What role can technology play in keeping the security industry green?
"Going green" is not a new initiative, but rather, one that businesses and individuals are constantly aware of and continuously making a conscious effort to contribute to.
The global population has become increasingly environmentally conscious over the years. Businesses and homeowners alike are investing more in green alternatives for their various needs. Many businesses adopt a green business ethic by ensuring that their products and ways of working are compliant with certain green standards. We asked our panellists for their thoughts on how technology can help keep the security industry green. Let's take a look at their responses.
Security systems aren’t a huge consumer of energy, so promotion of lower-energy-use cameras or other components can’t really have that much impact. Even so, with more emphasis on corporate-wide green efforts, it’s helpful that security can at least contribute. Solar-powered cameras, low-light cameras (requiring less ambient light), and even wireless systems (requiring less environmental disruption) all play a part. Security equipment can also be used to save energy; for example, by tying access control into lighting and/or heating/cooling systems to minimize energy usage when buildings are empty. Disposal of security equipment at end-of-life can negatively impact the waste stream. With shorter life cycles, the problem is worse, but recycling efforts can help. A system that re-uses cabling or other existing equipment can also minimize waste; examples include re-using coaxial cabling to transmit IP signals in a networked system. Several large manufacturers have invested to improve their environmental record, and customers can reward those efforts by considering suppliers’ green records when buying.
Such is ‘greenwash’ in the media. Let’s consider minimizing use of materials & energy in manufacturing, distribution, operation, maintenance, disposal and recycling. First, the most basic approach: don’t deploy gear unless it is essential! Next, try passive measures: will a locked door suffice instead of a CCTV camera and RAID5 server? Like many headlines, buyers often simply consider low power consumption. Renewable energy sources can be expensive and low capacity, so low power security devices are essential, but are they ‘green’ over their full lifecycle? Although LED lamps use only 10% of incandescent power, they cost much more and then need replacing much more often because of poor power conversion electronics and thermal dissipation. So, which technology is greener in the long run? It remains to be seen how effective are prototype devices that harvest their power from radio waves in the air around them. Yes, I kid you not.
The impact of mobile key systems will be transformative for keeping the security industry green. The ability to issue secure credentials over the air has a huge effect on the environmental impact of our industry. Think of the plastic cards saved, the trips to re-key saved, the total energy saved. Mobile keys will also pave the way for tighter integration into building automation systems, allowing lights to be turned off and heating and air conditioning systems to be adjusted based on actual room occupancy.
Our panellists have given some great tips on keeping the security industry green but as we can see from their responses, being green can be simultaneously simple and slightly complex at the same time. Of course, it all depends on the security system in question. A solar-powered surveillance system is one solution, as mentioned by Larry and Dave. But as Simon notably pointed out, we must consider both the short and long term "greenness" of various options. As Simon explained, there are some technologies which may provide immediate green benefits but could potentially end up amounting to more energy consumed over an extended period of time due to the need for more frequent replacement. For those involved in the installation or upgrade of a security system, it would be wise to do a bit of research to identify the option that would be the most environment-friendly on a long-term basis.
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