Physical Security in 2019: What Can We Expect?

Facial Recognition People Screening Physical Security

By Anil Chitkara, co-founder and president of Evolv Technology

With 2018 coming to close, Evolv is intently focused on the year ahead and how we can bring a truly unique product that keeps venues, events and people safe. This year alone we saw more than 300 mass shooting incidents that targeted venues across the United States. 2018 also brought the first publicly available downloads for printing 3-D weapons in the U.S.; in the first four days, more than 1,000 people downloaded plans for 3-D printed AR-15 rifles. Attacks with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued around the globe, with deadly threats occurring in Ghazni, Kabul and the Gercüş district of the Batman Province in Turkey. Security teams at commercial venues and transportation hubs continued to deploy technology to keep their facilities and people safe.

As we look to 2019, we see a number of developments in the physical security industry.

Increased use of multi-layered security plans

Organizations are using more layers of security as part of their overall security plan. This includes overt measures such as visible guards, police details, closed circuit tv (CCTV), turnstiles, bollards and personnel screening equipment, and less obvious measures such as increased use of intelligence, coordination with local, state and federal law enforcement, and social media analysis to identify local threats. The TSA has long used this multi-layer approach, which has influenced other organizations to follow suit. These plans will create layers of security that address and protect along four different capabilities: people, technology, intelligence, and process/protocols.

Technology as a force multiplier for guards

Security guards are the backbone of most physical security plans; however, it can get expensive as the guard force grows. Turnover among security guards is high and many new guards have a basic level of training and limited experience. Technology can be used to augment the guard force and provide them with tools that can increase their effectiveness. Instead of providing guards with more sophisticated training on how to operate equipment, there is a move to make equipment more ‘red light / green light’ to let guards know when they need to look more closely. Today, solutions also provide them with more specific, directive guidance to help them resolve an issue or alert that comes in. This augments guard capability and allows them to be more effective in what they do and more focused on areas of potential concern.

Value of deterrence more widely recognized

There are many examples where visible security served as a deterrence, shifting an attack to a different location. The Pulse Nightclub was Omar Mateen’s third stop that night, after there was a visible security presence at the previous two locations.  Countless security directors attest to the cache of knives found outside designated security checkpoints, and of people diverting before entering a screening point to lock their firearm elsewhere. Visible security and screening are effective both in the weapons they detect and in those that never coming through in the first place.

Increased reliance on third-party validation

With the infusion of innovation comes a surge of new devices, solutions, and systems. As more technologies and solutions are released onto the market, security teams will increasingly rely on third party validation as proof to identify which solutions are operationally sound. These third-party validations can come from industry peers or official designations such as the U.S. Department of Homeland SAFETY Act Designation and third-party testing organizations such as Safe Skies.

AI and biometrics go mainstream

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be all the rage. It shows up on product material, at trade shows and in your vendor’s sales pitches. We see the effective use of AI in specific products or solutions for specific industry applications. For example, using AI to review and learn from scores of medical radiology images to identify potentially cancerous anomalies that may be less visible to the human eye.  In 2019, vendors will find more practical applications for AI and deep learning models that add value.

Biometrics applications will also move into the mainstream and will expand beyond traditional applications. Not only will the application of biometrics expand beyond airports or highly secure facilities, it will also start to be used for non-security applications, such as customer service.  For example, the use of facial recognition technology to verify VIP guests at a sports stadium, ultimately improving the overall security screening experience for guests.

Interoperability to improve security effectiveness

As additional security layers are deployed, organizations are seeking to make them operate together as an integrated security infrastructure. This will allow the security team to quickly have a more complete picture of a security issue to execute its response. Additionally, it will allow more effective use of all equipment. For example, connecting security screening equipment with CCTV for monitoring and access control equipment will allow the team to see if a person of interest enters the facility, where they are, and if they are acting in a suspicious manner.

Increased blend of the cyber and physical security domains

The cyber and physical security domains are coming closer and closer together. In many organizations the responsibility to understand and mitigate these risks come under different groups. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) are now called on to work more closely together to keep the entire organization safe from a range of ever-changing threats.

Benefits of security technology expands beyond cost and risk mitigation

When it comes to physical security, one thing has become clear: there is a balance between a fully locked down, highly secure environment and an open and inviting space. Security directors and management teams are broadening how they look at the benefits of new security technologies and procedures by considering the impact on their physical space, visitor experience and overall mission. Traditionally, cost and risk mitigation have served as the primary factors when deciding which solutions to invest in, and while these are still paramount, we will start to see other factors driving decisions as organizations continue to deploy tailored approaches in 2019.

2018 was an important year for the physical security industry that demonstrated the significant role technology plays in addressing the evolving threat landscape. As we transition our thoughts to the year ahead, we will take the lessons we’ve learned and apply them as we continue to work towards creating solutions that keep people safe.

Read more from our Advisor, Mark Sullivan, former U.S. secret service director, on security screening in the 21st century.

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