New Technology: Finding the Right Balance

Over the last six months, I have been asked several times to speak on the topic of new security technology. I take this as a sign of our industry's new focus on providing security to areas that have never before been addressed, which is spurred by increased federal funding. But what is good and useful technology? I believe new technology should be embraced if it allows security professionals to

  • do what they need to do,
  • do things they could not do before,
  • do things better than they could be done before, or
  • do what they need to do less expensively than could be done before.

Clearly, not everything that crosses our desks fits into these categories. We should remember that technology is only a tool within the context of a security program that relies on people, policies and procedures to secure an organization. We should also remember that the effectiveness of security technology depends on its implementation. We, as an industry, have enormous difficulties ensuring that even the simplest of devices is installed on the correct side of the door, that installers are appropriately certified, and that the final system works as specified.

All the above notwithstanding, there are some bright spots in new technology offerings. The first is the availability of wireless electronic entry control door hardware. As a consultant, I am often asked to provide projected cost estimates for new security systems. Clients are always surprised at the amount of the project budget that goes to simple communication wiring.

The new product offerings that provide in kit form all that is needed for an access controlled door hit hard at both the infrastructure and installation labor portion of the project cost. Like all products, there are facility types where this technology would not be appropriate; however, there is a clear and growing market segment that will benefit from further development of this tool.

A second technology that we have followed for the past 12 to 18 months is advanced video processing, which seemingly allows software to largely replace humans in the video monitoring task. These software and hardware packages are ideally suited to securing large sites with irregular perimeters that cannot be fenced or otherwise controlled with physical means. Ports are clear examples-the waterside perimeter defies conventional means of protection. The ability to define the perimeter in software overcomes the physical limitations that security practitioners face at these types of sites.

The technology development curve on advanced video processing systems is currently very steep. We have recently seen the second generation of these products emerge with smaller hardware packages and enhanced performance. Also, performance information from owners as well as national laboratories is beginning to surface, and this information helps specifiers and product suppliers in their push to maintain a performance edge. The key will be the long-term performance of the system, the pace at which these systems can be upgraded to provide field-identified improvements and features, and the stability of the supplying companies.

The overriding evaluation factor in every project is value. Organizations will spend precious capital for security if there is clear benefit in terms of needed security enhancements. New products, fully using recent technological advances, can help the industry satisfy this benchmark test if they are formulated to meet fundamental security needs efficiently, reliably, and cost effectively.

Randall R. Nason, PE is a corporate vice president and manager of the Security Consulting Group at C.H. Guernsey & Co. His experience spans a broad spectrum of the security profession including threat assessment, vulnerability analysis and master plan development through complete system design and construction management.