SJA hears exclusively from Peter Boriskin, Chief Technology Officer and Angelo Faenza, Head of Digital Access Solutions, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Americas.
Merriam Webster defines resilience as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. The strength to adapt to difficult situations is essential in our personal lives for the sake of our own wellbeing and is critical to successful outcomes in the professional world. For businesses, institutions and other organizations, resilience is a vital skill that is necessary for surviving unexpected events and resisting disruption.
This has perhaps never been as critical as it is right now. Over the past couple of years, we have faced the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic fallout, an acceleration of severe natural disasters – such as wildfires on the West Coast, windstorms in the Midwest and hurricanes on the East and South Coasts – and possibly one of the most divisive times in political history, both domestically and globally. In addition, cyber-attacks continue to grow and are becoming more sophisticated, creating increased risk for organizations.
In short, today’s landscape is rife with opportunities for disruption. With resilience being so important to the success and continuity of a business, how can we as security professionals help organizations bolster their resilience using security and access control? How can we leverage new technologies and reimagine existing technologies in new ways to improve resiliency?
The versatility of access control
Access control can play a crucial role. Among its many benefits, access control improves security, increases efficiency, reduces liability and can help us safeguard against potential disruptions to our day-to-day operations. Today’s demanding business environment has accelerated the need for and the adoption of existing and emerging technologies to create safer and more secure, functional environments while ensuring continuity in our daily lives.
By identifying how to leverage new technologies and looking at how existing technologies can be applied in new ways, we can help our customers build resilient systems that address the everyday needs of facilities while setting them up to navigate and survive challenges in the future.
Knowing the many benefits of access control and how we can leverage its credentialing flexibility, audit trail management and other capabilities to improve resilience, what are practical solutions for expanding its coverage?
First and foremost, wireless technologies make it easier and more affordable to expand access control deeper into the facility and to more applications. Wireless electronic access control solutions offer an excellent alternative or complement to both low security, non-networked solutions and wired electronic access control solutions for organizations of nearly all sizes and sectors. Whether in existing buildings or new construction, wireless solutions offer potential savings in installation and operating costs, minimized downtime and operational disruption and the ability to extend security to non-door openings and doors that would otherwise be too difficult or expensive to secure.
This can be particularly beneficial in budget-sensitive applications such as K-12 schools. K12 schools need a solution that is affordable, easy to deploy and easy to use. Traditionally limited to just a few exterior openings, access control is now increasingly critical throughout the interior of schools. This is possible thanks to wireless technologies.
Extending access control to interior and classroom doors allows school administrators to implement application-specific lockdown strategies to prevent blind lockouts, improve key control and reduce rekeying costs and enhance school security, ultimately creating a better learning environment.
Mobile technologies are another important tool for supporting the growth of access control. The use of mobile devices for credentials continues to grow rapidly worldwide. This offers a major advantage for administrators by giving them the ability to provision credentials remotely. It provides a very easy, touchless way to onboard and offboard staff or grant access to residents. For instance, in a multi-family building, the property manager can easily issue or revoke access rights to tenants remotely.
Another driver is the advantage of mobile access for critical infrastructure. For example, many remote utility facilities don’t have Wi-Fi networks or, in some cases, even hardwired power near them. Leveraging mobile connectivity as part of the infrastructure allows us to enhance our access control capabilities and strengthen security even further.
Mobile has also had a huge uptick at colleges and universities. There is a growing expectation from students to use their phones for everything because of the added level of convenience and security they provide. This is significant considering the number of people schools serve and the traffic flow in and out of buildings, residence halls and other secured spaces across campuses. Physical credentials like key cards and fobs are harder to disseminate on a larger scale and people are more likely to forget or lose them than they are with a cell phone.
Cloud-based access control makes it possible for enterprise-level solutions to be deployed into all spaces, easily and affordably. Even if you have a small office with just a few doors, access control is now within reach thanks to the processing power of the cloud. Simply put, the cloud breaks down the barriers to access. For larger buildings, utilizing the cloud makes the cost of installation and operation far more affordable. The use of cloud-based solutions allows organizations to focus on their core business, rather than maintaining and supporting the network infrastructure and security for their access control platform.
Important factors in achieving resilience
On a personal level, tips for improving resilience include getting connected, making things meaningful, learning from experiences and being proactive. How can we apply these tips to businesses/institutions and security?
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of experience to learn from when it comes to cybersecurity. With the growing frequency and sophistication of cyber-attacks, cybersecurity is an increasingly critical component of business resilience.
One of the core ways we can help mitigate an end user’s cybersecurity risks is by providing physical security to information technology (IT) assets. Many hacks are possible because people can get physical access to a network. Using access control or intelligent keys allows us to dramatically reduce the number of people with access to critical assets, proactively reducing the risk of unauthorized network access. For example, with server cabinet access control locks, we can provide much more granular physical access control to IT assets.
ITS (Intelligent Traffic System) cabinets are another excellent example of the interdependency between physical security and cybersecurity. A vulnerability in the physical security of these cabinets creates a major risk for the cybersecurity of the systems and the networks accessible through the connections housed within them. We can mitigate the cybersecurity risk by proactively addressing physical security to add control and accountability and ensure that only authorized individuals have access.
It is equally as important to address the cybersecurity of physical security products. Product manufacturers need to continually evaluate their products internally for vulnerabilities and use third parties for independent validation. A standards-based approach and the use of industry-approved security ─ from cryptography to authentication and authorization ─ helps mitigate the risk of cybersecurity threats because these technologies are well known and well vetted. If they need to be updated, action can be taken quickly. There are also industry forums continuously evaluating these standards.
Resilience requires flexibility. Access control can help provide that flexibility by allowing organizations to adapt quickly to change. For example, although it has been a growing trend for years, the pandemic accelerated the need for flexible workspaces. During the height of the pandemic, access control could be used to help improve safety by managing traffic flow, limiting the number of people in a given area and allowing you to quickly change how a particular space is used.
It can also support contact tracing and restrict access to areas if cleaning or decontamination is required. Two years later, it is helping us reimagine the workplace as we know it. As many businesses shift to a hybrid model, they can maximize workspace with hoteling, hotdesking and intelligent lockers while allowing employees to easily plan time for collaboration with co-workers.
Getting connected and making interactions meaningful
Access control strengthens business resilience in new ways – and the possibilities of what AI and machine learning can do with all the data from these systems are endless. Because our access control products are going deeper into facilities and proliferating to many more applications, such as server cabinets, lockers, drawers and even hospital patient rooms, this level of connection generates a tremendous amount of data. By applying AI to that data, there is an opportunity to get meaningful insight from this information.
Physical resilience is also an important consideration. Depending on a facility’s location, it may be necessary to implement solutions that meet windstorm requirements. Opening assemblies in a FEMA-rated tornado shelter must withstand storm-force impacts and should be reinforced to keep water, wind and debris out. Adding intelligent, battery-powered edge devices to these doors keeps them working when electricity and connectivity are disrupted, offering a level of security and management that reduces downtime.
Resilience = growth
Though these challenging times may be difficult, they are driving us to develop skills that allow us to find creative, progressive solutions to help build safer, healthier and more secure environments that are more conducive to success and growth.
For more information, visit: www.assaabloydss.com
This article was originally published in the bumper September edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.
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