At the beginning of 2020, with a new decade laying before us, there were a lot of predictions made about the next few years in security. It is common for us all to look backwards and forwards at a milestone date, to reminisce whilst also trying our hand at guessing what the future may hold. Ultimately though, experience tells us that you never really know what is around the corner!
Expect the Unexpected
The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark example of how a major event can suddenly and unexpectedly dominate our whole perspective and completely change the paradigm of what is ‘normal’. It’s proof, should you need it, of the old adage: ‘expect the unexpected’. It is also a stark reminder that security planning cannot simply look at past experience to prepare for the future – we must always plan for as broad a range of threats as possible.
From a security point of view, the first two decades of the 21st Century saw a preoccupation with tackling and preventing acts of terrorism – largely due to the fallout from the 9-11 attacks in 2001. However, as time has moved on, we have seen that events can change very quickly and bring a new focus that may have been totally unexpected.
For example, nobody could have accurately predicted the civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIS or the subsequent refugee crisis, which significantly changed the security focus for many practitioners. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic really has thrown a curve ball at all of us by completely changing the rules of play for everyone. It has raised unprecedented new security challenges in protecting people, healthcare provisions, essential industries and supply lines, whilst fighting an effectively invisible enemy.
The pandemic and subsequent restrictions have really highlighted the current state of play - the good, the bad, and the ugly - when it comes to the security provision of many businesses. Certainly, the state of security is particularly visible across every business right now.
With many premises closed due to social isolation and a core of essential industries and public sector organisations working well beyond their normal levels, security systems are having to guard against potential issues from both extremes. Undoubtedly some will excel, whilst others will be looking to patch things up and make substantial changes at the first opportunity.
I firmly believe that the extraordinary times we are living in right now will shape the future of the security industry just as much as the rest of society. Even when restrictions are lifted, there will be new expectations on the flexibility, reliability and remote access abilities of security systems, especially with the possibility of social isolation returning in the future – nobody will want to be caught unprepared again.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic being a game-changer for us all, there are still some trends that the security industry has already been tracking towards, which I believe will be in even greater demand now.
Facial recognition is a key area that has seen growing interest already, providing high levels of security along with ease-of-use, by using CCTV and access control systems in close cooperation. It can only become even more popular as people consider the ramifications of touching potentially contaminated surfaces with some access control systems (particularly shared fingerprint readers, but also, to some extent, cards and tokens).
There is also a clear trend towards making access control more affordable by using cloud technology and ‘Access Control as a Service’ to furnish this. This ‘pay as you go’ approach saves on the big capital expenditure requirements, provides a predictable and regular cost, and delivers high end products right away. With many businesses looking at their current security provision with even greater scrutiny during the pandemic restrictions, this is likely to gain even more interest over the coming months and years.
Predictable Solutions for Unpredictable Threats
It is obvious that you cannot accurately predict every potential future security threat in detail. However, what you can do is design and implement security systems that diligently counter as many potential avenues of weakness as possible.
Strong authentication methods, ease of use, reliability and affordability are all long-term goals which will make a big difference to real world security needs. Ongoing advances in technology (such as greater security automation) that were designed to add general benefits to security have proven to be particularly useful during the pandemic restrictions.
There is no magic crystal ball to predict the future, but everyone in security needs to ask: ‘what if?’ and continue expecting the unexpected.