While Covid-19 and its many variants may be overstaying its welcome, the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions pose a great opportunity for businesses to re-open. On the one hand, it’s positive news, as many are glad to welcome the public back to their hotels, offices, restaurants, shopping centres and airports. However, the re-opening is not without complications and risk, as we all strive to avoid yet another outbreak and the reinstatement of a lockdown. So how can security solutions help businesses to reopen their doors safely? Nick Wardle, Sales Manager here at Oracle Vision shares his perspective.
It is a huge boost for all of us this summer to be able to meet friends and family again, to enjoy a meal out and even to travel a little. At work though, there is no doubt that our customers are getting a headache keeping everything open and doing so safely. We still need to maintain some social distancing to prevent the virus spreading. In the news just this week, Heathrow Airport announced new measures to handle passengers arriving from red listed countries separately from amber and green ones and no doubt other airports will have this on their mind.
However, there are some fantastic security solutions that can help organisations to manage visitor numbers, manipulate the flow of traffic and monitor people to keep everyone safe. Many of these solutions have been here all along or developed further during the pandemic and are there to make the most of, with the right approach. As always, that approach needs to be bespoke to fit the needs of individual organisations, and the first step is to have a proactive chat with your security contractor to design the right system for you.
Temperature screening and thermal imaging
Thermal cameras have become increasingly popular during the pandemic, and it is not surprising given they have the technology to detect someone with a high temperature at various distances. It is a very interesting technology – the image looks like something from a science fiction movie. This technology can automate and make safer the process of an individual with a manual thermometer testing each visitor. What is more, when coupled with the right access control system they become a very smart way to limit transmission if someone has been infected. By identifying spikes in temperature quicker, we can prevent access through the doors or gates until a member of staff can assess the situation and respond accordingly, reducing the potential of effecting more areas. Better still, a segregated area or air lock system for such activities can keep the flow of people without concern to a maximum.
However, this solution has limitations that organisations are not always aware of. Thermal cameras only work correctly within a specific criterion. If installed, for instance, in a glass foyer, when it is sunny outside, you will see most people triggering the system as the increased heat creates false alarms. Similarly, if a camera is placed outside, the external temperature will affect the reading. Thermal cameras need to be used in a controlled environment within a specific temperature range (e.g. 18-21 degrees). Otherwise, you have purchased an expensive piece of equipment that is not fit for purpose and could cause more problems than solutions.
By now many of us who do the weekly shop will have become familiar with occupancy counting. We generally see something in the form of a traffic light system, informing shoppers to wait outside if the supermarket is too full. That is where occupancy management comes into its own – when integrated with access control, organisations can stop too many people from being in restricted and potentially enclosed spaces. Many businesses will already have the scope to do this with their existing access control systems, some integration is necessary to realise the system potential.
Occupancy management is also a feature of CCTV cameras, where organisations can monitor visitor flow and flag any congregation or gatherings. For example, it is possible to flag up if people are not socially distanced (or wearing face masks) either with an alert that a member of staff can address, or with a broadcast message. Like all these solutions, there is a human element required for its smooth application and running. Physical barriers, signage and arrows are all still very important, and should not be dismissed in the expectation that the technology implemented can solve everything.
Additionally, occupancy management can be used outside real-time application to share useful data with the business. If you are counting visitor numbers, you can pull reports that tell you when busy periods are. These figures can help plan staffing levels, stock counts, inform customers of busier times and highlight ‘hot spots’ that need to be managed.
While thermal imaging and occupancy management are fantastic bits of tech for most organisations, there is also a lot that traditional access control systems can offer organisations, when used properly. Airports have always been good at restricting access to various areas of site, and now the same application can be used to manage the flow of people. Consider how access control can transform corridors to be one way, helping with social distancing. Similarly, limiting access to certain areas to only a select few employees can help to control the spread of infection.
The key thing with access control system is to ensure that your systems work proactively. When a brake glass has been broken, a door forced open, or if someone has propped open an access-controlled door, the system should notify the end user well before any issue escalates. Here at Oracle Vision our firm belief is that security solutions should be designed to keep your organisation safe.