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5 things to know before buying a thermal camera system

By Jamie Bumgardner, Prime Communications, Inc.

Thermal cameras have been a hot topic in the security industry as of late, as more and more businesses look to invest in solutions that can screen employees and customers for an elevated temperature before they enter a building. Thermal cameras are being used as one of many tools and protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, since an elevated temperature is one of the most common symptoms of the virus.

Over the past few months, numerous companies have raced to develop and launch thermal camera solutions for the security industry. While hospitals, casinos, restaurants and even schools are among those who have already made the investment in this technology, facility executives and security directors should take into consideration the following as part of the buying and evaluation process of thermal imaging cameras.

  1. Look at the accuracy rate of the device and how frequently the camera needs to be calibrated. Does the camera use a black body device, which helps to maintain accuracy when measuring the temperature of a person’s forehead or inner canthus? Also, the black body device should arrive fully calibrated and should only need to be recalibrated every few months.
  2. Is the camera an FDA approved medical device? The FDA has issued guidelines on the use of “telethermographic systems.” An FDA approved thermal imaging camera meets IEC standards, which dictate accuracy rate and throughput guidelines, such as screening only one individual at a time.
  3. How will the thermal data be stored? This is a question that needs to be addressed in order to ensure privacy and data security rules are followed, such as GDPR and California’s CCPA rule. Much like video collected and stored as part of a VMS system, data collected as part of a thermal imaging camera scan also requires privacy protection measures.
  4. Many businesses will test and try out a new keypad, IP camera or access control reader before making that purchase. The same approach should be taken with thermal imaging cameras. Work closely with your security systems integrator to thoroughly vet and test the technology prior to buying it.
  5. What’s the long-term value of this camera to your business or organization? Do you expect to be able to use this camera post-COVID as part of your company’s surveillance program or will it go into the closet waiting for the next pandemic? Make sure you have a plan in place for what you do with these thermal imaging cameras post-pandemic.

As people look to return to work and to school, consider collaborating with your systems integrator partner about which safety protocols and technologies, like thermal imaging cameras, you can put into place to help to make that transition possible.

Why now is the ideal time to make security improvements at your workspace

By David Alessandrini, Pasek Corporation

The work from home movement continues, with much of corporate America postponing the full reopening of offices as part of efforts to help stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result, office occupancy numbers remain low compared to pre-pandemic rates.

This scenario – with many offices remaining virtually empty – provides an ideal opportunity for corporations to make improvements within their facilities, such as security and HVAC upgrades or workspace and traffic pattern reconfigurations.

For near empty facilities, one of the greatest advantages of tackling a security project now – whether to install new surveillance cameras or touchless door openers – is that noise and infringing on working employees is less of an issue.

Security integrators often work closely with customers to map out an installation timeline to ensure as little impact as possible on employees or customers inside a building. An occupied building can limit when, where and how an integrator can install or repair systems, with work often getting pushed to the evening or weekend to minimize disruption. This can turn a project into a more expensive job because it now requires overtime pay for the security technician.

With fewer people in offices these days, contractors gain more access to the building since their movement and work is less likely to disrupt business operations. Employees working at their desk are not impacted when a technician runs wire through ceiling tiles, for example. Entrances that would need to remain open to accommodate employees coming and going to work can now be taken offline during regular business hours to install hands-free entrance solutions.

As a result, end users are finding that projects are being completed within a shorter period of time. This, in turn, can result in an overall cost savings for the project.

Reduced occupancy numbers also create a safer environment for everyone, limiting contact and interaction with others as people continue to follow social distancing guidelines. While many businesses have adopted procedures to screen visitors, such as temperature checks when someone enters a facility, lower occupancy numbers support a safer environment for contractors as well.

As companies postpone reopening offices, now is the time to plan for the future. Nearly empty workspaces enable contractors of all types to complete projects in a timely, and less disruptive fashion, enabling corporate America to lay the groundwork to welcome back employees in what many hope will be the not too distant future.

The Role of Security in a COVID World

by John Krumme, CPP, Cam-Dex Security

How security is minimizing COVID-19 risk

We all know the benefits of a comprehensive security solution and program. Protecting people and assets has been priority number one for those associated with the security industry since its inception. The industry has accomplished this by developing new technologies and safety programs that help to keep unwanted visitors off a property and to proactively identify and alert authorities of an intruder.

Now, the security industry is finding itself in new territory and this includes helping to minimize health risks in a COVID-19 world. Technology originally developed to watch people entering and exiting an area is now being used to detect elevated temperatures. Access control systems developed with leading edge technology in mind, such as mobile credentials, are now recognized as touchless access control solutions that so many corporations and universities demand today.

As we look ahead to the future and move beyond just protecting people and assets, here are a few considerations relating to new ways that security technology is being leveraged.

Thermal Imaging Cameras

Thermal imaging camera technology has been part of the security industry for at least two decades. Using heat mapping technology, it has proved valuable to help identify individuals entering a predefined area at night when lighting conditions may make it difficult to detect a person using traditional surveillance cameras. However, until recently, their deployment has been limited primarily to military applications, perimeter protection and usage for high security areas.

Now, casinos, restaurants, and even hospitals are starting to deploy thermal imaging camera systems as part of their first line of defense to detect elevated temperatures. These specially designed cameras, which can detect a specific temperature in a person, are helping businesses to quickly screen customers and visitors using a method that requires minimal direct human contact with that visitor.

Security directors who are looking at implementing this technology are also considering future benefits. This includes developing a comprehensive Prevention Plan. The thermal imaging camera can be integrated to monitor and report social distancing. By integrating these cameras with other security technologies, you can maximize effectiveness, including responding more rapidly to the real-time data provided.

Touchless Entry

As more people look to limit the number of surfaces they touch when they enter a building, whether it’s the office, grocery story or school building, access control systems that support touchless entry has received additional attention over these few months.

Companies are investing in automatic door opening systems that integrate with a Proximity card reader or mobile credentials. While traditionally used for high traffic areas – such as entrances into large retail stores or large medical centers – automatic door entry systems eliminate the need for a person to touch a door handle to enter an area.

Leveraging touchless solutions, such as mobile credentials, instead of a keypad or biometric fingerprint system, minimizes contact with a specific security device. This is an important consideration moving forward, especially since the entrance into secure areas may be used by dozens of people in a given day.

Restricting Access

While managing access – who can come and go within a specific area – has been a focus for the security industry, corporations are looking at incorporating additional parameters into their access control systems. This includes restricting access to specific floors in a building for employees. Previously if a person worked at a business that individual may have been able to move around the building more freely. Working in conjunction with the elevator control system, that employee may only be permitted to exit the elevator on his designated floor.

In addition, access control systems are being used to help monitor the number of people within a specific area. For example, if the office lunchroom has a limited capacity of five people, access would be restricted until another individual badges out of that area.

Without a doubt, security technology has evolved over the years, incorporating new capabilities once never imagined possible. Now, due to COVID-19 the industry is finding itself in a new, expanded position, adding value not just to security but also to public health and safety.

The New Security Buzzword – Touchless Security

By Dominic Burns, AC Technical Systems Ltd.

Much of what people do on a daily basis involves touching hundreds of items without thought – we turn a door knob to open a door, touch a keypad to type on a computer and push elevator buttons to close the door and select a floor. Until recently, people didn’t have to worry about these simple actions, as they didn’t pose a potential health and safety risk.

As COVID-19 has changed how we do interact with people, eliminating hand shaking and promoting social distancing, it has also impacted our desire, or lack thereof, to touch things. As a result, the security industry is seeing greater emphasis being placed on implementing solutions that can support a touchless security experience – eliminating the unnecessary transfer of germs between surfaces and people.

Few people leave their home without their mobile phone in their pocket or purse. While mobile credentialing has slowly grown over the past few years, this technology is expected to increase considerably. Mobile credentials discourage the practice of sharing of proximity cards between employees, such as when someone may forget their card at home and cannot gain access into the company parking lot. It also enables companies to more easily monitor and manage access privileges, eliminating the need for in-person interaction to issue a new security badge.

Automatic doors are the norm for many large-scale retailers, such as grocery stores and big box chains, but this security technology will now trickle down to include smaller business types. Security directors are investing in magnetic door strikes to turn once manually operated doors into automatic, whether it’s connected to an access control reader or via an automatic door sensor.

While many building entrance doors are currently equipped with a handicap button to automate opening and closing to be ADA Compliant, this function will soon move to incorporate completely touch free solutions. Touchless buttons will replace the large touchpad, requiring a person to only wave a hand in front of the button to activate the door.

Keypads are perhaps the most commonly used access control solution, due in part to the low-cost nature of these systems and the flexibility to scale up based on needs. However, due to COVID-19, many businesses do not currently want to leverage a system that requires people to push multiple buttons.  As an alternative, businesses have begun to invest in a cover that can be placed over the keypad and then turn the keypad into a card reader and a touchless access solution.

The security industry is adapting to the new security norms, and market demands. Security directors are driving a market shift that now includes implementing new solutions designed to facilitate a touchless security experience.

Remote systems access to become the future of security service calls

By Dominic Burns, A.C. Technical Systems Ltd.

What will service calls look like for security systems integrators and their customers in the post COVID-19 world? Here is a glimpse into the future: As integrators and end users alike look to mitigate risk, many will turn to remote system connectivity to troubleshoot issues with IP cameras and access control systems in order to reduce the need to physically enter a customer’s building.

Remote system access is not a new concept – it has been around since the 1950s when modems were first invented – yet it is a relatively new capability in the security world with the introduction of IP-based cameras nearly 25 years ago. Today, an estimated 32 percent of end users choose systems that can be remotely accessed for troubleshooting and remotely addressing system problems, yet only a small percentage enable this capability.

An estimated 68 percent of all service calls are network or end-user related, indicating that many problems can be solved without an integrator having to visit the customer’s property as long as the customer enables remote access functionality.

With remote system access, integrators can check if an IP switch is online or if there has been a change to the IP address for a camera – both of which are critical to ensure an IP camera is communicating properly on the network. Remote connectivity also allows systems integrators to power cycle a camera without having to be physically present. This is the same process followed by cable television companies as they troubleshoot an issue with a customer’s cable television box.
Customers benefit with shorter wait times for service when compared with a security integrator having to roll a truck to address the problem in person. Also, the cost associated with remotely trouble shooting and solving a problem can be significantly less than requiring a technician to travel to a customer site.
One of the biggest challenges with remote system access is the approval of the corporate IT department, who often worry that granting remote access privileges will create the perfect gateway for a hacker to enter the network.

Today there are several tools integrators that can utilize to remotely access a system. Starting with basic remote access application such as TeamViewer. TeamViewer is an application that allows the end user to directly initiate a remote session to their computer and allows the integrator to review in real time the issue a client is experiencing. The Integrators can now troubleshoot and fix the issue immediately or assess which parts are required to take to a site, if a site visit is required. During the remote session, the client can monitor integrator actions and interact, if needed. Once a remote troubleshooting session is completed, the client can then terminate that remote session.

Another option, which is highly recommended, is a virtual private network (VPN) which uses remote tools to provide a secure, encrypted tunnel to transmit data between a remote user connection and the company network. This works in conjunction with an added dual factor authentication process or a one-time password (OTP), which provides a rolling security code that must be entered into the authentication process in order to gain access to the company’s network. This number changes with each access session, thereby minimizing security risks.

As companies continue to navigate the ever-changing business landscape, end users should expect more integrators will require customers to provide remote system access. This capability will prove to be a vital tool to troubleshoot and address IP-based security service calls today and into the future.

Protecting your Empty Facility

By John Krumme, CPP, Cam-Dex Security Corp.

These are unprecedented times globally, as businesses transition as many employees as possible to work from home in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result of this shift, many once bustling facilities – schools, corporate offices and places of worship – are now seeing limited visitors, if any at all.

Even though many facilities are now nearly empty or in limited use, security remains a top priority to protect assets and those employees who may need to venture in from time to time to retrieve important files. With this in mind, if your frequency of visitors has significantly changed, you should also review your security system to ensure a few measures are in place.

Revoking access privileges of employees may be a little extreme, in order to keep them from entering a facility once business operations move to remote operations. However, if your building has multiple unlock schedules on its doors to enable employees or customers to enter at a set time in the morning, it’s time to review that schedule and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the building remains secure at all times.

Many places of worship, for example, have moved away from being open 24/7 and have implemented an access control system that will automatically unlock the doors before Sunday worship, or before committee meetings during the week. These facilities can have a dozen or more automatic unlock schedules as part of its access control system. The same can be said for buildings on a college or corporate campus, for example.

The majority of surveillance systems installed today provide the ability to remotely review video footage – keeping tabs on employees, customers and deliveries. However, now is an ideal time to review whether your facility is taking full advantage of the remote monitoring capabilities your surveillance system has to offer.

If you have not done so yet, look into how you can remotely access your surveillance system, either through a mobile app or desktop option. Many manufacturers offer this capability as part of the system, or for a small monthly fee.

Being able to access your surveillance system remotely will enable you to periodically check your parking lot for vehicles left behind for a long period of times. If you receive an alert that someone has entered the building through the access control system, remote surveillance will also enable you to view the interior of the building to see if the person coming in is an employee to retrieve files, a cleaning person, or someone who is not authorized to enter at a specific time.

Security remains a top priority, even when a facility is empty. Investing time today to review the systems you have in place, adjust unlock schedules, and leverage remote surveillance capabilities, will help ensure your building remains secure and ready for occupancy in the near future.