The extraordinary situation we find ourselves in with the COVID-19 outbreak has put a strong focus on society’s daily behaviour and habits. The potential threats to health from infection have changed the way we view human contact and not being able to freely mix with other people has, ironically, highlighted just how much we all come into close contact with others in our daily lives.
Because of their nature, security systems must also work closely with the people who operate and use them. However, the current outbreak has provided a stark reminder that these systems also need to be correctly deployed to avoid potential risks to human health too.
The way we use our surroundings and everyday technology has also come under closer scrutiny lately. Suddenly door handles are an object of suspicion, mobile phones (and the surfaces they encounter) are a potential disease vector point, public use technology (especially touchscreens on ATMs, shop PIN code keypads and rail station barriers etc.) have become a genuine cause for concern.
It’s no wonder that shoppers are being encouraged to use contactless payment methods rather than cash wherever possible. This technology was largely created to lessen the need to carry cash for smaller denomination purchases but is proving to be a bonus during a viral outbreak.
The idea of non-touch authentication isn’t a new one (proximity cards are a long-trusted technology), but it has suddenly become far more important and I believe it may take more prominence after the outbreak, as society becomes more conscious of cleanliness.
Contactless Security Technology
Proximity cards are convenient and certainly avoid direct contact, but there are more modern alternatives that provide higher security and remove the need to carry a card/token (which of course is a potential infectious surface).
Facial recognition is a powerful (if sometimes politically sensitive) method of identification that features highly secure biometric information but doesn’t require the user to touch anything (unlike fingerprint or palm vein readers for example). This technology is already well used and trusted on smartphones to unlock the screen, but the versions used in professional security systems go way beyond this.
With the increased use of intelligent systems, the individual doesn’t even have to stand in a strict position to be authenticated anymore, high-resolution cameras make it much easier to identify a person even from further away. Security operators can use this technology not only to authenticate but also to track people around a surveillance network too – be that a suspicious individual or a lost child, this technology is now commonly used in busy public access areas such as airports and stadiums.
We are also seeing a move towards the provision of authentication via smartphone, using the device’s security systems to prove identity and open access to things like hotel rooms or rented accommodation. This ensures the user doesn’t have to come into contact with any security systems or specific security tokens/cards. it also enables the administration team to avoid personal contact as well, with secure credentials supplied remotely and wirelessly.
Protecting Security Teams
During times of emergency (such as the COVID-19 outbreak) it is important to protect security teams as well. Remote surveillance and security systems are perfect for monitoring secured areas and alerting teams to action only when they are needed.
Using technology such as virtual tripwires (which generate alerts before a situation escalates), the perimeter of a secure area can be reliably monitored and protected. The security monitoring team can be based anywhere with a suitable online link (for example, in a secure office or control room) and avoid potential physical contact until actually necessary.
With many buildings likely to be closed during a potential lockdown period (such as schools, leisure centres, retail/catering facilities etc.), remote monitoring is an ideal way to maintain security whilst lowering the risk for security teams themselves.
Non-touch Security During ‘Normal’ Times
It’s easy to fixate on non-touch technology during this extraordinary period, but what about when things get back to ‘normal’? The simple answer is that much of this makes sense anyway. Every year millions of people worldwide catch viruses through contact (either directly, or indirectly) with other people who are infected. We simply have a greater awareness at the moment due to the lack of immunity and limitations of preventative medicine in dealing with new and unexpected health issues such as COVID-19.
Simple things such as thoroughly washing your hands should be commonplace anyway, but with the hectic pace of modern life sometimes people aren’t as careful as they should be. Security systems which lower these risks make perfect sense at any time and I am sure this will be even more evident moving forward. There are many lessons to be learnt during these challenging times and undoubtedly this will help to improve all our lives in the future.