The future of building security is digital

Thanks to technology, buildings can deal with security threats by predicting abnormal behaviour on site, and prevent danger before it happens.

In 2002, the film Minority Report starring Tom Cruise, set in the year 2054, posited a world where a specialised police department called “PreCrime” was able to apprehend criminals before they committed thefts or murders based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”.

Though mere fiction, it painted a thought-provoking picture of how technological advancements could one day enable governments to take preventive measures to protect a population.

What if, in 2016, governments were buildings, and the people needing protection were the ones working inside of them?

Could security solutions today predict a case of emergency or danger, rather than merely react to one after it happens? According to Monir Kabiri, Head of Enterprise Security for Middle East / Asia-Pacific at Siemens, the answer is yes.

In a recent interview, Kabiri said that the key lies in the digitalisation and integration of security solutions, such as video surveillance, access control, intruder detection, fire safety, mass notification and communications.

While these functions have traditionally been separately controlled, they need to work closely together to be more effective, he added.

“We prevent incidents because we monitor every piece of data we get from sensors within the system,” explains Kabiri.

“Today we have smart sensors and video analytics that give us early information to respond. But five to 10 years from now, when we collect even more data from even more systems, using the ‘Internet of things,’ we expect to predict being one step ahead, even before anything happens,” he adds.

The Internet of Things refers to a vast network of everyday objects that have connectivity and allows them to send and receive data, and ‘speak’ to each other.

Rising threats

Quick response to security breaches and threats to public safety has become a rising priority in a world of escalating terror attacks by both organisations and individuals.

The 2015 attacks in Paris, for instance, exacted a human toll, roiled stock markets and negatively impacted tourism, not to mention the devastating effect it had on fearful consumers, as well as disruptions in business operations.

Siemens argues that security is a crucial component of keeping businesses running smoothly, because time taken away from operations translates directly to a slimmer bottom line.

According to the company’s research, a power outage caused by insufficient power utility security for New York, for instance, would result in a total cost of about US$1 billion per day, or roughly US$42,000 per hour for a mid-size company.

Kabiri is quick to point out that “our first objective is to provide business continuity of our customers. The end goal is to ensure peace of mind for our customers, by keeping people intact and safe, and preventing threats that further impact them.”

To that end, Siemens developed its Siveillance Vantage solution, which is a command and control system in an open platform that offers seamless integration of different alarm systems — including security, communications, and fire safety — into one management platform.

The solution’s multi-pronged approach was conceived with public infrastructures in mind, such as airports, hotels, shopping malls and office buildings, as well as facilities in the manufacturing, energy, and oil and gas industries.

It already counts as its customers companies such as Airbus Group, Saudi Aramco, Dow Chemical, Chicago O’Hare, Tata, Huawei, DuPont, Ikea, Vodafone, Deutsche Bank, and ThyssenKrupp, to name a few.

We prevent incidents because we monitor every piece of data we get from sensors within the system.

Monir Kabiri, head of enterprise security for Middle East / Asia-Pacific, Siemens

By tapping into a digital network of smart sensors, advanced video analytics, and fire detectors to harness information, Siveillance Vantage is able to respond earlier, rather than later.

Take an instance where an unauthorized person enters a secured premise.

“In the past, we had a physical sensor on a fence that, when shaken [by the intruder climbing over it, say], would sound the alarm. Today, we use video analytics to analyze the area for unusual activity around the perimeter, and set the alarm to ring before [the intruder even reaches the border] - based on smart algorithms,” says Kabiri.

He adds that the advanced intelligent video surveillance also helps bring the affected area to the immediate attention of the surveyor, rather than force him to scan over hundreds of monitors to find the correct one, as in traditional systems.

The system then helps the operator decide how best to respond to the incident based on its level of emergency, and finally despatches resources to the action decided upon, be it the evacuation of the building, or the lockdown of exits.

Adaptive technologies

Digital advancements can also help building managers in other cases, like that of a fire.

Siemens, for example, offers an adaptive technology called Advanced Signal Analysis (ASA) that allows sensors to recognize and react to all possible levels and patterns of smoke, and that operates autonomously after it has been installed.

“All the user needs to do is place the detector in the room, and the settings are automatic,” explains Alan Ang, Siemens’ Business Development for Fire Safety for the Middle-East/Asia Pacific region.  “We distribute the intelligence through the detector so the fire panel can do the crucial management work without being overloaded when it is needed most.”

Because of the adaptive technology, the detectors are universal and able to comply with systems in Europe, United States or Asia, he added.

Siemens’ all-round protection system also comes with a flexible application called Desigo Mass Notification that uses common communication technologies to provide notifications to a building’s population, whether it is a routine message about avoiding a full parking lot or an alert about imminent danger, via text messages, LED displays on floors, or even guiding lights to exits.

Notifications can be programmed to address many scenarios, including sudden weather changes, or terrorist attacks. It is a system that is crucial to controlling anxiety and confusion about what to do in unfamiliar situations.

While already commonplace in countries like the United States, it should also ramp up quickly in Asia once the public is educated about its ease of usage, notes Ang.

He emphasises: “The top priority is ensuring life safety, and the mandatory concept is early detection. Now with digital technology, protection should be as simple as ABC.”

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