< Back to Blog

Peeling off the sticking plaster

April 17, 2024 by Alistair Enser

As we near the end of the year – an end that many long for – we should perhaps take stock of our current situation. While many businesses in sectors such as hospitality are in a perilous state, others are now in a far better position.

Many businesses achieved great things in the face of adversity and should be proud of the way their people adapted and overcame challenges. Rapidly moving workforces home and investing in technology to keep them up and running provided a short-term boost and ensured they remain operational.

Fixes that may have been ideal in survival mode may not be what is needed to prosper and move forward into the new year. Are your systems and processes robust and resilient? Are they cyber secure – or a huge risk waiting to explode? While they may be working, they may be doing so on a knife edge. Now is absolutely the time to reflect and back-engineer solid foundations where necessary, as we find time to breathe and move forward.

Many people have been working at home now for many months. I write a lot about office security, but how do we ensure the safety of those working from home or in sparsely occupied offices? They will need solutions to keep them safe and mitigate the risk of being on their own. Our Reliance Protect business which focuses on ‘Lone Worker’ protection devices and ‘Body Worn’ Cameras has seen a marked increase in demand since the beginning of the year. Could this be part of a wider trend?

What can we learn from lockdowns one and two, and how can security help with this? It’s time to reinvigorate the message of remote maintenance, remote commissioning, remote services, whether in the cloud or not. We as an industry need to pay more attention to the value beyond security that our ‘sensors and solutions’ can provide to a building, its occupants and the businesses that reside within.

Looking ahead

I have written before about the threats on the horizon. Our current ‘Covid’ tiered system presents numerous challenges to organisations of all sizes in terms of differing operational requirements and rules. UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio is at its highest level in 50 years; the chances of a Brexit deal are thought to be no more than 50%; unemployment is on the increase, especially among the young. Without appearing to be the harbinger of doom, the conditions are ripe for civil unrest and rising crime.

A recurring theme of my article has been the role of innovation in helping to manage the pandemic, and it is also true that technology will help organisations find a way forward once the pandemic is on the wane. Technological breakthroughs led to the ground-breaking, superfast development of the first vaccine to be approved by the UK Government.

Similarly, a new-found need and faith in technology allowed businesses to pivot to home and remote working much faster than ever imagined possible, and is also behind the repurposing of video surveillance to identify face mask wearers, for example, or to identify and allow people in or out of a building without them having to touch handles, readers, keypads or exit buttons.

Help is coming

On the basis of the stated 90% effectiveness, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine – and others that are around the corner – will change things dramatically over the coming months, and represents an amazing achievement.

But it also raises thorny questions. From which people get it first, to how to ensure enough people take the vaccine to see off the virus.

While the Government says that it will not force people to be vaccinated, will it become a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’? What if the main driver of acceptance becomes a requirement to provide evidence of vaccination when going to the cinema, a theatre, museum or even a restaurant.

I can imagine a scenario whereby these types of venue insist on visitors providing proof of vaccination in order to gain entry. Visitors to London’s Natural History Museum, for example, might form two queues – those who can provide proof of vaccination through an app on their smartphone, and a second for those who cannot, but who are subsequently admitted having first taken a 20-minute Covid test that proves negative. Sounds scary and big brother, or against civil liberties? Let’s consider though, that many venues, particularly pubs and restaurants would not allow customer entry without registering or downloading the track and trace app previously.

Such an approach, if allowed and adopted, might provide a commercial advantage over competitors for venues offering a ‘Covid-safe environment’ for visitors. It may boost public confidence in using these venues; serve as an incentive for widescale adoption of the vaccine; and keep the decision to vaccinate in the hands of individuals.

Tech to the rescue

Of course, questions remain. Where proof of vaccination can be established, certain people will be able to travel or visit venues. Others will not. Some might be allowed to visit a commercial office – others not. This may prove extremely divisive, unacceptable or discriminatory. We will review this in more detail next week and provide a survey for your views.

We have gone from national lockdowns, to regional lockdowns to, different tiers of lockdown. If vaccination is to decide who gains access to normality, are we entering a phase of ‘Individual Lockdown’ or ‘Personal Tiers’, depending on whether you have been vaccinated, or not? How do businesses manage this complication?

If so, what help could our industry provide in allowing users to repurpose their security systems to simplify some of this. Could vaccination details form part of an HR database, integrated with access control systems to allow entry to a building? Or from a data privacy perspective would it be more acceptable for the ‘vaccination passport’ to create a unique but non-identifiable code that could be used as part of a one factor access control authorisation for public space, such as shops, pubs and restaurants, or a two factor authorisation combined with your ‘corporate access card’ allowing access control systems to permit entry to commercial buildings?

Once again it seems, that as we emerge into the daylight from the abyss, we still have many new challenges ahead and ones in which our technology, our ingenuity, and our industry can play a big part in answering.

Stay safe!