, saving time and effort as well as improving security and compliance.

An access control system equipped with biometric authentication, such as facial recognition, can grant or deny access by itself. This eliminates the need to staff entrances/exits and makes sign-in books and other manual access procedures a thing of the past. It’s also more secure. For example, a staff member might buzz you in without properly checking who you are. Automated access control systems eliminate this risk.  

Some CCTV systems require a person to watch live footage. A system powered by artificial intelligence (AI) could do that for you, recognising and alerting you to abnormal events that could pose a threat to your business. Other systems that are more passive require a person to trawl through hours of footage after an incident, in order to find evidence of the cause or perpetrator. But AI can ‘watch’ hundreds of hours of video in seconds. 

Then there’s robotic security guards, such as Knightscope’s K5. Equipped with alarms, sensors, cameras and AI, these autonomous guards have continued to secure workplaces while their human counterparts have been in lockdown. In fact, the pandemic has spurred advancements in security robotics and prompted conversations about whether more firms will look to replace their human guards with machines post-Covid.

Automation in physical security helps cut down the costs of securing your workplace by reducing the human effort required. But it can also be used to streamline other building operations. For example, security monitoring systems can determine when the last person in a building has left and send messages to other systems to automatically turn off lights, cycle down heating or cooling, and lock doors.

Physical security integration

One of the barriers to automation in physical security systems is having multiple disparate systems that aren’t talking to each other. In other words, you have separate CCTV, access control and intruder/fire alarm systems that aren’t connected or sharing data. This necessitates manual and duplicate processes in order to get all of the information these systems are giving you onto the same page. In the example above, a security system can only trigger the automated locking of doors if both systems are sharing data with one another via the Internet of Things (IoT). 

The answer? Integration. Integrating different security systems, and other building and enterprise management systems, is a surefire way of helping your organisation cope better with fewer people. In a lot of cases it means you can cut out the manual processes involved in getting these systems to interact, making more things happen behind the scenes, without human involvement.  

To enable an IoT connection between two systems, both systems need to have an open/public application programming interface (API). An open API allows software developers to build an integration between those systems. 

This is what we have done in order to connect the physical security platform, S2, with the HR, finance and enterprise resource planning system, Workday. Our integration means that when a new starter is inputted into the Workday system, an access profile for them—complete with Iris Booth ID photos taken during induction—is automatically generated in S2. This saves on having to rekey data from emails into S2 and increases speed and efficiency in the production of access cards. Similarly, when a person leaves, their S2 credentials are automatically disabled, cutting out the manual process of removing them and eliminating the potential for ex-employees to be left in the system indefinitely. 

In addition, our S2/Workday integration enables companies to automatically generate mobile access credentials instead of cards. Allowing employees to use their phones to enter a building reduces time and effort taken to issue cards and produces less waste.  

However, integration between two systems isn’t always possible in the literal sense. Some systems are old and don’t have APIs. In effect, they don’t actually have the capacity to talk to each other. This is where a physical identity and access management (PIAM) solution can be a godsend. PIAM is a sophisticated software overlay that pulls data from disparate systems into a new system with a single user interface, giving IT teams central control over all of them. So, even though your legacy systems are not technically talking to each other, for all intents and purposes, they’re integrated. 

For larger organisations with multiple sites, all running different systems that don’t interact, PIAM saves huge amounts of admin and duplication for IT teams trying to manage each one separately.

Improving user experiences

Physical security automation, API integrations and PIAM all have two clear benefits for organisations in these challenging times. 

First, they address the immediate issue of having to deliver the same output with fewer people, through the reduction of manual interventions and literal replacement of humans with technology in some cases. Second, they help organisations achieve another key objective of digital transformation initiatives: improved user experiences. 

Most cloud-based access control systems, for example, come with easy-to-use mobile apps that enable IT teams to manage them remotely. You can add or revoke access credentials; open, close and lock doors; add new doors and offices; view real-time data on people entering and exiting the building, etc. They also allow for complete central control of all your facilities, wherever you are in the world, which is difficult if not impossible with legacy and on-premise access control. Plus, by virtue of being in the cloud, there are no servers to maintain and the software is updated automatically by the provider, freeing up productive time.  

In conclusion, physical security automation and integration make it much easier to manage with smaller teams, simultaneously making life simpler and easier for the people using those systems. 

For more information about how to boost operational efficiency and get more value out of your security products, contact Welcome Gate today for a free consultation.