22 Apr 2021

Editor Introduction

Contact tracing has been more than a buzzword during the coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, it has been an issue of life and death. Tracking who an infected person has been in contact with is an important tool to minimize disease spread, and technology from the physical security industry claimed a role in contact tracing early on – and continues to provide benefits as companies seek to reopen. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: How can the security industry enhance contact tracing?


Ken Poole Johnson Controls, Inc.

Contact tracing is a key component of organizations’ pandemic response, and the security industry continues to enhance these processes through innovation and integration. Location-based services and AI-enabled video surveillance cameras give organizations the data-powered insight to monitor employee interactions respectfully and accurately. The moment an individual is reported as COVID-19 positive; security managers can leverage these technologies to identify employees who have the highest risk of exposure. This streamlines the process, allowing managers to quickly limit the spread of disease, minimize the number of individuals who have to self-isolate, and give employees peace of mind. Security managers can easily integrate these solutions into their network to give organizations the tools to protect employees and create a healthy and resilient building environment. 

Scott Thomas Genetec, Inc.

COVID-19 escalated the challenge to ensure the safety of employees and visitors for all businesses. The need to know who potentially infected individuals may have been in contact with was paramount. A unified security platform, including video, access control, and analytic data offered the foundation to quickly identify “at-risk” staff. Early in the pandemic, Genetec developed a “Contagion/Contaminant Proximity Report” at a customer’s request. This report would be generated if an employee or visitor tested positive. Authorized security personnel could now immediately identify all areas that person had accessed. The report created a list, within a defined timeframe, of everyone using the doors to those areas, along with the associated video. This allowed the security team to see everyone the individual came in contact with and compile a list of all employees possibly exposed, even if they had not used their credentials to access a door.

Access control is the perfect platform for contact tracing. People are already in the people database, unlike video surveillance or intrusion, alarm, or fire systems. The system definitively tracks who comes in where. In most facilities, an access control system already covers all access and exit areas, elevators (a key locale for contact tracing – being in an elevator with an exposed person is high risk), conference rooms (similar profile to elevators), and other shared spaces. Access control systems are also a natural integration point for other health and safety tests. A temperature check kiosk can be easily integrated with access control, granting access only after the temperature check is cleared. Conversely, if a temperature check is out of the acceptable range, an integrated temperature check station and access control can launch a contact tracing process. If more granularity is desired, video surveillance can augment the access control information, privacy concerns permitting.

Nancy Islas MAXXESS Systems, Inc

Feelings about privacy issues, and suspicion of data collection and information imbalances, can decrease support for contact tracing efforts. Maxxess addresses these concerns in two distinct ways: First, by improving the contact tracking system itself, and second, by taking proactive steps to establish and increase trust among users of these systems, including employees, visitors, and the public. Improving system functionality and effectiveness is accomplished by system architects, developers, and integrators. Those goals here are clear, requiring technical advances and innovative development. Building trust in a community can be more challenging because it requires ongoing communication, clarity of purpose and actions, and real promises regarding the collection and use of personal data and information. Working with leadership at excellent organizations, Maxxess supports privacy guarantees and clear communications about how data will be stored and used. This combination of strong policies and excellent systems reduces health risks across the organization.

Willem Ryan AlertEnterprise

To be blunt, for businesses, Digital Transformation and Security Convergence are the only way out and the only way forward. Take the recent California legislation AB-685 as an example, which requires public and private employers to provide 24-hour written notice of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. Trying to manage that contact tracing data manually takes too much time and is error-prone – two things businesses cannot afford. Security Convergence connects IT-HR and Physical Security, helping businesses deliver accurate and fast data-driven exposure risk response. AlertEnterprise has teamed up with HR and Experience Management leaders SAP and Qualtrics, IT Workflow innovators ServiceNow and mobile credential/access pioneer Safetrust to deliver modular, integrated, and scalable contact tracing, vaccination management, and workplace safety and security solutions that help companies return to work with confidence.

Jason Hart Safetrust Inc.

There really is no contact tracing today, so the baseline is relatively low to start with; and people, in general, don't purposely want to be “traced.” Since the pandemic hit, the real value of “contact tracing” is around resource utilization, i.e., how many people are entering and exiting the building, what is the density of a particular area, understanding compliance and shared spaces, etc. These were the types of questions building owners wanted to know in March 2020. As we get through the “return to work” phase, organizations can use this information to stagger employees' use of corporate resources, evaluate where they should downsize physical space, or decide to move to co-working locations. We will start redefining “contact tracing” in a non-uniquely identifying way and become more efficient with utilizing physical space while keeping people safe.

Access control and integrated security systems are, by their very nature, well placed to enhance contact tracing of individuals that may need to be monitored. At TDSi for example, we did this early on in the pandemic when we launched a free-of-charge Track and Trace Application for our EXgarde and GARDiS software to everyone using these platforms. Integrated access control and security systems easily and reliably monitor people and vehicles moving within designated areas. This data is perfect for producing detailed reports on who has been in a specific area, which doors they have used, and who they may have encountered, which could have implications for the spread of infection. Because of its high levels of data confidentiality, integrated access control and security can also be used to discreetly notify only those individuals potentially at risk, which is particularly useful for adhering to data protection legislation such as GDPR.


Editor Summary

Tracking who comes and goes from a building – or a room in a building – is a basic function of access control and one that can be used to collect information useful when controlling a pandemic. Contact tracing depends on the collection of data, which today’s access control systems definitely offer. It can be a simple adjustment to redirect that data collection to help fight a pandemic, and new technologies such as location-based services and smart video surveillance also expand the possibilities. The only caveat is a concern for privacy, which must be factored in.