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The Role of Technology in Post-COVID Spaces
Whether you’re in charge of a complex, multi-tenant, multi-location environment or a single building, you’re facing unprecedented challenges. As the world begins to deconfine after months of isolating and quarantining, every owner, management organization and distributed facilities director has to ensure that their environments are safe for people to return.
This is made even more challenging by the fact that, as we increase our understanding and as governing bodies respond to their unique situations, requirements and policies keep changing. In a time of uncertainty and upheaval, we must ensure that our environments offer the peace of mind necessary to help people get back to daily activities.
Managing Occupancy is Key
One of the first challenges is occupancy management. It is imperative to know exactly how many people are in a building at any given time. When COVID-19 first appeared, many organizations used manual people-counting. This involved having an employee sit at the entrance with a clicker. In addition to being incredibly inefficient, it also increased the risk of transmission between the counter and building visitors.
Manual counting is imprecise because counting the number of people entering a building does not provide a clear understanding of how many people are in the environment or where they are. You have to count people entering and exiting and understand where they move throughout the building. But having an exact count is just the first step.
Establishing clear thresholds and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for what to do when the threshold is crossed is also important. Here you should consider the type of actions to be taken as well as who will carry them out and who will be notified. And, perhaps most significantly, you must be able to change your SOPs as new information and requirements emerge.
Build on Existing Technology
Because needs and requirements are changing so quickly, many building managers are hesitant to deploy entirely new solutions that may not stand the test of time. Fortunately, there are proven technologies that exist today that rely on devices already deployed in your physical security system that can meet these changing needs.
If you already have a physical security system built on open architecture components, you are better prepared to meet the coming challenges. For example, when it comes to meeting the health and safety requirements related to COVID-19, an occupancy management solution can be easily deployed on your existing system to standardize, digitize and automate SOPs. And, as the environment and the nature of the threat changes, you can update your SOPs to reflect the new requirements.
An occupancy management solution differs from a traditional access control system (ACS). It uses the cameras already deployed in a physical security system to generate real-time data that video analytics can use in a variety of ways. For example, when the number of people in the building reaches a certain threshold, the solution can send a notification to operations staff to start streamlining the process of leaving the building or limiting the number of people entering.
Occupancy management solutions can also be used to inform other activities, like cleaning processes. In the past, cleaning was once done according to a preset schedule, now the system can notify the cleaning staff when to clean a bathroom based on the number of people who have used it.
Implementing Edge Devices
Buildings are also looking to add other solutions that can help reduce risk and maintain physical distancing. One example is touchless technology. Using biometrics or QR codes to open a gate or entry point into a building keeps people from coming into contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.
Thermal cameras that can be used to keep track of body temperature are another example. They can help prevent the spread of the virus within a building. When the system detects a raised body temperature, that person can be sent for secondary medical screenings to determine whether they carry the virus. Based on clear testing, future actions, including self-quarantining and contact-tracing, can then be implemented.
Many of these solutions require adding new devices to a building’s existing network. We know from experience that connecting more IoT devices increases a network’s vulnerability to cybercrime. The challenge is to make sure that they are secure.
Property owners and managers must be able to easily update critical firmware regularly to protect their network’s infrastructure. To eliminate or reduce potential points of vulnerability, you need a solution that facilitates keeping systems and devices operating with the latest updates.
Preparing for the Future
The unprecedented actions that we have undertaken to protect our communities from Covid-19 make it clear that buildings cannot be locked into proprietary solutions that do not protect us as circumstances change. Today, building owners and property managers need an open architecture physical security system that offers them the flexibility to decide which devices serve them best. And, while it is unclear what will be required in the future, we do know that having the ability to adapt and implement new technologies quickly and effectively will play a key role in keeping our buildings, our communities and our world safe.
About the Author
Ty Miller is the business development manager – northeast USA for Genetec, Inc.