Wear Technology on your Sleeve: Emerging physical security hardware

Published On
Jun 15, 2021

The “empowered edge,” a phrase coined to indicate the shift of computer processing from servers to devices, is bringing new possibilities in gathering data for heightened, proactive security awareness.

Technology is accelerating, and physical security is in the thick of innovation. It is hard to believe, considering where the industry stood only a decade ago. We relied on analog video, standalone proprietary systems and cumbersome, siloed departments and processes for access control and identification. Now, digital systems and networking are transforming physical security workflows, with connected solutions transcending traditional detection and protection while extending into health, safety and well-being.

Sizing up wearables

The wearables market, specifically body-worn cameras, are finding a fit in security by providing visual accountability for systems integrators on the job for safety, service, inspection, maintenance and training.

Traditionally a staple of police and government use, body cameras are a lightweight, wearable technology that can be used for incident review, deterrence, training and employee safety.

“In retail, commercial, healthcare and other verticals and applications, body-worn cameras yield many benefits, and users are leveraging these devices as another essential part of a connected surveillance solution,” said Reena Deshmukh, product manager of camera integrations for Exacq, Fishers, Ind.

“These solutions can effectively augment an existing security system and document interactions between customers and employees or workers and personnel. With 720 or 1,080p resolution cameras and wide dynamic range, body-worn devices record images clearly in many lighting conditions, while a 140-degree field of view captures other activity that may be occurring in the vicinity,” she said.

Body cameras, internet-connected and leveraged as part of the network, extract critical information and data for decision making and evaluation. Audio-enabled units bring another level of situational awareness.

“Users can centralize and manage video footage from these devices through an NVR [network video recorder] and VMS [video management system] platform. In addition, they have the flexibility to deploy the system locally, recording video to on-site servers or hosting footage in the cloud,” Deshmukh said.

Video—a multipurpose tool

Video surveillance cameras have emerged as a multipurpose tool, with powerful computing resources to leverage onboard analytics and artificial intelligence (A.I.) for a host of tasks, such as object or person detection and long-range license plate recognition.

Today, cameras can assess a person’s temperature for possible COVID-19 infection or alert management of a “no mask” event. Integrated with identity and access control software platforms to deny entrance, these solutions provide next steps to users, often over smartphones or mobile apps. Robotics use ultraviolet light to disinfect public spaces, while self-service kiosks prescreen visitors safely based on the facility’s compliance or COVID-19 protocols.

According to the StatWorx white paper, “35 A.I. and Machine Learning Use Cases for the Retail and Consumer Goods Industry,” A.I. improves data-driven decision making, optimizes processes, decreases manual labor, increases productivity and results in lower costs or higher profitability.

Video surveillance, for example, can be leveraged to detect intruders or watch cash areas of a retail business. With analytics and A.I., it can also detect payment fraud or empty store shelves in need of restocking. In autonomous, cashier-free stores, cameras capture movement and bring an element of safety and theft protection. Surveillance can assess crowd density and yield data for contact tracing—new essentials brought on by the pandemic.

Businesses are heavily implementing video surveillance for workplace health and safety and remote monitoring of assets, operations and people movement, according to a research survey conducted by video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) provider Ava Security, New York.

“Many companies in the United States and Europe are getting used to remote work and monitoring and accelerating their transition to cloud services,” said Vegard Aas, vice president, head of online business at Ava.

He added that new smart analytics support the safe reopening of workplaces and increase efficiency.

“Managers running video monitoring systems are looking for greater functionality like people counting, crowd density and room capacity analytics to meet new requirements with COVID-19. They want more timely access to that data from wherever they are to help drive faster and smarter decision-making. Linked to this, tighter cybersecurity of video data is seen as increasingly important,” he said.

Cloud expands reach

Ava Security’s market survey also uncovered acceleration in cloud migration of IT services that looks to positively impact VSaaS adoption. Nearly four out of every five U.S. firms (79%) have already accelerated their cloud- migration plans during the pandemic.

No discussion on emerging and transformative technologies would be complete without mentioning the influence of cloud computing, which allows remote monitoring and control of physical security systems. For systems integrators, cloud software companies take on the heavy lifting of implementation, building, maintaining, configuring and customizing the solution, which helps integrators reduce costs and increase productivity, said Scott Lindley, president of Farpointe Data Inc., San Jose, Calif.

“Different departments need to access data critical to their function, and that’s where the cloud comes in. Internet access means that data can be instantly viewed, analyzed and shared at any time from anywhere, including mobile devices,” he said. “Firms no longer have to rely on large, expensive and cumbersome IT departments to manage these systems.”

Chip shortage

A potential limiting factor to the continued emergence of video surveillance and other integrated systems applications is the semiconductor (computer chip) shortage.

In light of the global chip shortage, the Security Industry Association, Silver Spring, Md., and other industry groups formed a coalition focused on strengthening the semiconductor supply chain’s resiliency in manufacturing and distribution, urging Congress to support President Joe Biden’s $50 billion funding request for the CHIPS for America Act. (CHIPS stands for Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors.)

“Semiconductors are a critical technology for nearly every sector of the economy in today’s plugged-in and interconnected world, but they are more than just critical components to our electronics, home appliances and automobiles and trucks,” stated the coalition in a letter to Congress.

“Semiconductors are vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security. They power technologies such as 5G, internet of things, clean-energy applications, A.I., quantum computing and supercomputer development. The demand that skyrocketed across nearly all semiconductor-consuming industries at the beginning of the pandemic continues to outstrip global supply, demonstrating the urgent need to invest in this critical supply chain.”

Cyber risks rise

More open connections and the ability to remotely access data creates additional potential risks from insiders and malicious outsiders. For the systems integrator, there is an opportunity to address potential risks proactively, adding new skill sets to the company and value to customers’ solutions.

Rob Simopoulos, co-founder of Defendify, Portland, Maine, advises systems integrators to take a proactive approach to better cybersecurity and actively review the security of hardware and software applications before purchasing and deploying them.

“Not all manufacturers and software developers have a ‘security first’ mindset when developing their solutions. Once selected and deployed, it is highly recommended to ensure regular vulnerability scanning and assessments are done on these systems to ensure that if there are critical updates/patches released by the manufacturer, users of these systems have a notification source to alert them to take action and implement them.”

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 dlocommunications@gmail.com or 773.414.3573.

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