Change Is Brewing: Convergence and COVID-19 carve new pathways for security

By Deborah L. O’Mara | Jan 15, 2021
Shutterstock / Rapeepat Pornsipak




Atypical? That’s one way to describe 2020. There’s still uncertainty as we begin the new year, but the physical security industry is experiencing a dramatic, positive shift that looks destined to continue under any circumstance.

Security is no longer solely about protection and detection. As digital systems control more of our infrastructure, physical security has become a linchpin to convergence, now encompassing IT, operational technology and the internet of things. Now, physical security focuses on people and processes, including health, safety and even the workforce experience, fostered by integration, the cloud and software working together in a holistic approach.

Pandemic prompts change

The digital transformation and security convergence accelerated during the novel coronavirus pandemic because businesses needed answers. Defined as the adoption of digital technology and automated processes, the digital transformation allows you to help customers control entrances without compromising manufacturing, operations or critical systems. It enables a safer place of business and return-to-work strategies, coupling access control with temperature and fever scanners.

Physical security now integrates with human resources software so businesses can initiate automated workflows for compliance and reporting regulations tied to identity and access, without time-consuming, error-prone manual processes. Once-siloed departments within businesses are working together, with security convergence providing the link to intelligence and data customers can use to prevent, detect and mitigate potential threats and risks.

Physical security contractors have the incredible opportunity to lead this shift. Those who embrace the digital transformation and moving to cloud-based software solutions will find their customers ready and willing to make changes to facilitate a safer, more secure and automated operation. Much of this willingness arose from the challenges experienced during the pandemic.

In an October 2020 report, Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., asked its system integrator partners to gauge how the contagion crisis was driving technology adoption. In “Impact of COVID-19 on the Security Industry,” respondents pointed to increased potential and acceptance of IP and artificial intelligence, with 58% viewing end-customers as likely or very likely to be more willing to explore IP-based solutions. Similarly, 45% of respondents indicated overall acceptance of A.I. will accelerate.

The Security Industry Association (SIA), Silver Spring, Md., echoed the importance of A.I., naming it the number one security megatrend for 2021. Pierre Trapanese, chair of the SIA board of directors and CEO of Northland Controls, Milpitas, Calif., said A.I. is the underlying trend driving future technological advancements.

The state of convergence

Kirk MacDowell, founder and CEO of MacGuard Security Advisors, Lake Oswego, Ore., said one year’s time has made quite a difference in the state of convergence.

“If this would have been one year ago, the discussion would have been around life safety and physical security, detection, access control, etc. Now, we’ve crossed into a new dimension,” he said.

“We have added a new segment to the convergence platform, and that’s safety. This has opened new opportunity for technology, like frictionless access control or even contact tracing,” MacDowell added.

Security convergence will continue as digital technologies proliferate, but with it comes the challenges in coordinating between departments and disciplines.

“Although it’s accelerating, convergence across disparate products and services needs to grow and expand to address new and evolving threats. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will augment human interaction using data collected from physical and virtual systems,” said George De Marco, managing partner at DECO Ventures, Orange County, Calif., and former alarm company owner. “A.I. will have the ability to make predictions or take actions from better intelligence gathering, whether for security or operational needs.”

De Marco advises integrators to become “steeped” in security solutions across many different disciplines.

“End-users are looking for a single point of accountability that can manage, interpret and integrate technologies for convergence of a frictionless and seamless security and operational experience,” he said.

Ready for 2021? Embracing security convergence will bring positive future possibilities.

About The Author

O’MARA writes about security, life safety and systems integration and is managing director of DLO Communications. She can be reached at [email protected] or 773.414.3573.

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