by Jeff Montoya, Eastern Regional Sales Director, IDIS America
2020 doesn’t have to be a year of retreat for businesses.
Yes, many have been hit hard by the pandemic, and most are having to make at least changes to their premises and operations. But we’ve been impressed at how many are treating this as an opportunity to make smart improvements that will pay for themselves as the economy bounces back.
The big focus right now is on improving hygiene measures, reducing infection risks, and reassuring staff and visitors that it’s safe to return to their locations.
But for some people that’s not the only focus.
IDIS’s experience with our integration partners gives cause for optimism: we are seeing some companies not just surviving, but prospering. While some big video projects have been put on hold for the current year, others have gone ahead, and not only that, they have progressed more quickly at sites that have been fully or partially closed. And new projects have replaced those that were postponed.
The reason? It’s because these integrators are working with customers who are keen to press ahead and position themselves competitively for when the economy bounces back – and with the US reporting positive economic signs, many believe the road to recovery is coming soon.
A new and positive approach to workspace management
The focus for many has been on introducing practical measures to reduce the current risk of infection, and both access control and video systems have a part to play here.
With resources under pressure there’s an advantage to be had from automating processes as much as possible. So integrators and their customers are finding new uses for the technologies and solutions that already exist – uses such as reducing queuing, minimizing the need for people to touch door access hardware or to interact with security staff, and monitoring building occupancy levels.
For example, the newest generation access control and visitor management systems allow staff, contractors, and visitors to be sent QR codes ahead of their arrival on site, along with updated instructions about parking, arrival times, meeting room allocations, and new safety instructions.
Some organizations are also introducing check-in kiosks in reception and lobby areas with built-in AV displaying new hygiene guidelines, and hand sanitizers to give visiting customers the confidence that businesses are taking all possible measures to control the risk of infection.
In addition, many businesses have adopted touch-free access readers, contactless IP intercoms, and LPR to enable entry to specific locations for set times, to help minimize contact between visitors and staff at receptions and gate houses. Already a proven practice in industrial sectors and sterile working environments, hand sanitizers have also been mandated through integration with access control, to be used before doors can be opened.
The increased efficiency and control that these technologies enable will make it easier for more flexible working patterns to be managed. With more people working from home or visiting offices for shorter durations, it provides a practical solution to scheduling who arrives on their sites and when. Arrival authorizations can also be automated to help with staggered working times and to reduce crowding.
And it’s worth remembering that with so much attention being given to hygiene and safety, there’s still plenty of potential for security breaches. So, access control and site management need to remain robust as well as flexible, with functions that allow identities and work permits to be verified, and audit trails of individual movements through different access zones to be reviewed and investigated. So, longer term, the same tech will continue to deliver real value from greater efficiency and an enhanced visitor experience.
Access and visitor management technologies can also help with contact tracing and may help prevent the spread of infections associated with a site – which is a higher risk for customers operating a large multi-floor, mixed-use facility, or large campus. Each time a person uses their credentials to enter and leave a building or room, this information provides an audit trail of movements and identifies who they came into close contact with, including the time spent in each room or area. If a member of staff or contractor calls in sick, security teams can quickly inform other building users accordingly. When combined with video surveillance this enables a more detailed and visual review of events, allowing operators to assess the risk based on human interactions with other staff, contact with surfaces, or shared equipment such as copiers and printers, and in turn isolate rooms and spaces for cleaning.
While it’s expected that these specific anti-infection measures will be relaxed in time, the access control, visitor management, and video tech themselves will continue to deliver value long term. This is particularly true for businesses that are adopting AI video analytics. One such AI feature includes the ability to leverage the power of metadata to search for instances of persons of interest by appearance within minutes, rather than trawling through hours of video streams or expensive and complex integration with access control systems.
Discovering the true value of video management software
The optimists are now discovering the full potential of VMS. They are setting up event alerts and configuring those sometimes-forgotten onboard analytics to receive push notifications not just to client software but to mobile apps too.
Whether it’s through onboard cameras or via VMS, AI video is already proving its worth in new ways – ways that can be integrated easily into current security management platforms. These AI tools allow users to classify people and objects, helping them detect and then identify an event or threat, while filtering out video noise. As a result, control room operators are finding that they can focus on responding to suspicious activity, staying ahead of criminals and pre-empting undesirable behavior before it escalates, and most importantly responding faster and more appropriately to security incidents and medical emergencies.
These tools have been available for a while, it just takes fresh thinking to find ways to get new value from them.
Using those tools for growth in retail settings
The retail sector is a great example of this positive approach.
We know that bricks and mortar retail was already under pressure from e-commerce, but in the wake of the pandemic businesses will have to work even harder to win back consumers to main street boutiques, retail centers, and malls. Working with our system integration partners, we are now seeing store owners looking to technology that will not only allow safe re-opening, but that can be scaled up and adapted to deliver a return on experience (ROX) long term.
What many retailers have discovered is that you don’t have to be a major chain to benefit from the power of AI video to enhance or even transform the shopping experience for customers. With today’s technological advances it’s possible to do this without complex set ups, expensive hardware, or direct customer interaction.
A handful of strategically placed cameras can now provide store managers and their marketing teams with useful intelligence, including time spent browsing, foot traffic, facial as well as behavioral data.
Thinking beyond the current pandemic situation will allow them to push through and start capitalizing on these tools for growth.
Discovering new value from audio
PA systems are also proving their worth in new ways. We’ve seen how the big retailers have led the way in making better use of live and recorded public announcements to update customers regarding stock availability, hygiene measures, and temporary purchasing restrictions. Yet, many customers forget they already have two-way audio on their surveillance cameras.
Immediate applications for this include alerts being triggered using virtual line cross to remind people to use of hand sanitizer in areas such as reception lobbies or at the entrances to meeting rooms. Additionally, two-way audio can also be used to inform visitors about new COVID-secure restrictions. In the future, after pandemic conditions are eased, this same technology can be put to other uses to pre-empt crime by issuing warnings to potential suspects or to provide safety and security service information.
The optimistic and forward-thinking approach really works
It’s been impressive to see how customers have adapted to the challenges of the pandemic with practical solutions that keep their businesses moving.
That’s why IDIS is optimistic about the future - although there are many challenges ahead, we’re seeing the value of focusing on innovative technologies that don’t just help businesses survive today but prosper tomorrow.