Security’s role in getting back to business

May 22, 2020
Pierre Racz stresses that proper systems engineering will be key for businesses in the post-pandemic world

In a recent live video interview on one of the TED Talks platforms, billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater Associates, made it clear he thinks the United States is headed towards a modern economic depression, sustained double-digit unemployment and a more than 10% decline in the overall economy as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dalio, however, is quick to share that he believes that this global economic tsunami will be “relatively brief” and will be a transformational event that should lead to global business restructuring.

Dalio’s contention is that this crisis will force global business to rethink how it approaches all aspect of its organizations and that this “restructuring”, which could last as long as three to five years, will create new and previously untapped opportunities and innovation related to digitization, data and human thinking. Dalio told LinkedIn editors last month that: “The human capacity to adapt and invent and come out of this is much greater. I think we should be very excited about the new future,”

Reimagining Global Business Values

This outlook colors the way Genetec President Pierre Racz views the new global landscape. He mirrors Dalio's assessment of hard times bringing the potential for innovative opportunities for both the global economy in general and the security industry in particular. But with this caveat: there must be a strategic plan and the will to implement it. One thing he is sure of for the immediate future, though, his company’s new normal of remote working will remain the status quo for at least a bit longer.

“I wouldn't reopen. My team is itching to get back on the road, but I said to them, I'd rather lose a deal than lose a crew member. Are we ready? I don't think so. We flattened the curve in some places, but not all of them. Look, we're social animals. It's really psychologically difficult and economically hard for us not to interact with each other. But it's also equally devastating when you consider, for example, that in Italy, 12% of the people who contracted the disease died. That is hard. They have lost a whole generation of grandparents. What's the price of that?” asks Racz.

“Dalio says that depending on how deep we sink in terms of an economic slowdown, this might be one of those economic defining moments that happens every 75 to 100 years where we're going to rethink what is going to be the underlying organizational principle as we move into recovery.”

For Racz, that underlying organizational principle should consider using the Bretton Woods Conference as its model. The Bretton Woods Conference, officially known as the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, was a gathering of delegates from 44 nations that met in 1944 in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to agree upon a series of new rules for the post-WWII international monetary system. The two major accomplishments of the conference were the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The policies adopted by governments in the 1930s to combat the Great Depression - high tariff barriers, competitive currency devaluations, discriminatory trading blocs - had contributed to creating an unstable international environment without improving America’s and the world’s economic situations. This experience led international leaders to conclude that economic cooperation was the only way to achieve both peace and prosperity, at home and abroad. Racz believes that this spirit of cooperation must be embraced on a global scale to revitalize the world economies post-COVID-19. As the CEO of a global security solutions provider, he realizes this cooperative approach is imperative for not only his own organization’s survival but for the security industry as it will move to create the technology advancements that recovering businesses will need to safely secure people and assets in the new normal.

“We need to react just the way we did after World War II at the Bretton Woods Conference, and I sincerely hope that the organizational principle for the next 75 years is going to be based on generosity, not selfishness. If we are successful in moving forward using this organizational principle, we might not benefit from it, but our children and their children will and they will be happy that we did,” Racz opines.

Ready For Prime Time?

As companies plan for their hard or soft openings, a lack of federal and state guidance has many owners and executives wondering if they can properly protect their employees when they eventually migrate back. And it’s not just workers. Hesitant clients and customers will have to be assured that every safety and security precaution is being considered and implemented. Racz is not so sure most organizations are ready to pull the trigger on reopening.

“Reopening organizations is really more complicated than people think. For example, we are working on our plan for when we're going to reopen Genetec. One of the things we're going to have to do is to put directional markers down on the floor, so walking along the corridors of Genetec, people will be encouraged to follow the arrows and not go in any direction to help people from meeting face to face. We're also going to have someone going around the facility with isopropyl alcohol to wipe down every door handle every four hours -- I think that is the magic number that we're thinking of using. There are myriad other similar things that have been requested from some of our customers, both in Canada and in the United States,” explains Racz.

Racz and his team accepted the challenge to approach this pandemic as if it was a war scenario. So, during this crisis he says that they have adopted what he calls a “combat-engineering stance,” which is tantamount to designing solutions to meet the challenge at hand.

“We are actually going to adopt or create these procedures inside a mission control area for our customers and for ourselves so that we can audit the fact that we've been following the procedures. We need to know that we've sprayed the elevator buttons and door handles every four hours. We need to know that if we're late in doing it in a timely manner, do we have a physical alarm installed to detect that” Racz continues. “If we fail to do it, we can generate a contamination probability report, so then we can say, ‘Okay, we didn't do the elevator button. This person was contaminated. You pressed the button after him. So sorry, it’s back off to the quarantine for you."’

Is Technology the Answer?

From an industry perspective, as organizations plan for relaunching their “new normal” approach to business operations, security figures to play a major role in shaping new systems, policies, and procedures. The latest buzz surrounding access control systems has brought the concepts of touch-less and friction-less into the security lexicon. The possibility of integrating more video and video management technology into security entrances so we can monitor body temperatures and employ advanced analytics to track people that may have a potential issue with the virus so they are kept out of a facility loom as pieces of the new normal.

While there is no denying the technology shift that seems to reside just over the horizon, Racz is not buying that technology is the savior alone.

“Technology is not the right answer. It's actually engineering that's the right answer -- systems engineering. We're going to see situations where there is actually just dumb engineering or not even what would be considered engineering. For example, if you're going to try to use devices that were non-medical temperature sensors to actually generate alarms, as some of the ambulance-chasers are suggesting, you're going to have false (alarms) on a lot of things just because you didn't engineer the system properly,” Racz warns.

He adds: “I heard a really dumb idea of people wanting to put thermal cameras on public transit buses to be able to detect people that might have a fever. There's a couple of problems with that. There's a lot of people selling these cameras, but the cameras don't even have the accuracy to detect fever. A lot of the security cameras have five-degree accuracy in measuring – five-degrees Celsius or 10-degrees Fahrenheit to measure temperatures, which are fine if you want to find out if your oil pipeline is on fire, but not so good to find out if you're running a fever. There are a few cameras that actually have .5-degrees of accuracy, but these could be mis-engineered. So, if they are put on a bus and then stop where you had a passenger wait in the sun for 10 minutes, that passenger is going to be bloody hot and is going to set off your alarm and you're not going to let them on your bus for the wrong reasons. That's just bad engineering.”

Racz contends that there is going to have to be some deep thinking about what “good” security engineering is going to resemble in the new normal. Above all, he says any developing or reengineering security technologies must be applicable to solving real problems. And that doesn’t just cover the access control marketplace. The pandemic panic has put facial recognition back into the global spotlight – in both a positive and negative fashion.

“For me, facial recognition is one of those technologies that work best when you don't need it, and when you do need it, it doesn't work as well. Facial recognition is perfect for tracking innocent people on the street. But the bad guy who wants to come into your facility, he actually will use countermeasures and will be invisible to your facial recognition system. When you need it the most, the system works less well, and the big crime is giving people a false sense of security, “Racz says. “I call this placebo technology, and just like I would not want to go to Africa with placebo malaria medication, I would not want to have placebo security at the entrance of my facility. Placebo security is when you don't really want to be secure, you just want to feel secure.

Racz has an original saying he has been sharing with his organization’s engineers for years: “’ Process is no substitute for thinking. Process is a substitute for communication.’ This should be the mantra for the security industry moving forward. This must be the mindset of the new normal.”

About the Author:

Steve Lasky is a 33-year veteran of the security publishing industry and multiple-award-winning journalist. He is currently the Editorial and Conference Director for the Endeavor Business Security Media Group, the world’s largest security media entity, serving more than 190,000 security professionals in print, interactive, and events. It includes Security Technology ExecutiveSecurity Business and Locksmith Ledger International magazines, and SecurityInfoWatch.comthe most visited security web portal in the world. He can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Steve Lasky | Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief/Security Technology Executive

Steve Lasky is Editorial Director of Security Technology Executive, Security Dealer & Integrator magazines and