What are the positive and negative effects of COVID-19 to security?
19 Feb 2021
The COVID-19 global pandemic had a life-changing impact on all of us in 2020, including a multi-faceted jolt on the physical security industry. With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see more clearly the exact nature and extent of that impact. And it’s not over yet: The pandemic will continue to be top-of-mind in 2021. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What have been the positive and negative effects of Covid-19 on the physical security industry in 2020? What impact will it have on 2021?
The pandemic has impacted security in many ways, some we are just now realising. On the negative side, integrators were limited in their ability to access customer locations, posing significant challenges to supporting customers. Innovation was also halted in many sectors – such as AI and edge computing in healthcare. However, the pandemic increased awareness regarding the need for smart solutions that can aid in these types of crises. Smart video solutions have been identified repeatedly in the media as a potential pathway to better customer experience and increased safety. Some solutions, such as occupancy control, were widely implemented last year, providing tangible value. In many countries, we are also seeing healthcare “awakened” to the fact that technical solutions will be needed to better address similar situations in the future – ensuring we’re all better prepared to handle the challenges we were presented with over the past year.
The negative effects of the pandemic on the security industry have been obvious – many projects have been postponed while social distancing restrictions made their completion difficult. In many cases, end user clients have had to move their business plans to a later date, which of course has a direct effect on security suppliers. On the positive side, many of these projects are just delayed rather than shelved and are likely to be picked up once the situation stabilises. Security is a perennial need for those that rely upon it to protect people and property. Another positive I have seen first-hand is increases in productivity and innovation. Development teams working remotely have been able to concentrate on core activities more easily and find new ways of solving problems. I sincerely hope that in the vaccinated post-pandemic world that we can continue to harness these benefits as a valuable lesson.
Slow or problematic deployment of COVID vaccine could result in severe contraction/reduced market demand in early 2021. However, assuming successful vaccine deployment by the middle of the year, the situation could improve very quickly, spurring unprecedented investments and innovation. This crisis has given the security industry an opportunity to redefine its role and value proposition. Security technology is no longer seen as devices that are solely used to keep people and property safe, but it is finally becoming a strategic tool to help improve business operations. AI-based security solutions and cameras are now able to go beyond security to capture valuable marketing and sales transaction data, analysing customer patterns and behavior. By leveraging business and operational intelligence data that can pay for itself and directly affect the profitability of the organisation, the security industry is on the cusp of morphing from a tactical application to a truly strategic enterprise-shaping role.
While COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the security industry, our technology is a “must-have” rather than an optional requirement for many customers. Although this has not shielded us from the ongoing global impacts of COVID-19, it provides a level of resilience to continue to deliver revenues and invest. In deploying our technologies there have been challenges and delays when completing project installations, often using a reduced workforce to adhere to health and safety precautions. A positive effect is that new technologies have been taken to market in record time, with accelerated product development times encouraged by new working practices and processes. In 2021 these will help businesses bring more innovations to market faster, which is great news for customers. Our industry can use the lessons learned over the last year to support our customers, partners and workforce more effectively, and we will be stronger for having lived through 2020.
The physical security industry was able to address some challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and shifted resources to make sure necessary functions of business could continue. At the same time, though, many industries were effectively stalled for extended periods of time. However, many existing technologies, such as contactless and biometric solutions, became necessary. As we enter 2021, we’re seeing a level of maturity in regard to use cases for technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), as many are seeing the value of using it for practical issues. The general public has a greater understanding of its uses, beyond facial recognition, for object recognition for lost or unattended items, or even applications to manage occupancy.
There are several positives, starting with the accelerated adoption of installation options like remote and Do-It-Together (DIT). We quickly pivoted our partner support, developing new resources and delivering training that our partners heavily utilised to successfully shift their business. Offering a variety of installation alternatives now and over the long term is key, as the pandemic also has brought security top-of-mind for consumers – another positive. Home and business owners want greater peace of mind and are looking at more comprehensive systems that include intrusion, video and analytics, automation and more to provide it. This offers increased RMR opportunities for integrators that value customer sustainability over new installs. To help others take advantage, several integrators shared their SMB and commercial selling best practices through our Partner Forum. Finally, the Alarm.com Wellcam emerged as a practical solution for frontline workers to be safe on the job and for families to stay connected.
While we had our share of unprecedented events in 2020, one way the security technology industry was able to step up was through leveraging existing technologies and solutions for pandemic-related uses. For example, while intercoms are a standard use for campuses of all types and sizes, the use for IP-based video intercoms became increasingly valuable, as multi-tenant facilities searched for ways to ensure tenant safety at a time where deliveries increased. In other cases, IP intercoms assisted in healthcare facilities in COVID-19 isolation rooms – allowing staff to communicate with patients, while limiting contact. In 2021, we will continue to see the prolonged impacts of the pandemic, as we shift closer to a less restricted way of life. However, regulations will go away overnight—quite the contrary. We anticipate facility managers will have measures in place for the foreseeable future with tenant health safety and security in mind.
The COVID-19 crisis continues to create huge challenges for businesses. As a result of the pandemic, clients are more interested in remote services capabilities, allowing them to maintain high security standards while also limiting business disruptions. To reduce the spread of illness, many Chubb clients have implemented touchless access control solutions using new technology like facial recognition to keep employees and visitors safe. In 2021, we expect the “new normal” will require businesses to manage buildings differently – both to improve employee health and build trust in returning teams to the workplace. Businesses will look to their service providers to offer a collaborative approach to help build safer, healthier, and smarter environments. This is especially true as on-site staffing numbers fluctuate due to remote working trends. We anticipate this will lead to a demand for more agile and remote solutions, including videoguarding and maintenance.
Make no mistake about it, 2020 was an inflection point for the physical security industry. COVID-19 brought physical security, IT and human resources (HR) together, forced siloed departments to collaborate against the contagion and accelerated Security Convergence and Digital Transformation. During the pandemic, enterprises who embraced Digital Transformation and Security Convergence found their workplaces better prepared for assembling and executing back-to-work playbooks than those who had not made this shift. In 2021, more users will adopt the principals of Security Convergence and unified identity management as companies continue to reassess access to physical spaces and returning to work safely. Businesses are redefining the future of work, and Security plays a critical role. Physical Identity Access Management tied seamlessly to Physical Security and access control, HR software like SAP SuccessFactors, IT workflow platforms like ServiceNow and mobile credentialing and access technology like Safetrust will become the heart of Security.
The most positive effect of COVID-19 on our industry has been the opportunity for innovation around making facilities healthier and more secure as companies plan their return-to-office procedures. Features such as mobile credentials, touchless badge distribution, and contactless entry are taking center stage and being adopted by more customers. And with this technology, we are able to provide additional data about how spaces are used, how many people are in a space at any given time and even limiting access based on occupancy or self-reported health status. The negative effects of the pandemic are losing the ability to gather at trade shows and meet face-to-face, but technologies like Zoom have helped to keep us connected despite more physical distance.
Pandemic-related economic factors will continue to present significant challenges in 2021. Public and private organisations will remain cautious with major capital expenditures – prioritising projects that can help them become more productive in the short-term. On the positive side, businesses will use this time, when every dollar needs to count, to be creative about how they use, update, and redeploy their security systems. This will allow them to start thinking more broadly about the role of physical security and what it can do beyond traditional applications to deliver more value. We have seen proof of this resilience and resourcefulness over the last few months with many customers and partners using their security technology as strategic tools to fight against the pandemic. And once the crisis is finally in the rearview mirror, unified physical security technology will have become what it was always meant to be: a strategic, enterprise-shaping technology.
COVID-19 has posed a number of unique challenges for the physical security industry, the largest being how to adhere to new health and safety compliance regulations and create the operational processes to go along with them. This has been both positive and negative. While it has been cumbersome to adjust business practices, it has also presented an opportunity for innovation, such as security-based solutions that now help manage health and safety regulations in real-time. In 2021, we will continue to see businesses adapting their practices for the long-term, and the security industry will need to keep pace with these changes. For example, we are seeing many restaurants enhance their drive-thru security now that indoor dining has decreased and, in some areas, is prohibited. Every organisation has and will continue to change as we adjust to the new normal. That said, success is achievable, it may just require a different approach.
Covid-19 had several negative effects on the physical security industry. The biggest was the impact on the health and safety of employees and customers. Ensuring the safety of employees and customers has been the #1 priority for most organisations. We also saw lockdowns of several industries, which caused project delays until people could again access physical locations safely. Finally, the overall uncertainty of the economy caused companies to move slowly on starting or continuing large-scale projects. As terrible as it has been, there were some positive impacts on our industry. Adoption of new technologies has increased quickly by organisations working under new circumstances, such as working from home and remotely accessing the traditional workplace. For organisations that continued to be onsite, employee and visitor screening became critical. Managing what areas of a building visitors had access to and understanding where people travel throughout the building are more important than ever.
It’s important to recognise the sheer resilience our industry has shown during this challenging time. Unlike other industries affected by COVID-19, security is still necessary for liability and protection of people and property. Despite COVID-related restrictions and their impact on the U.S. and global economies, Hanwha Techwin has maintained a positive momentum by keeping supply chains intact and continuing to meet customers’ needs. The ability to quickly develop and release products and services to assist with COVID-related challenges like occupancy monitoring, mask detection and social distancing is a testament to the power of today’s edge technology and, in particular, the agility of AI-based systems. 2021 will be a year of recovery, and as we bounce back from the aftermath of the pandemic, we should all be encouraged to reevaluate and potentially improve every aspect of our business: from how and where we work to how we communicate with each other.
COVID-19 bestowed unprecedented business challenges to the security industry in 2020. It also presented a wealth of new opportunities for our industry. Both trends are likely to continue into 2021 as COVID takes from the security market with one hand while giving back with the other. Fortunately, the security industry continues to be in better shape than many others as the (hopefully) final phases of the pandemic play out.
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