19 Nov 2019

Editor Introduction

Public spaces provide soft targets and are often the sites of terrorist or active shooter attacks. Public spaces, by definition, require easy accessibility and unrestricted movement. Given that openness, what security technologies can provide real results? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How is technology innovation impacting the security of public spaces?


Securing public spaces has always been paramount for protecting people and property, but in today’s day and age, these areas have become soft targets — making it even more important that we leverage the technology to keep them safe. However, the main challenge is that public spaces are often vast in nature with activity taking place in multiple areas. Technology innovation in video has impacted this effort through the increase in resolution and quality available for 360-degree surveillance cameras, which enables security personnel to capture greater detail across a large space and ensure no incident goes unnoticed. Today there are also purpose-built 180-degree panoramic cameras developed with high resolution and clarity. Additionally, significant developments in HDR performance allow for such large scenes, with a mixture of bright areas and dark corners, to be captured from a single sensor, enhancing both efficiency and security operations.

Alan Stoddard Verint Systems

Securing public spaces has always been daunting. Their sheer size, fluidity, and intricacies are challenging no matter the location. In the last few years, intelligent technical solutions have emerged, providing operators the ability to integrate various systems and tools for better security management and improved operational efficiencies. In high-traffic public spaces, every second counts, and effective response is crucial. By unifying the numerous sensors and data sources in public spaces, personnel can obtain a clear picture of the activity taking place in all areas and can even anticipate potential events or threats. Innovative solutions that combine situational awareness and mobile dispatch technology provide operators with data-driven insight that can make command and control much more effective. These intelligent solutions enhance communication between the control center and field agents, ensuring that the security personnel overseeing public spaces can quickly, accurately, and efficiently protect what matters most.

Bob Carter Genetec, Inc.

Protecting people, critical assets and infrastructure in public spaces such as malls, waterfronts, parking lots, street malls, city squares, campuses, etc. present many challenges for security professionals and first responders who work in a SOC (Security Operations Center) or RTCC (Real Time Crime Center). In order to act quickly and make informed and coordinated decisions in case of an emergency, they need to have access to real time information and actionable situational analysis data. With a unified security system, physical security components like video surveillance, access control, license plate recognition, can work together with other sensors such as lighting, traffic, communications, and digital signage systems to provide a solution that delivers invaluable information in a single pane of glass. Armed with this information, security professionals and first responders can create a unified dynamic operating picture of incidents in real-time that can be shared with dispatchers, responders, and other departments.

Lisa A Brown Johnson Controls, Inc.

Smart technology integrations can really transform how communities make their residents and visitors feel safer and more comfortable so they can be at ease. Take a community park, for instance; with the right technology implementations, residents walking through late at night don’t need to look over their shoulder with every step. Lighting and video surveillance systems can be integrated with motion sensors to automatically activate when movement in the area is detected. While the lighting guides people through the dark and deters crime, it also provides improved visual acuity for the installed video cameras should they need to be reviewed. Through these subtle updates, residents and visitors can travel through and exist in their community feeling comfortable and secure.

Glen Tracy Boon Edam

Lobby areas present security challenges, whether in office buildings, residential towers, or public buildings such as government offices, museums, and libraries. They are normally accessible to anyone, and architects design them to present a welcoming experience. For these reasons, they are vulnerable to threats and present a soft target to criminals. Many people don’t know that basic, architectural revolving doors have new security features that can help harden lobbies as targets because they support public access during open hours and can control access at other times. For example, they can be integrated with an access control system and at, say 5 p.m., go into a locked mode that requires a credential to unlock and allow entry. In addition, in the event of an external security threat, staff can push a remote button and electrically lock the door wings immediately, regardless of position, keeping danger from entering through the front doors.

Security at public places in the UK has remained relatively unobtrusive, despite increased threat levels and terror attacks over recent years. The more obvious defensive measures at various “high-risk” locations have relied on structural changes and the introduction of archway metal detectors and x-ray scanners. Increased surveillance by proven technologies such as CCTV has also been evident and, perhaps more controversially, the introduction of Automated Facial Recognition (AFR). It is on this latter topic that most debate is now focused and, coincidentally, was contributed to recently by the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, in a well-balanced and thought-provoking blog. Elizabeth remarked that from use of AFR to the development of artificial intelligence systems, technology moves quickly. She also rightly sounded a warning that moving too quickly to deploy invasive technologies risks damaging trust not only in the technology, but in the fundamental model of policing by consent.

Technology such as converged security information management (CSIM) can help state and local agencies improve situational awareness and enhance public safety in a crisis. Resolving an emergency often depends on effective communication and coordination among multiple public agencies and establishing a platform for interoperability enables commanders to correlate information efficiently and communicate effectively. Linking multiple organisations—often those with geographically dispersed assets—provides enhanced capabilities to mitigate risk. With this innovation, security leaders are now able to:

  • Centralise security monitoring to enhance situational awareness among various agencies
  • Provide more accurate details to first responders en route and on the scene
  • Improve collaboration among state and local police, EMS responders, and other agencies
  • Improve response time by leveraging location-based assets

In a heightened threat environment, this technology is vital in bringing together information from disparate external data sources and physical security subsystems, ultimately giving administrators actionable intelligence.


Editor Summary

Our Expert Panel outlines several technology approaches to improving the security of public spaces. Thoughtful use of technology innovation can keep public spaces safer without impacting the freedom of movement and community. It’s a delicate balance, and there are limits to what security can do, but technology is solving more challenges every day.