The COVID-19 global pandemic will have a profound and lasting impact on the physical security industry. It will boost adoption of new technologies to address new types of threats. It will map out a path for new involvement of physical security technologies in areas of public health. It will raise new notions of privacy and turn previous thinking about privacy on its head. And the aftermath of the pandemic will give rise to all these changes in a breathtakingly accelerated timeframe.

In the wake of the pandemic, change will come faster than ever, and the industry will be more challenged than ever to keep pace.

Security and the futureIn the wake of the pandemic, change will come faster than ever, and the industry will be more challenged than ever to keep pace

These were some of the thoughts I heard recently in a panel discussion titled “Crisis and the Everyday,” which was part of Genetec’s Connect’DX virtual trade show, April 20-21. The virtual conversation – emphasising both in form and content the current topsy-turvy state of the world – included interesting insights on the current pandemic and its near- and long-term impact on the industry.

In the middle of this pandemic, there is an opportunity to help security reinvent itself,” said Brad Brekke, Principal, The Brekke Group, one of the panelists.

Amid the business disruption, we should ask ‘what’s the new playbook?’ It’s an opportunity for security to look at ourselves now and look at a business plan of what the future might look like. We need to align with the business model of the corporation and define our role more around business and not so much around security.

“How do you support the business and, more broadly, societies and communities?”

The new normal for security

The “new normal” for security will include addressing biological risks alongside our traditional emphasis on physical risk and digital risk. “Some industry sectors are being challenged in a way I have not seen in my lifetime,” said Brekke. “But they are learning fast.”

We should take a look at where we have been and where we are going,” said Brekke, whose firm develops comprehensive strategies to align security organizations with corporate missions. “This is a point in time that has never existed, and a time to take a fresh look at what security is to the corporation and greater community. It’s more a mindset than a specific set of tasks.

“We just need to take a fresh look from a mix of perspectives.”

“Crisis and the Everyday" was part of Genetec’s Connect’DX virtual trade show

Infrared cameras and access control technologies

New technologies to address the pandemic are enabling some nations around the world to track how people come and go and who they are exposed to. Technologies like infrared cameras are being used to detect body temperatures, and access control helps to monitor occupancy and social distancing.

But what will such use of these technologies mean in the long term?

Technologies like infrared cameras are being used to detect body temperatures, and access control helps to monitor occupancy and social distancing

We will see whether people will become more comfortable with this technology,” said Ken Lochiatto, President and CEO, Convergint Technologies, a service-based security integration company.

Tools are in hand, and coming soon, that will allow us to be more proactive, to step in and measure the health of colleagues, for example,” said Lochiatto. “There are a lot of questions that will have to be addressed, and a lot of discussion will have to happen. Coronavirus will knock down the barriers (to the use of newer technology) in the short term, but where will it settle two years from now?”

Manufacturer philanthropy

Security product manufacturers are expanding their scope beyond law enforcement and emergency management and stepping forward to help with the public good.

Technology in the security space is moving faster than the political establishment is thinking about,” adds Lockiatto. “We have to manage it as an industry so the government will not step in. We need to manage the discussion.”

An accelerated timeline will raise the stakes even further.

All the questions that would have taken longer to answer will be answered in the next 6-8 months. For the security industry, it will drive even greater need for products,” said Lochiatto.

The biggest question is ‘Where does this all go?’” said Brekke. “What is the new normal? What is the future, and how do we prepare our companies for it? What does technology look like in the future? There isn’t just one particular set of questions, just a constant stream of ‘What’s next?’”

Public health versus individual liberty

The current environment of disruption will shift the playbook and rebalance the tradeoff between privacy and protection, especially as it pertains to sharing medical information.

There will be a new balance between public health and safety as a whole versus individual liberties,” said Brekke. “Technology providers need to be at the table talking about the solutions. We should all be engaged in government affairs to balance the discussion and add our own perspectives. As a society and country, we have to come to a different perspective on this.”

The current environment of disruption will shift the playbook and rebalance the tradeoff between privacy and protection

There are not enough ethics and guard rails,” said Jonathan Ballon, Vice President and General Manager, Intel Corp. “The majority of people are not afraid enough. They should be afraid; we need more regulation. We need to establish an ethical code of conduct for use of technology in these situations. We need to eliminate bias, respect individuals, and ensure people are being treated fairly.

In the next several years, there will be a lot of experimentation in the quest to get to a future state we can see and almost grasp. There will be black eyes and bruises on the path to getting there.

From smart security to more intelligent technology

After the pandemic, the innovation climate will befit new technology adoption. “Platforms are only limited by our imaginations, and it creates an extraordinary opportunity and drives a lot of economic value,” said Ballon. “Long-term, the future is extremely bright. Companies should ensure that they are resilient and take advantage of another period of technology adoption, which we see coming out of every economic downturn.”

After the pandemic, the innovation climate will befit new technology adoption

Another evolution in the market is a transition from “smart” systems to more “intelligent” ones. Intelligence includes the ability to “learn” using tools such as deep learning and artificial intelligence. “Systems are going from smart to intelligent to autonomous, including systems that can operate within the constraints we have established,” said Ballon.

Pierre Racz, president and CEO of Genetec, offered some words of caution about the growth of artificial intelligence in his keynote presentation, “AI Hype Self Defense.” Racz sought to provide guidance on the limits of the technology and urged the online audience to be skeptical of technology that “works best when you need it least.”

Science and technology are morally neutral,” he said. “How we use them is not.”

Intelligent automation over artificial intelligence

Specifically, Racz contends that artificial intelligence “doesn’t exist” and provides the “reasoning power of an earthworm”. AI systems don’t know anything that isn’t included in their input data – for better and for worse.

Racz contends that artificial intelligence “doesn’t exist” and provides the “reasoning power of an earthworm”

A properly designed system can be useful [only] if you engineer around the false positives, false negatives and the unanticipated training set biases,” said Racz. For example, because AI is based on probabilities, it doesn’t perform as well when identifying improbable things.

In lieu of “artificial intelligence,” Racz recommends the term “intelligent automation” (IA), which describes using a machine (computer) for heavy computational lifting and keeping a human in the loop to provide intuition and creativity.

Do not misinterpret crafty guessing for intelligence or thinking,” Racz warns. “AI doesn’t exist, but real stupidity exists. And we must design our systems taking into account the legitimate fears of the public we serve.”

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Larry Anderson Editor, &

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SecurityInformed's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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