Security and Healthy Return-to-Work Habits: COVID-19 pushes security into a new look / Zephyr_P / Zephyr_P
Published On
Sep 15, 2021

COVID-19 has had a massive influence on physical security and the services systems integrators deliver, and the pandemic continues to serve as a prime a catalyst for new applications.

More than a year and a half into the global pandemic, it’s clear that this ongoing challenge to health, wellness and businesses’ viability has resulted in greater posture and prominence of physical security and integrated technologies. Physical security is more than detection and protection—it’s a critical part of remote connectivity, workplace health and safety, business intelligence, quality assurance, compliance and a positive employee experience.

With a wave and a hopeful smile—but no handshake—we move into this era of systems integration, with environmental controls, lighting, physical security, cybersecurity and more all rolled into one cohesive solution.

Users now view security as an integral part of returning to work. It’s become indispensable in a remote workplace setting, allowing facility control from afar. Users are looking to leverage 5G infrastructures, artificial intelligence (A.I.), analytics and other technologies to keep occupants safe while maintaining a healthy work environment.

Friction-free access control

Access control relies on smartphones and touch-free, frictionless and hygienic controls. Proximity sensors allow users to wave their hand near devices at doors and openings rather than grab door handles, which may also include antimicrobial coatings. Cards and other user credentials leverage radio frequency at turnstiles to quickly admit or deny visitors. Along these lines, access control card makers are leveraging software that yields contact-tracing reports to track potentially infected individuals so next steps can be automatically taken—such as immediately revoking credentials.

Social-distancing solutions are also part of access control, identifying areas above occupancy limits. Access-control footprints have gotten compact and increasingly powerful for easy throughput.

Optical turnstiles, a long-time component of enterprise entrances, have gone touchless and frictionless in abbreviated designs while accommodating Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Turnstiles integrate with surveillance cameras and facial recognition kiosks, and user enrollment is processed at the turnstile or with preregistration prior to arrival through access identity software platforms.

As summer 2021 pressed on, President Biden announced that millions of federal workers must prove they’ve received a coronavirus vaccine or undergo regular testing. Current identity credentials such as Transportation Worker Identification Credentials and Personal Identity Verification cards will most likely carry this information as part of their identity processes for admittance to government and critical infrastructures.

New purpose for cameras

Video surveillance steps up to the COVID-19 challenge with analytics and thermal detection capabilities that can be customized. For example, analytics can identify “no-mask” events or people with elevated temperatures, while monitoring crowds and capacities. Analytics and A.I. are increasing cameras’ use in tracking suspicious activity as a precursor to potential violence or the presence of firearms or shots fired. Analytics and notifications are delivered to monitoring and dispatch centers or directly to managers by text, email or other real-time notification.

Robots stand guard at the protected premises, detecting elevated temperatures in people at building entrances or attempts to circumvent controlled areas. These devices have also morphed into new forms that can navigate harsh environments and augment guard and police response. With a smaller footprint, robots can function as quasi-receptionists or assistants in elder care, assisted living or education. They can also be used as a concierge service or for general facilities management to identify chemical spills or other hazardous conditions.

Sensors come full circle

Occupancy and motion detection track safe employee limits and monitor areas ready to be disinfected, while automated HVAC controls purify air on a continuous basis or as workers vacate an area.

Glass-break sensors respond to shattering glass or certain acoustic levels to proactively notify about an intruder or safety breach. Devices are available to augment detection at the premises, including environmental, gas, hazardous chemical, humidity and others.

Security has evolved and transformed due to the pandemic, and systems integrators and other low-voltage contractors who pivot their businesses accordingly can satisfy customers’ needs for a safe, secure and healthy workplace.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

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

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