Tech Takes on COVID-19: Security in uncommon times

Published On
Sep 11, 2020

What will workplaces look like when they reopen after the coronavirus shutdown? Will prescreening and validation processes be necessary for on-site visits? Will temperature detection be required to access a facility or enterprise? Will contact tracing locate, track and report potential carriers?

Security risk assessments will now include pandemics, viruses and diseases as another required element in premises protection. Businesses are phasing in return-to-work strategies against the backdrop of COVID-19. Back-to-the-office beckons, but defending the workforce means protecting employees, visitors and contractors from contagions, leveraging the latest intelligent digital technologies.

The future of work

The future of work looks different, with new players coming in with potentially viable solutions. In April, Apple and Google partnered on new contact-tracing technology.

According to an April 10 Apple news release, the companies announced a joint effort to “enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.”

The technology is opt-in, and plans are for the Apple/Google solution to include application programming interfaces (APIs) and software operating technology to assist deployment. According to the Apple news statement, both companies were set to release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices.

A traditional physical security technology making a significant impact is thermal imaging, which may effectively identify elevated body temperatures. FLIR Systems Inc., Wilsonville, Ore., recently announced a thermal smart sensor and thermal-image-streaming, fixed camera solution for monitoring equipment, production lines, critical infrastructure and screening for elevated skin temperatures.

There is a resurgence in interest in touchless access control with proximity sensors and the ability for users to wave a device, card or their hand near a data collection point. Assa Abloy, New Haven, Conn., offers solutions designed to “reduce potential touchpoints on highly trafficked openings with hands-free hardware products.”

With the number of screened passenger check-ins at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints dropping some 90%, airlines are looking for safe ways to bring travelers back to the skies. Recently, the airline trade group Airlines for America said it would support fever checks for passengers and employees conducted by TSA.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced plans to use a device built by biotech company Koniku Inc., San Rafael, Calif., that uses living biological cells to sense dangerous chemicals and bombs. This might also be useful in detecting contagious viruses such as COVID-19.

Amazon built a roving robot covered in UV lights that could kill the coronavirus in a warehouse or other large space. Other potentially useful technology includes antimicrobial products that resist and prevent germs on hard surfaces and virus-detection ionizer systems that eradicate contaminants.

Companies will also need social and physical distancing measures and be able to document compliance. Genetec Inc., a Montreal-based provider of unified security, public safety, operations and business intelligence solutions, announced the development of an occupancy management package. The solution includes analytics and reporting tools so organizations can count occupants, visualize data and alert employees when occupancy thresholds are nearing. Audit reports provide recordkeeping to meet regulations and compliance mandates.

Rob Borsch, practice leader—retail and banking at Genetec, said that users will need to do more than just count the number of people entering their premises.

“They will need to know how many people are inside a store or restaurant at any given moment, continuously monitor this data and be able to take action when thresholds are reached,” he said.

As corporations put reentry plans in place, security contractors and their customers need to carefully evaluate new technology, focusing on quality, privacy, security and standards. Physical security contractors must do research before specifying any solution. Work closely with manufacturers to determine if their potential solutions meet your customer’s needs and if ongoing support is available.

The guiding principle of security is that it’s never one technology but layers that ultimately provide the most risk-free and safe solution—even in these uncommon times.

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.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.