People have always had an innate need to feel secure, from building fires at the front of caves that ward off predators in prehistoric times, to today’s efforts of locking your front door. This need for security extends to venturing further afield from the home and is critical for communities to thrive and survive. More than ever, people want to be and feel safe; protected against physical and now biological threats.

When it comes to staying safe, populations around the world have recently demonstrated immense adaptability to changing the way we live our lives in order to protect ourselves and others. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it isn’t strange to walk down a high street and not see swathes of people wearing face masks, where as little as six months ago it may have been an unnerving sight. While wearing a mask may not be a choice made by the majority in ordinary times, people are compliant as it is helping them get back to a “new” normality in day-to-day interactions.

The same can be said for the use of technology. Beyond pure security, the technologies used to keep the public safe can become integrated into existing environments to make it easier to stay safe while visiting areas where there could be safety risks.

Technologies used to keep the public safe can become integrated into existing environments

Technology enabling freedom

A good example of this is airports. The aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 changed how we are checked in at airports before boarding a flight, and I’m sure countless lives have been saved as a result of this more stringent security measures.

However, the development of new technologies, which have been created against the backdrop of a more threat conscious world, could mean we are able to relax the experience of going through airport security for travellers. We now have innovations to spot, amongst hordes of people, those who pose a threat, while blending in with the general public. If we are able to make these identifications before an act is committed, we can cut out some of the draconian measures we are all so used to with scanning passengers before travel at a security checkpoint. If this is the case, then we could get to a model whereby you can pass through transport hubs, like airports, more freely, as fewer visible, large, overt checkpoints will be needed. And best of all, these new technologies can protect personal identity and civil liberties, until a threat object or behaviour is detected.

Concealable security solutions

Today, visible checkpoints scan people in masses, using such large, wieldy devices, such as metal detectors, millimetre machines and hundreds of surveillance cameras peeking down from the ceilings. The use of these systems, which can feel intrusive and hold people up as they wait to pass through, can be reduced by employing new, innovative and concealable security solutions that are able to detect threats, but blend in with the existing environment; basically unseen, but always watching.

For example, new advancements in magnetic technologies can be concealed in everyday objects that are aesthetically pleasing, such as planter boxes, which people walk past these every day without really noticing. These threat detection sensors, concealed in planter boxes, can scan individuals and their bags for catalogued metal objects. They can distinguish between those that may pose a threat, e.g. gun, knife, rifle, and those that are unlikely to, e.g. phone, keys. With this advanced magnetic technology, it becomes possible to discover weapons on a person's body, allowing for immediate alert notification to onsite security.

Beyond physical objects, there are also small, concealable sensors that can detect, diagnose and track airborne trace explosives, chemical warfare agents and volatile organics. These sensors use tuneable electronic signals to detect chemical threats with a parts-per-billion sensitivity and can then send an immediate threat alert to security to investigate further. 

Threat detection sensors

Innovative threat detection sensors can be integrated with existing security solutions

These new, innovative threat detection sensors can be integrated with existing security solutions, such as access control systems, as well as security policies and procedures to enhance the effectiveness and performance of onsite security personnel and first responders. A great example of integration is using AI-driven/computer vision object recognition software with existing CCTV systems to detect visible threats, such as guns or knives. Every second in an early warning notification of a visible weapon drawn can save lives and possibly stop an attack from being carried out. Security and law enforcement can be alerted in real-time of the location and nature of the incident, so that action can be taken immediately.

Extending the security perimeter with new detection sensors means security personnel and law enforcement don’t have to rely on someone reaching a checkpoint before a physical or chemical-based weapon is detected. And as these solutions get deployed more and more, awareness of these technologies seep into the marketplace. Would be assailants will be more likely to be deterred, as they think about walking along a path to the building or checkpoint and getting caught before they can instigate an attack. And to my earlier point, it also affords law abiding citizens more freedom to move around public spaces as they do not need to go through the lengthy security checks that we currently experience.

Addressing current threats to act fast

Unfortunately, annually we are seeing a rise in gun crime and knife attacks in soft target areas, with daily incidents reported across the US and UK. This has been exacerbated, specifically in the US, by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest, where gun sales have escalated in recent months - the FBI conducted 3.7m background checks on those wishing to purchase firearms in March 2020, an increase of 1.1m over March 2019. With so many more guns on the street, it increases the opportunity for bad actors to use these weapons with ill intent within their communities.

It is important to harden soft target areas where our communities gather, such as schools, churches, resorts, office buildings, and stadiums and arenas. However, the nature of these venues - somewhere to meet, have fun and relax - do not lend themselves to prison-style, fortress-feel security measures. As well as the big, overt and visible technologies mentioned before, can in fact prove targets for terror. However, the good news is that some public sites have started to invest in and install these new innovative weapon detection solutions. This contributes to the creation of a seamless experience for civilians, who are able to enter and enjoy these locations without forsaking the way of life they have come to know and love, without divesting item in their pockets, pat downs, and slow walkthrough security scanners.

Making public areas safer

Beyond single-site installations at these locations, city managers and city councils are now looking at the widespread deployment of these new, concealable, touchless and unobtrusive security technologies, all with a goal to make their public areas safer.

Once a threat is detected in one venue, an alert can be sent out in the immediate area

Furthermore, by having an interconnected security system, once a threat is detected in one venue, an alert can be sent out in the immediate area. This will be picked up by other local security personnel in nearby sites, so they can be on guard to protect members of the public around their premises, as well as support law enforcement in finding and neutralising the threat.   

We’ve all heard the phrase smart cities, but with innovations in physical and biological threat detection, these cities can be as safe as they are smart.

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In case you missed it

Moving to sophisticated electric locking
Moving to sophisticated electric locking

In part one of this feature, we introduced the shotbolt – a solenoid actuator – as the workhorse at the heart of most straightforward electric locking systems. Shotbolts remain at the core of most sophisticated electric locking solutions as well. But they are supplemented by materials and technologies that provide characteristics suited to specialist security applications. Here we look at some more demanding electric locking applications and contemporary solutions. Preventing forced entry Where the end of the shotbolt is accessible, the electric holding force can be overcome by physical force. That’s why anti-jacking technology is now a frequent feature of contemporary electric solenoid lock actuators. Anti-jacking, dead-locking or ‘bloc’ technology (the latter patented by MSL) is inherent to the way the locking assembly is designed to suit the requirements of the end application. 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Marine locks use corrosion-proof stainless steel, which is also highly polished to be aesthetically pleasing to suit the prestigious nature of the vessel while hiding the innovative technology that prevents the lock being forced open by intruders who may board the craft. Rotary and proportional solenoids sound unlikely but are now common A less obvious example of integrated technology to prevent forced override is a floor lock. This lock assembly is mounted beneath the floor with round-top stainless-steel bolts that project upwards when actuated. They are designed to lock all-glass doors and are arguably the only discreet and attractive way to lock glass doors securely. In a prestigious installation at a historic entranceway in Edinburgh University, the floor locks are remotely controlled from an emergency button behind the reception desk. They act on twin sets of glass doors to quickly allow the doors to close and then lock them closed with another set of subfloor locks. No amount of stamping on or hitting the 15mm protruding bolt pin will cause it to yield, thus preventing intruders from entering. Or leaving! Explosion proofing In many environments, electric locking technology must be ATEX certified to mitigate any risk of explosion. For example, remote electric locking is used widely on oil and gas rigs for stringent access control, general security and for emergency shutter release in the event of fire. It’s also used across many industrial sectors where explosion risks exist, including flour milling, In many environments, electric locking technology must be ATEX certified to mitigate any risk of explosionpowder producers, paint manufacture, etc. This adds a new dimension to the actuator design, demanding not only intrinsically safe electrical circuits and solenoid coils, but the careful selection of metals and materials to eliminate the chance of sparks arising from moving parts. Resilience under pressure The technology boundaries of solenoids are always being pushed. Rotary and proportional solenoids sound unlikely but are now common. More recently, while not directly related to security in the traditional sense, proportional solenoid valves for accurately controlling the flow of hydrogen and gases now exist. Magnet Schultz has an extensive and somewhat innovative new range of hydrogen valves proving popular in the energy and automotive sectors (Fig. 2-6). There’s a different kind of security risk at play here when dealing with hydrogen under pressures of up to 1050 bar. Bio security Less an issue for the complexity of locking technology but more an imperative for the effectiveness of an electric lock is the frequent use of shotbolts in the bio research sector. Remote electric locking is commonplace in many bioreactor applications. Cultures being grown inside bioreactors can be undesirable agents, making 100% dependable locking of bioreactor lids essential to prevent untimely access or the unwanted escape of organisms. Again, that has proven to be topical in the current climate of recurring coronavirus outbreaks around the world. More than meets the eye In part one, I started by headlining that there’s more to electric lock actuation in all manner of security applications than meets the eye and pointed out that while electric locking is among the most ubiquitous examples of everyday security, the complexity often involved and the advanced technologies deployed typically go unnoticed.Integrating the simplest linear actuator into a complex system is rarely simple For end users, that’s a very good thing. But for electro-mechanical engineers designing a system, it can present a challenge. Our goal at Magnet Schultz is to provide a clearer insight into today’s electric locking industry sector and the wide range of locking solutions available – from the straightforward to the specialised and sophisticated. Integrating the simplest linear actuator into a complex system is rarely simple. There’s no substitute for expertise and experience, and that’s what MSL offers as an outsource service to designers. One benefit afforded to those of us in the actuator industry with a very narrow but intense focus is not just understanding the advantages and limitations of solenoid technology, but the visibility of, and participation in, emerging developments in the science of electric locking. Knowing what’s achievable is invaluable in every project development phase.

Key considerations for robust residential security
Key considerations for robust residential security

In the UK, one burglary occurs every 106 seconds. This means by the time you've finished reading this article, at least three will have taken place. Selecting robust physical security options to protect property boundaries and homes is essential to limit crime rates and deter opportunistic intruders. With 58% of burglaries said to take place while the homeowner is in, it seems that even the second wave of lockdowns, and an increased number of people confined to their homes, won't do much to eliminate the risk of burglary. Prioritise security for peace of mind Security is paramount, and in the case of new build projects, should be considered from the very beginning of the design process, not as an afterthought. When it comes to securing pre-existing buildings, there are countless security options which will ensure the perimeter is robust enough to withstand opportunistic attacks. It's also worth noting that security features don't have to be complicated. There are plenty of high-tech digital systems flooding the market, which can go a long way to reduce the risk of burglary and will provide peace of mind to the end user. However, this article will demonstrate how traditional security measures, such as high-quality perimeter fencing, can ensure practical safeguarding of properties for years to come.  Selecting robust physical security options to protect property boundaries and homes is essential to limit crime rates Timber! There are a number of different materials which can be specified to create a strong boundary. From metal railings, to timber fence panels, they will each help deter criminals somewhat. Wooden fence panels are a popular choice for their appearance, and the right product and installation can help to increase security.Our timber acoustic fencing can also reduce noise by up to 32dB and has a solid face with no hand or footholds, while still retaining the attractive natural timber aesthetic of a typical garden fence. However, maintenance is key, and one of the first thing burglars will notice is the condition a fence is in, rather than a particular style. Therefore, old, broken or rotten fence panels are a green light for opportunistic thieves. These can be easily broken or bypassed with minimal effort. When specifying fences as part of a new build housing development, we would suggest opting for high-quality timber, as this will ensure that it is protected against rot. Look for products with an extended guarantee or those that don't need additional treatment over the years. The condition of the fence should still be regularly inspected, and simple methods such as clearing piles of leaves away from the base of the boundary can help to prevent rot which weakens the timber.  Securing fence panels The recent rising cost of timber has led to a dramatic increase in fence panel theft, and panels that can be lifted from the posts are an easy target. Mitigate this risk by screwing the fence panels into the posts. This makes it much harder for the panels to be removed from the posts and creates a more secure barrier.  Concrete posts do offer benefits, but we always advise on timber posts for any fencing. They're strong, just like concrete, but they continue the same natural theme as the rest of the fence. Moreover, if you screwed the panels to concrete posts, they would most likely crack and become damaged, and then be at risk to the elements.  Astute design Design is also important. Installing fence rails on the inside of properties to prevent them from being used as climbing aids is highly recommended. Even better, using panels without rails on high-end developments is a clever tip if you want a secure fence with a high-spec look. Security features don't have to be complicated High fences with solid panels and no gaps in between make it considerably harder for potential burglars to climb over. They also offer better privacy to conceal rear garden areas from intruders, and are much sturdier than other alternative panels.  One common mistake is designing in features such as trees or children's climbing frames too close to the boundary. These can be used by burglars as climbing aids when attempting to scale the fence, making access easy. Investigate the surrounding area, which flanks the outside of the property boundary, as an unfortunately placed bin or bench can also help criminals gain entry. If the removal of these items is not possible, designing in a spiky bush can help deter intruders. It's also worth noting that gardens with numerous large features such as bushes or sheds can also negatively impact the level of security. A clear line of sight across the entire garden is highly recommended where possible. If this view is blocked, it's considerably easy for intruders to hide undetected. Front gardens  While tall, solid fence panels are recommended for rear gardens to prevent intruders from being able to see in and climb over, the opposite is true for front gardens. For street-facing gardens, a low fence or hedge is recommended to provide a clear view from the house. It also makes it much harder for intruders to hide from passers-by or neighbours, who can raise the alarm during a burglary. Another useful security technique to consider is a gravel drive. These create noise, which means the homeowner will know when it is in use. Pair this with a strong boundary fence, the likelihood of burglary dramatically decreases. This article only scratches the surface in unveiling the sheer volume of effective home security options on offer to protect homes and gardens. These investments can help minimise the risk of traumatic break-ins, while also simultaneously boosting the aesthetic of the property and its surroundings. 

How is AI changing the security market?
How is AI changing the security market?

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