Last week I wrote about the threat of terrorism. The terror threat in the UK has since been raised to severe, which means that an attack is highly likely. With the serious effects of the pandemic still being felt, civil unrest in the United States during an acrimonious election, and the suggestion that the UK public’s willingness to submit to the rules of lockdown is being tested, society seems in flux. At this precise time, security is perhaps more important than ever. But it must be implemented correctly; which makes the placement of barriers around student accommodation blocks in Manchester a spectacular own goal.
Don’t fence them in
You will no doubt have seen pictures like the one above in the news. These barriers were placed around student accommodation in Manchester to discourage people from mixing. They were met with anger by the many first year students who have already had to deal with confinement to their rooms as a result of the pandemic. The University has since removed the barriers and apologised. But is this how we want to control security? What are we concerned about, and what are we trying to address when we put barriers up?
One of the key aspects of security, and access control in particular, is that it must be as seamless as possible. Normally, access control is used within a working environment to maintain the integrity and security of a building, whilst at the same time having a minimal impact on the flow of those people who have legitimate purpose gaining access to the building. Putting up fences is quite the opposite.
A better solution
Cost and speed of implementation may have been a consideration in this particular circumstance, but one would assume rightly or wrongly that the student halls already have access control – as most do – and they would probably already have cameras. So it would have been perhaps cheaper, less intrusive and certainly more effective to overlay video analytics on the cameras and integrate them with the access control system to monitor access to the site. This would also allow the identification of those few that break the rules regarding movement, instead of locking in an entire body of students.
It’s good to see that the University has responded positively and removed the fences. It will increase security patrols instead. But is even this solution an efficient and cost effective means of managing the site? We don’t know if they have done a cost / benefit analysis and have come to the conclusion that it is. But I have talked at length at the great savings and efficiencies that come from repurposing existing security equipment to provide greater value, and this would appear to be a classic opportunity.
As was shown in the survey I ran a few weeks ago, the vast majority of people are supportive of technology being used help keep them on the straight and narrow, reminding them when they are entering or leaving a place affected by lockdown rules. Ultimately, do we educate and trust people and use technology as a supporting tool, or do we go in heavy-handed and put up fences to be patrolled by security guards?
This points to the megatrends in security that the United States’ Security Industry Association revealed recently. All point to the additional value that repurposing security technology can bring. They harness the power of the cloud, and security as a service.
Myself and my colleagues have addressed each and every one of these topics over the past few months, in the blogs linked to below, and in magazine articles. Reliance High-Tech has been a standard bearer for each of these and will continue to champion the technology that is driving these trends. The wider security industry must engage with them if it is to prosper.
You won’t perhaps be surprised to learn that fencing is not featured!