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Technological Trends in Access and Security

Written by Ted Low, VP of Business Development for Datawatch Systems, Inc.
Published in Insight, The Commercial Real Estate Journal, BOMA Georgia, September 2018.‚Äč

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From a security and life safety perspective, the general public environment has dramatically changed in the last decade. The commercial real estate market is no exception, as owners and managers strive to compete in a market that has elevated security and peace of mind as new amenities. Today, the “boiling frog effect” occurs from becoming generally complacent over the years regarding security. Believing access control systems and physical security, including video surveillance, security officers and turnstiles, are sufficient to create an atmosphere of stability and safety are not enough. This complacency arises from years of overlooking a growing obsolescence in aging systems, inefficiencies resulting from poorly trained or unmotivated manpower, and the attitude that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Tom Peters, famed co-author of In Search of Excellence, along with many other groundbreaking books on management and leadership, points out the fallacious nature of this mindset. Instead, he suggests, “if it ain’t broke, you just haven’t looked hard enough.”
 
Today, what has become essential is comprehensive access control, surveillance and an emergency management plan that provides control and documentation of who can access a building and how fast management can react to implement a shelter in place for those in the building. It is also essential to have a mass notification system to advise personnel outside the building of the potential threat. In addition, systems should give instructions on what to do and what the next steps or communications should be.
 
New technologies are transforming the state of security in commercial real estate, and we are seeing a shift from the traditional stand-alone systems, which make up a hodgepodge security platform, to a comprehensively managed system hosted on the cloud. There are four components to this state-of-the-art solution:
 

• Managed Access Control
• Cloud Hosted Video Surveillance
• Emergency Lock Down
• Emergency Notification

Managed Access Control (MAC)
Running traditional access control systems require a great deal of time from building management and can drain the personnel productivity that could be focusing on real estate business responsibilities instead. There are several companies that offer MAC service, and the best will offer 24/7 fully-staffed customer service with a call center that can ensure all the building’s needs can be addressed in real time by a professional familiar
with the building being monitored. It is also important to note that the best technology solutions are cloud-based and can be programmed and trouble-shot remotely, in addition to being continuously and seamlessly updated.

Cloud-Hosted Video Surveillance (VSaaS)
There are tremendous benefits in moving toward a cloud-based video surveillance and data storage system (VSaaS) and away from the technology of the past, which utilizes an internet-based digital video recorder (DVR), or net video recorder (NVR) based system, and stores its data on-site. In a report issued by Eagle Networks, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology distinguishes between a traditional system and a true cloud solution. “With the traditional system, the video processing, recording and management occurs on a computer installed at your site. This video may be later accessed via an internet connection for viewing or archival storage.” The report goes on to read, “With a true cloud solution, the video processing and management is performed by a high-powered computer network at a data center. The system may have an on-site device to communicate with the camera and the cloud, but the device is simple and acts as a communications conduit. Secure remote video access and cloud storage are architected into the system."

Besides the financial advantages of the cloud-based system, including economies of scale and lower installation costs (due to less on-site equipment required), data protection is greatly enhanced because it is stored off-site. Data stored on-site is subject to breach, and important video feeds that have been breached (deleted footage or removal of the recording device) may leave the property and its ownership exposed to liability in certain situations.

Emergency Lock Down
Once an alert has been sounded that there is a clear and present danger (for example, domestic violence following a victim to work, an active shooter or even inclement weather), the ability to instantly lock down the building while the danger is still outside can mean the difference between life and death. Building owners and managers understand that the threat to their tenants and visitors is heightened in today’s world, and advanced emergency management systems provide the capability to secure properties more quickly and effectively than ever before.

Emergency Notification
Once the building has been locked down, communication is the next vital mission. There will be people inside the building that need to know what is going on and need to be informed of the proper safety procedures (i.e., shelter in place). Perhaps more importantly, the people outside the building need to know the situation, and what they need to do to stay safe—for example, to not return to the building and to stand by for future notification on what to do until the all clear is given. There are several companies that offer this type of emergency communication (sometimes referred to simply as mass communication) and some even integrate it into other building systems like work order systems or advanced access control systems.

What has been covered above are the four components of a comprehensive access and security program that leverages technology to bolster security. This package will serve t enhance the security guard aspect of building security and empowers security officers to do their job more effectively by creating a “force multiplier.” Simply put, this technology gives one person the ability to do the work of two or more persons.

Investors are interested in ROI, everyone knows that. So if you can leverage technology to have a positive impact on occupancy, enhance tenant retention and attraction, manage P&L costs through efficiencies and predictability and create a technology buzz in the building, why wouldn’t you?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Low is Vice President of Business Development for Datawatch Systems. Based in Atlanta, he has 20 years of security experience serving the commercial real estate industry most of which is in physical and electronic security. Datawatch Systems is a full-service access control and emergency management provider and is a national, American-owned company that has been in business for more than 30 years.