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Four years later, what is the lingering impact of COVID-19 on security?

The economic fallout of the COVID-19 epidemic was felt in supply chain disruptions, higher prices, and shortages of certain goods. The physical security industry was not spared, although the epidemic also presented opportunities for security companies. Changing access control trends triggered by the pandemic are still reverberating throughout the industry, for example. Four years later, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt in the security market, lingering like the symptoms of “long COVID.” We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Four years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, what is its lingering impact on the physical security industry?  

Jaroslav Barton HID Global

Hybrid working is very much here to stay, with data from McKinsey & Company showing that workers, on average, now go to their offices just 3.5 days a week. The pandemic has had a lasting impact on global real estate; office work has rebounded after COVID-19 but attendance is still 30% lower than pre-pandemic norms, according to McKinsey. This brings new challenges for employers. Mobile access via smartphones can play an important role in simplifying and coping with this change because the management is cloud-based, digital, and remote; no need for staff to physically visit an HR or security office to get their ID badge. By combining access control data from door readers with additional location data – using anonymised “identity positioning” information gained from ubiquitous smartphones – organisations can better understand how their workspaces are being used. This could be financial gold dust: Why rent 10,000 sq ft of office space when the numbers demonstrate that 6,000 sq ft will do? Hybrid work also requires that access control systems be top-notch. When offices are full, “bad actors” will be spotted quickly. If a space is half empty, then there’s a high probability they won’t, with individuals free to cause mischief, theft, or damage.

Mark Horton Bandweaver

Buying trends have certainly changed since the pandemic, with more consideration given to the availability of personnel and the increased prevalence of touch-free access control. There is also an increased uptake of management software that can ensure sites maintain their security levels in the event of reduced manned guarding levels. The industry has also seen a greater demand for security systems that can be accessed remotely with an increased focus on perimeter security technologies, which would otherwise require dedicated personnel to monitor on-site.

Natalie Bannon Gallagher Security

I think we’ll be uncovering the lingering impact of the COVID pandemic for years to come, but of all the effects still reverberating, perhaps the most significant is the shift in how customers and channel partners view their relationships with security manufacturers. The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in global supply chains, leading to disruptions in the production and distribution of physical security equipment and components. These disruptions strained relationships between manufacturers and their customers as they grappled with supply shortages and delivery delays. Many reassessed their relationships with manufacturers based on their ability to weather the challenges posed by the pandemic, while others started paying greater attention to how – and where – manufacturers source their raw materials. Manufacturers that demonstrated agility in responding to supply chain disruptions, such as shifting production priorities or implementing alternative distribution channels, strengthened their relationships with customers and set new industry standards for delivery during a crisis.

Greg Newman HiveWatch

Remote and hybrid work are here to stay. The obvious impact is that a security organisation’s role in protecting employees and assets is much harder with the workforce dispersed and not centralised. The more challenging impact is that it’s much harder to justify budget and return on investment (ROI) related to physical security programme spending when offices are underpopulated or empty. Using intelligence-driven security technology to provide quantifiable justification for spending can – literally – pay dividends on the investment. Security leaders need to continue evolving security programmes from cost centres to programmes better aligned with business goals that demonstrate quantifiable value.

Jyotsna Pantula Entrust Inc.

During the pandemic, organisations had to shift to remote or hybrid work, which had an almost immediate impact on the physical security industry, forcing it to adapt to new technologies. Physical security has always been one of the core components of a multi-layer defense-in-depth cybersecurity strategy to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive assets. Public and private sector organisations had started using employee biometrics, like fingerprints, to verify identities and grant access to secure areas early on. After COVID-19, with the focus on minimising the spread of the infection, these identity verification measures transitioned to contactless biometrics, such as facial recognition. Another interesting fallout of the pandemic on the physical security industry is the increasing acceptance of cloud-based or hybrid solutions, over on-prem solutions, thanks to the flexibility offered by remote management.

Matt Kjin Axis Communications

Looking at the security industry from a healthcare lens, the pandemic ultimately ended up accelerating the evolution of remote healthcare offerings like virtual nursing, tele-ICU, and telesitting – all of which require various physical security technologies to operate effectively. For instance, analytics-equipped network audio and video solutions are needed to enable remote monitoring, two-way audio, and real-time alerts. When integrated with healthcare partner software, these technologies enable nurses to streamline their workflows and intelligently prioritise their tasks. The same solution can also be used for virtual rounding, resource-efficient ICU support, remote medication validation, virtual care consultations, and more. Today’s IP audio and video solutions can integrate seamlessly with the remote systems that healthcare providers increasingly depend on for patient care, providing reliable connectivity, real-time information, and intelligent alerts to enable smarter workflows and better overall patient outcomes – no matter their physical location.

ocation.

Lizzi Goldmeier BriefCam

Especially for video surveillance solutions, the COVID pandemic marked a significant turning point in the physical security industry. At the beginning of the decade, organisations were increasing public safety by leveraging video technology for safety and security use cases, forensic investigation, and real-time incident intervention in facilities, on campuses, and in cities. When the pandemic hit, the emphasis notably shifted from physical safety to public health: The responsibility of protecting public spaces and their visitors became weightier with the added pressure of enforcing public health standards and – in some areas – legal mandates regarding contact tracing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and more. Decision makers suddenly were forced to maximise their existing technology stack and consider how to achieve new critical goals with existing solutions efficiently and cost-effectively. Though technology providers have long touted the benefits of their solutions beyond safety and security, organisations became immediately receptive to exploring how past technology investments could be leveraged for mandate compliance, staff and visitor health and safety, and business continuity. As such, the COVID pandemic sparked a revolution in physical security solutions, accelerating the adoption and application of the security tech stack beyond physical security and public safety.

Matthew Batson BFT Automation UK Ltd

From a domestic market perspective, there’s no doubt that we witnessed a growth in the sales of domestic kits during the pandemic. Throughout the lockdown period, the installation community saw home improvements emerge as a trend, where homeowners undertook domestic projects, such as securing their premises, to protect their families and property. From a commercial perspective, there’s been no let-up even since the start of the COVID pandemic, as many of our products are installed on key sites, which include hospitals that need to be operational 24/7. Since the end of the lockdown, the domestic UK market has leveled off. However, commercial projects continue unabated and in particular, those projects that require automatic bollards and barriers.

Marisa Randazzo Ontic Technologies

Despite being more than four years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated levels of stress and anxiety from the pandemic haven’t receded. Instead, we’re experiencing a new “normal” level of chronic anxiety. Some employees continue to have heightened perceptions of risk, and they want their companies to act. As a result, companies may find themselves under pressure to complete an increasing number of threat assessments and to do so rapidly. To accomplish this, security teams will need to work closely with leadership, human resources, employee assistance programmes, and communications personnel to manage employee expectations, mediate disputes, and navigate this new territory. Especially with the passage of Senate Bill 553, which requires California employers to take steps to prevent and respond to workplace violence, the security industry will see the increased adoption of threat assessment and management procedures to address potentially harmful situations.

SUMMARY

The residual impact of COVID-19 can be seen in the growth of hybrid work patterns and a resulting lower occupancy of office buildings. An emphasis on touch-free access control is another continuing consequence. Our Expert Panelists also see a shift in how security systems, including video, are being used beyond the core mission of public safety. Finally, there is an enduring shift in how partners view their channel relationships, more conscious now of vulnerabilities in the global supply chain.

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