Radio technology has undergone significant improvements over the last few decades
More attention needs to be given to wireless security technology
Despite major developments in radio technology and increased demand in the market for new solutions, wireless systems are still not fully embraced by the security industry. Tony Makosinski of Honeywell Security Group asks why, and explores what the future holds for wireless technology.

Although wireless technology -specifically radio - has been used in the security industry since the 1980s, penetration rates in Europe and particularly the UK are still lower than one would expect. When one considers the way that wireless solutions are embraced in so many other areas of our daily lives, it is hard to see why security installers, in addition to chief security officers and risk managers, are slow to adopt this technology when it comes to securing their premises against intrusion. To understand this better we need to rewind a few decades.

Firstly, a lack of education around wireless security was to blame for scare stories that alleged radio frequencies used to deploy wireless intruder alarms were susceptible to jamming or interference from devices such as mobile phones or walkie-talkies. The perception was that radio was risky and if a police frequency could be jammed or tapped into, then surely a residential or low-end commercial device could be open to compromise. Moreover, it was also assumed that radio systems were also much more prone to false alarms than traditional wired alarms as radio waves from any number of sources could interfere with the system and trigger an alert.

To counteract this, a delegation of representatives from the security industry and a representative of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) travelled to the US to see radio systems in operation and to better understand that this technology was reliable and trustworthy.

It was assumed that radio systems were much more prone to false alarms than traditional wired alarms

In addition, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) worked to define and enforce a set of industry standards to encourage greater trust in the technology, and buy-in from interest groups such as police and installers in the UK. The organisation successfully implemented BS 6799, which graded radio systems from one to six, as well as mandated that an installer had to be trained and certified by a manufacturer before installing a system. The standard has been instrumental in helping to build stability in the space and promote wireless uptake among industry influencers and installers, and much of it has now been incorporated into the new European standard EN50131.

Yet in spite of increased education and a robust industry standard, the penetration of wireless security solutions in Europe is only 30%* and even less in the UK.  Innovations in radio technology and changing demands in the security marketplace mean that more and more end-users are considering wireless, and security installers need to make sure that they have the expertise and equipment necessary to provide the service. 

Benefits of wireless technology in security applications

The benefits of wireless technology are compelling. Often, wired security systems simply cannot be adapted to deliver the kind of protection that any standard risk assessment demands. An inability to install cabling in a property owing to any number of architectural or design features can lead to inadequate security alarms being installed and leave clear loopholes open for criminals to exploit. Wireless technology offers a flexible and scalable alternative that, can ensure that a premise is secured as comprehensively as possible, whether it be as a standalone or in tandem with wired solutions. Furthermore, wireless solutions are particularly useful when it comes to temporary building work, a time when many locations are vulnerable to crime. Instead of leaving premises open to compromise when building work is taking place and wired systems are disrupted, wireless intrusion detectorsattached to temporary partitions or supporting walls can be a very effective way of combating unwelcome intrusion. This would be impractical using wired technology.

Wireless technology is very useful in building sites
Wireless technology is particularly useful building construction sites which are vulnerable to crime

Two-way radio technology has redefined the debate around wireless, and added extra important benefits to its armoury.  The technology ensures that a panel is not only transmitting a signal to a detector to check it is still operational; the detector also sends a confirmation signal back to the panel. This enhances peace of mind and the reliability of the solution. In addition, instead of a panel waiting the sometimes up to 54 minutes before "self-reacting" - alerting the user to a suspected fault with the system - after a missed signal from a detector, alarm systems can be programmed to monitor for and highlight potential problems at much shorter intervals. If a panel asks for a confirmation signal from the detector at random intervals but a minimum of every eleven minutes for example, it ensures that any fault or problem with the alarm is quickly identified and dealt with, and no property is left unprotected (and unaware of it) for up to an hour as a result. This important innovation will help to change perceptions of radio and encourage greater uptake.

Battery life is an important area of innovation when it comes to wireless. Previously wireless detectors used batteries that were bespoke and expensive to buy, in addition to having a short lifespan. In the residential space in particular, for a customer looking at the total cost of ownership involved in maintaining an alarm system, constantly replacing expensive batteries had the potential to significantly affect his/her purchasing decision. In recent years, detectors have been redesigned to run on lower-cost and generally available lithium batteries, reducing overheads and increasing power efficiency. Now 5 years battery life is easily obtainable. In addition the cost of replacements is significantly less. These changes will make it easier for the end user and support the installer when making the business case for the technology.

In recent years, detectors have been redesigned to run on lower-cost lithium batteries, increasing power efficiency

Also significant in the debate surrounding the uptake of wireless are panic buttons. Increasingly, in schools and hospitals, a discrete wireless panic transmitter is clipped to members of staff to safeguard them against attacks. Using radio, detectors communicate with the main control panels, and if the detector is activated by the employee, an alarm will sound instantly and the person at risk identified. Wireless panic buttons also have residential appeal, particularly in the summer season when more and more outdoor activities are taking place. By keeping a button close to them in the garden, homeowners can ensure they are protected at all times. As panic buttons grow in popularity, so too will increased adoption of wireless.

Wireless security systems should complement wired systems

In summary, wireless technology is more accessible than ever for specifiers and installers, and more important than ever to the end-user. But should wireless replace traditional wired systems? The answer to that question is ‘no'. Wired systems are both integral to the delivery of security solutions, and also make up the majority of systems that exist in the UK and Europe today. Instead, the industry needs to consider the benefits of going hybrid. Most manufacturers now offer a suite of products that allow interoperability between wired systems and wireless detectors empowering customers to add wireless components that compliment their existing solution.

A totally wired or totally wireless system is often unsuitable for every deployment, but a combination of the two will help customers to satisfy even the most complex of security requirements. Installers cannot afford to miss the boat. 

 Honeywell's Tony Makosinkski Tony Makosinkski
Honeywell Security Group

 

 

 

 

* Source: IMS Research

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Why the touchless office is another argument for going passwordless
Why the touchless office is another argument for going passwordless

Security experts have discussed the demise of the passwords for years. As early as 2004, Bill Gates told the RSA Security Conference that passwords “just don’t meet the challenge for anything you really want to secure.” Change has been slow, but the sudden increase in remote working and the need for enterprises to become touchless as they try to encourage teams back to the office is increasing traction. Here we look at the future of passwordless authentication - using the example of trusted digital identities - and share tips on choosing a solution that works for your organisation. The move away from passwords was beginning to gain momentum pre-pandemic. Gartner reported an increase in clients asking for information on ‘passwordless’ solutions in 2019. Now Gartner predicts that 60% of large and global enterprises, and 90% of midsize enterprises, will put in place passwordless methods by 2022. This is up from 5% in 2018. The many limitations of passwords are well-documented, but the cost of data breaches may be the reason behind this sharp upswing. Stolen credentials – usually passwords – and phishing are the top two causes of data breaches according to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Incident Report. Each breach costs businesses an average of anywhere between £4M to £8M depending on which studies you read. A catalyst for change As in so many other areas, the pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Newly remote workers using BYOD devices and home networks, sharing devices with other family members, and writing down passwords at home all make breaches more likely. And seasoned home workers represent a risk too.  It also means that enterprises are developing new procedures to mitigate the spread of disease. This includes a thorough examination of any activity that requires workers to touch surfaces. Entering passwords on shared keyboards or touchscreens falls squarely in this area of risk. As does handling physical smart cards or key fobs. Enterprises are expanding their searches from “passwordless” to “passwordless and touchless,” looking to replace physical authenticators. In the quest to go touchless these are items that can be easily eliminated. The future of passwordless authentication Using fingerprint or facial recognition often only provides a new front-end way to activate passwords Common alternatives to passwords are biometrics. But, using fingerprint or facial recognition often only provides a new front-end way to activate passwords. Passwords are still required for authentication after the biometric scan and these live in a central repository vulnerable to hackers. With one successful hack of the central repository, cyber-criminals can swipe thousands of details. In other words, biometrics on their own are not an improvement in security, only a better user experience. They need to be combined with a different approach that adds another layer of security. A more secure option is to move away from the centralised credential repository to a decentralised model. For example, one based on trusted digital identities. This is where digital certificates are stored on users’ phones. Think of encrypted digital certificates as virtual passports or ID cards that live on a worker’s device. Because they are stored on many separate phones, you are able to build a highly secure decentralised credential infrastructure. A solution that uses people’s phones is also compatible with touchless authentication systems. You can replace smart cards and key fobs with a phone-based security model and reduce the number of surfaces and items that people touch. This is especially beneficial for workplaces where people have to visit different sites, or for example in healthcare facilities. Replacing smartcards with a phone in a pocket reduces the number of items that clinicians need to take out and use a smartcard between and in different areas, which may have different contamination levels or disease control procedures. How do trusted digital identities work?   Workers unlock their mobile devices and access their trusted identity using fingerprint or facial recognition Here’s an example installation. You install a unique digital certificate on each user’s mobile device — this is their personal virtual ID card. Authorised users register themselves on their phones using automated onboarding tools. Workers unlock their mobile devices and access their trusted identity using fingerprint or facial recognition. Once they are authenticated, their device connects to their work computer via Bluetooth and automatically gives them access to the network and their applications with single sign on (SSO). This continues while their phone is in Bluetooth range of their workstation, a distance set by IT. When they leave their desk with their phone, they go out of range and they are automatically logged out of everything. Five tips on choosing a passwordless solution More automation means less disruption Consider how you can predict and eliminate unnecessary changeover disruptions. The task of onboarding large or widely dispersed employee populations can be a serious roadblock for many enterprises. Look for a solution that automates this process as much as possible. Scalability and your digital roadmap Will you maintain remote working? Having a high proportion of your team working remotely means that passwordless solutions will become more of a necessity. Are you expecting to grow or to add new cloud apps and broader connectivity with outside ecosystems? If so, you need password authentication that will scale easily. Encryption needs and regulatory requirements If your workers are accessing or sharing highly sensitive information or conducting high-value transactions, check that a solution meets all necessary regulatory requirements. The most secure passwordless platforms are from vendors whose solutions are approved for use by government authorities and are FIDO2-compliant. Prioritise decentralisation Common hacker strategies like credential stuffing and exploitation of re-used credentials rely on stealing centralised repositories of password and log-in data. If you decentralise your credentials, then these strategies aren’t viable. Make sure that your passwordless solution goes beyond the front-end, or the initial user log-in and gets rid of your central password repository entirely. Make it about productivity too Look for a solution that offers single sign on to streamline login processes and simplify omnichannel workflows. For workers, this means less friction, for the enterprise, it means optimal productivity. Security improvements, productivity gains and user goodwill all combine to form a compelling case for going passwordless. The additional consideration of mitigating disease transmission and bringing peace of mind to employees only strengthens the passwordless argument. The new end goal is to do more than simply replace the passwords with another authenticator. Ideally, enterprises should aspire to touchless workplace experiences that create a safer, more secure and productive workforce.

Be our guest: How to manage visitors with both safety and service
Be our guest: How to manage visitors with both safety and service

In today’s fraught times, business continuity and success hinges on how you manage the visitors to your company. By prioritising safety and security, and coupling them with top-notch attention and customer service, you win loyalty and gain a reputation that will serve you in years to come. An excellent way to accomplish this is by identifying and implementing the best visitor management system for your company. And visitor management systems go beyond ensuring the safety of your visitors and staff safety from your visitors. A feature-rich VMS will track your guests' activities, so you can better understand their preferences for future visits. That way, you can manage visitor experience and tailor amenities and preferences. Both customer loyalty and brand reputation benefit. Visitor management systems: who uses it, and why is it used? Visitor management refers to all the processes put together by an organisation to welcome, process, and keep track Visitor management refers to all the processes put together by an organisation to welcome, process, and keep track of all the guests daily. A visitor management system (VMS) is the technology used to manage guests for their convenience, safety, and security. Several features are typical in today’s applications. They include preregistration tools,  video intercoms, self-check-in stations, and health screening. In visitor management, the term "visitor" doesn't only refer to guests but also anyone without an authorized access credential. For instance, an employee without their access credential logs in as a visitor. The same applies to a delivery man or a technician carrying out routine maintenance. A VMS helps to account for everyone within the organisation at any given time. Who uses visitor management systems? You need a visitor management system to manage a school or hospital, an office, or even a residential building. Here's why: Visitor management system for schools: schools are among society’s most vulnerable facilities. A VMS is almost mandatory in this setting. It helps to identify visitors, detect intruders, and alert security of any unauthorised access. Visitor management system for offices: A VMS accounts for guests at all times. They include clients, maintenance contractors, delivery men, employees without credentials, friends, and family, Visitor management system for hospitals: access control is essential in hospitals, and managing visitors plays a major role. Hospitals offer access to pharmaceuticals, medical records, newborns, and expensive equipment. It is crucial to monitor restricted hallways and sections with video intercoms and track unauthorised persons' movements. Residential visitor management system: tracking people's movement is a key VMS component. In case of a crime, knowing who had access to the building within a specific time frame can help in the investigation. Plus, tracking the activities of visitors can deter future crime. Why is the visitor management system important? A video intercom makes it much more difficult for a visitor to impersonate a known guest. VMS accounts for everyone within the organisation in cases of emergency. VMSs can prevent intruders and alert the security department of a breach. A VMS creates a positive visitor experience, which shapes perception of the organisation. With a trusted VMS in place, employees can focus on being productive. Health screening gives staff peace of mind. It increases employees' willingness to return to work in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. How does a good VMS address occupant and visitor safety? The necessary technology to ensure building safety The best visitor management systems contain the necessary technology to ensure building safety. To maximise occupant and visitor safety, a VMS should have the following features: Job one of a VMS is visitor identification. It also helps deter potential criminals. Some VMSs go beyond identification by running a quick check on the visitor's ID and alerting security of any discrepancies. By identifying and proving a visitor's identity, the VMS ensures the safety of employees and other visitors. VMS helps with compliance A good visitor management system helps the organisation follow regulations, such as for occupancy. In the COVID era, some states may require health screening for guests. Health screening helps protect the building's occupants from exposure to health hazards. Information security VMSs also aid in information protection. It takes mere seconds for a rogue visitor to download files into a jump drive, photograph exposed blueprints, or copy customer lists. Visitor management systems restrict visitor access to parts of the building and track the whereabouts of guests. Visitor privacy With pen and paper systems, walking up to the receptionist often gives visitors full view of the visitors list. Visitor management systems seal that vulnerability. Visitors can check in without fear that anyone nearby can see their information. Emergency evacuation With a good VMS, the exact number of people within the building is always known. In the case of an emergency, first responders can use VMS data to identify everyone on site. This is a safety net for both the occupants and visitors to the organisation. How to manage building visitors System features depend on the purpose and setting of the VMS. Yet certain features and processes are essential. Preauthorisation and health screening The first step is knowing the visitors upfront. Preauthorisation allows everyone to know who is coming and when. Guests specify the time and purpose of their visits. You get to welcome and accommodate your visitors accordingly. Some systems may also be able to upload documents of interest, such as proposals, contracts, presentations, or agendas. Health screening is critical today. It signals that the organisation cares about its guests. A visitor is more likely to visit an organisation that prioritises health and safety. Health screening is a way to protect your staff and send the right message. Video intercom Along with health screening, video intercom is a key element of VMSs. It enables secure video identification with remote, touchless, and COVID-safe access into buildings. Intercoms are a safe and secure way to communicate with audio and video without physical contact. Video allows you to visually verify the visitor. The audio component enables spoken communication. Some systems even use facial recognition technology and mobile app unlock. When integrated with access control, visitor arrival is seamless. Upgrade to touchless access Touchless access is the safest and most secure VMS option Touchless access is the safest and most secure VMS option. It is more sophisticated because it receives visitors without them having to lift a finger. It's also convenient and effective. In this time of the novel coronavirus, the demand for hands-free systems is surging. VMS has pivoted to met this demand. Many organisations are finding how touchless systems increase safety in the workplace. Visitor logging is essential for managing guests to your building. Besides being a source for verification and data tracing, it also helps in real-time to know who signed into the building and who hasn't signed out yet. Tracking the movement of visitors within the facility makes it clear where they are at all times. This way, there can be an effective emergency action plan for visitors and other occupants. This feature has use in contact tracing, health investigations, and other investigations, such as for theft.

What does 2020 mean for the future of security trade shows?
What does 2020 mean for the future of security trade shows?

Trade shows have always been a basic element of how the security industry does business - until the year 2020, that is. This year has seen the total collapse of the trade show model as a means of bringing buyers and sellers face to face. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively made the idea of a large trade show out of the question. Today, even air travel seems incredibly risky, or at minimum a huge hassle. The good news is that the industry has adapted well without the shows. A series of “on-line shows” has emerged, driven by the business world’s increasing dependence on Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. The fact is, 2020 has provided plenty of opportunities for sellers to connect with buyers. It’s easy to dismiss these sessions as “Death by PowerPoint,” but some of them are incredibly informative. And conveniently accessible from the comfort of a home office. Internet transforming businesses We have already seen how the online world makes it easier than ever to connect with customers. In the consumer space, businesses like Uber, Shopify and Airbnb have proven that the Internet can transform how business is done. But in the security industry, we hear: “You can’t replace the value of meeting face to face.” That’s definitely true to some degree. A lesson of 2020 is the need to take a hard look at the economic model of trade shows However, the reality of 2020 suggests that there are alternatives that are almost - emphasis on almost - as good. And that don’t cost as much. And that don’t take away as much time from the office. And that don’t involve the effort of schlepping luggage through an airport yet again to a hotel in a beautiful city you will never see where you will spend three days in a big exhibit hall eating overpriced hot dogs and regretting your choice of footwear. Economic model of trade shows Sure, you’ll meet up with old pals, and get some value out of the experience. But how much value versus the cost? A lesson of 2020 is the need to take a hard look at the economic model of trade shows - how much they cost versus the value they provide. Considering how well we have gotten along without them, one wonders how and why trade shows have become such an integral part of our industry, and of hundreds of other industries, for that matter. I have had many conversations with exhibitors at trade shows in the last several decades. I have heard probably thousands of complaints about the slowness of the foot traffic, the high costs of exhibiting, the price and hassles of travel. The question I have often wondered (and asked): Is it worth it? Defray the costs Usually, the complaining exhibitor will reluctantly admit that it is, and/or provide some other justification, such as one of the following: All my competitors are here. If I don’t exhibit, it sends the wrong message to the market. That’s why I need to have the largest booth near the front of the show, too, because it’s all about perception and positioning ourselves in the market. We need the show for the sales leads, which drive our sales for the next six months. If I meet one large end user who turns into a big sale, the extra revenue pays for it all and makes everything worthwhile. This is the only time I get to see my sales staff or other coworkers from around the country. We have a sales meeting this week, too, so it helps to defray the costs. Success of alternatives The realities of 2020, and the challenges to the business world, will impact the nature of commerce for years to come Given the experience of the year 2020 without any trade shows, might some of these justifications melt away? At a minimum, companies will be taking a hard look next year to evaluate what they missed about the trade show experience, and more importantly, what the impact was on their business (if any). What is the future of trade shows? After the 2020 hiatus, exhibitors and attendees alike will be starting with a clean slate, taking a fresh look, reexamining the value proposition with new eyes, braced by the successes (while acknowledging the failures) of alternatives that emerged as necessities during a global pandemic. Ensuring safety and security The realities of 2020, and the challenges to the business world, will impact the nature of commerce for years to come - including trade shows. During the pandemic, we have all had to reinvent ourselves, deploy new strategies, work around new challenges, and in the end, hopefully, emerge better for it. There’s no reason trade shows shouldn’t undergo the same transformation. And it’s likely the “new normal” could look very different. The security market has found new opportunities during the pandemic, including new applications for existing technology and a renewed emphasis on the importance of ensuring safety and security. That positivity will hopefully carry our industry triumphantly into the new decade, and trade shows will adapt to find their place in the newly revitalised industry. As it should be.