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Should ‘Made in China’ be seen as a negative in security systems and products? It’s an important and complex issue that merits a more detailed response than my recent comment in the Expert Panel Roundtable. For me, there are two sides of the answer to this question: Buying products that have certain negative attributes that are not in alignment with some part of a belief system or company mandate. Buying products that do not perform as advertised or do something that is unacceptable. For integrators and end users making the buying decisions, the drive to purchase products may not be based on either aspect and instead on the product that can do the best job for their business. But for others, a greater emphasis on the ethical implications of purchasing decisions drives decision-making. What Is Ethical Consumption? Ethical consumption is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favoredEthical consumption — often called ethical consumerism — is a type of consumer activism that is based on the concept of ‘positive buying’ in that ethical products are favored, and products that are ethically questionable may be met with a ‘moral boycott’. This can be as simple as only buying organic produce or as complex as boycotting products made in a totalitarian regime that doesn't offer its citizens the same freedoms that we enjoy in the United States. Consider the goals of the Boston Tea Party or the National Consumers League (NCL), which was formed to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. Some examples of considerations behind ethical consumption include fair trade, treatment of workers, genetic modification, locally made and processed goods, union-made products and services, humane animal treatment, and in general, labor issues and manufacturing practices that take these factors into account. Increase In Ethical Consumption The numbers show that ethical consumption is on the rise. In a 2017 study by Unilever, 33 percent of consumers reported choosing to buy and support brands that they believe are doing social or environmental good. In the same study, 53 percent of shoppers in the United Kingdom and 78 percent in the United States said they feel better when they buy products that are ‘sustainably’ produced. There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities Though the aforementioned question that sparked this conversation centers around concerns with products made in China, there are many other countries where, for example, governments/dictators are extremely repressive to all or parts of their populations, whose products, such as oil, diamonds, minerals, etc., we happily consume. There are also a number of countries that are a threat in terms of cybersecurity. It may be naive and simplistic to single out Chinese manufacturers. Impact On Physical Security Products Product buying decisions based on factors other than product functionality, quality and price are also starting to permeate the security marketplace. While this hasn't been a large focus area from the business-to-business consumption side, it's something that should be considered for commercial security products for a variety of reasons. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating" There’s clear evidence that products from some Chinese companies suffer from cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Last fall, 30 U.S. companies, including Apple and Amazon, were potentially compromised when it was discovered that a tiny microchip in the motherboard of servers built in China that weren't a part of the original specification. According to a Bloomberg report, “This attack was something graver than the software-based incidents the world has grown accustomed to seeing. Hardware hacks are more difficult to pull off and potentially more devastating, promising the kind of long-term, stealth access that spy agencies are willing to invest millions of dollars and many years to get.” This, along with many other incidents, are changing the considerations behind purchasing decisions even in the physical security industry. Given that physical security products in general have been lax on cybersecurity, this is a welcome change. Combating Tech-Specific Threats In early January, members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors and ensure U.S. technological supremacy by improving interagency coordination across the U.S. government. The bill creates the Office of Critical Technologies & Security at the White House, an indication that this issue is of critical importance to a number of players across the tech sector. Members of the U.S. Senate introduced bipartisan legislation to help combat tech-specific threats to national security posed by foreign actors To address a significant number of concerns around ethical production, there are certifications such as ISO 26000 which provides guidance on social responsibility by addressing accountability, transparency, ethical behavior, respect for stakeholder interests, respect for rule of law, respect for international norms of behavior and respect for human rights. While still emerging within physical security, companies that adhere to these and other standards do exist in the marketplace. Not Buying Products Vulnerable To Cyberattacks It may be counter-productive, even irresponsible, to brand all products from an entire country as unfit for purchasing. Some manufacturers’ products may be ethically questionable, or more vulnerable to cyberattacks than others; so not buying products made by those companies would make sense. The physical security industry might be playing a bit of catch up on this front, but I think we're beginning to see a shift toward this kind of responsible buying behavior.
As we approach National Safe Schools Week (October 21-27), it is appropriate for a conversation to begin regarding establishing standards for K12 school security. Currently no standards exist for assisting schools navigate the complexity of understanding what they need, how much it will cost and how they will secure their learning environments. Security Industry Experts The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) is one of the organizations at the forefront of establishing security standards for schools. In 2014, the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) formed PASS, which brought together a cross functional group of members including school officials, safe schools’ consultants, law enforcement and security industry experts to collaborate and develop a coordinated approach to protecting K-12 students and staff. School administrators are often contacted repeatedly by organizations with multiple safety and security products PASS has provided valuable insights regarding an ‘All Hazards’ approach to school safety and security. In fact, PASS suggests that school administrators are challenged with two decisions: Determining what they need to do How to prioritize Safe School Environment School administrators are experts in running schools and providing education. However, most are not security experts and do not understand the complexity of implementing a comprehensive physical security and safety program across their districts. Still, they are often contacted repeatedly by organizations with multiple safety and security products. School administrators are experts in running schools and providing education, but most are not security experts Some of these organizations recognize their products are just pieces of a safe school environment puzzle and how they fit in, whereas others focus on specific applications and do not understand how their specific solutions may affect life safety codes and Americans with Disabilities Act law. (Note: Many ‘barricade devices’ fall into this latter category and actually introduce liability concerns with the unintended consequences of their use.)Schools incorporate evacuation drills as part of their emergency preparedness plans and practice on a regular basis Even for experts, the plethora of options and disparate systems required to integrate a safety and security approach at schools is daunting. The ongoing challenge is integrating access control, video, mass notification, and/or visitor management products into a single, effective, and appropriate system the owner can understand, utilize, and afford and that meet local codes and ADA laws. In the absence of standards, schools are likely to amass a collection of devices that do not constitute a comprehensive solution. Lack Of Consensus In years past, the our industry and commercial buildings adhered to legacy codes – like Building Officials and Code Administrators International Inc. (BOCA), Uniform Building Code (UBC), Southern Building Code Congress International Inc. (SBBCI), and International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) – which have traditionally been revised every three years, while local jurisdictions decided what versions to adopt and enforce. Currently, however, there is a move toward the International Building Code (IBC), which is published by the International Code Council (ICC) and includes standards and guidance for commercial buildings on doors, windows, and other openings. A risk assessment is the next step toward developing a comprehensive security plan, and begins with developing a trend analysis Still, despite this migration of codes from a patchwork of local decisions to global guidelines, there remains a lack of consensus around school security. The current fragmented approach causes confusion regarding how new schools are designed and how to retrofit existing school buildings, whose average age is 45+ years. Right Protection Equipment One can point to the fact that there hasn’t been one student lost in a school fire in over 50 years as testament to standards like NFPA 80 and NFPA 101 being referenced in model building codes. Additionally, schools incorporate evacuation drills as part of their emergency preparedness plans and practice on a regular basis. It’s not just having the right protection equipment in the building, it’s also having a procedural layer in place to make sure everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in the event of fire. The stress of the actual event can limit ones’ ability to think clearly. Practice makes perfect. Why would we approach school security any differently? School security is a team effort, and it is important to understand all the areas security impacts and involves School security is a team effort. It is important to understand all the areas security impacts and involves. PASS suggests starting with a basic team consisting of: Security Director Local Law Enforcement School Administrator Integrator Door and Hardware Consultant IT Director Comprehensive Security Plan Quantifying and mitigating risk are the jobs of security professionals and school administratorsA risk assessment is the next step toward developing a comprehensive security plan. This often begins with conducting a trend analysis requiring the collection of data from a variety of public and private sources. The challenge is to pull these pieces into a usable and easily understood format that provides a guide for current and future risk concerns. Risk assessment and mitigation can never eliminate risk. Quantifying and mitigating risk are the jobs of security professionals and school administrators. Data from the following sources can help measure risk: Campus: Review incident report trends for at least the past 36 months. Area and city: Review crime data from local law enforcement for the surrounding neighborhood and city. Screening procedures: How is hiring conducted? Anonymous tip reporting systems: Enabling students, staff members, parents and the community to anonymously alert administrators to perceived and actual threats. Social media monitoring: such monitoring can provide important information that can be used to identify risks. Monitoring social media could help measure risk for school safety Delay Adversarial Behaviors These assessments can then be incorporated into the best practice approach of Layered Security. Layered security combines best practice components within each layer that effectively deter, detect and delay adversarial behaviors. Layered security works from the outside in. As one layer is bypassed, another layer provides an additional level of protection. The asset being protected is at the center of the layers – students, staff and authorized visitors. PASS defines five layers of Security:As one layer is bypassed, another layer provides an additional level of protection District Wide Property Perimeter Parking Lot Perimeter Building Perimeter Classroom/Interior Perimeter Appropriate Tier Target Each layer can be broken down into Tier levels with Tier 1 being basic and Tier 4 being the highest level of security. It is important to understand that the demographics of individual school buildings varies, even within the same district. Security experts will quickly point out that ‘if you’ve seen one school, you’ve seen one school’. The assessments will determine the appropriate Tier target. Figure 1 Each layer includes essential protective elements, or components, of security. Every layer does not necessarily include all seven of these common components, and a layer may include additional components unique to that particular layer. Safety And Security Components Policies & Procedures People (roles & training) Architectural Communication Access Control Video Surveillance Detection and Alarms Layered Security While components are not listed in a priority order, three components included in all layers are policies and procedures, the roles and training of people, and communication. These components often perform a function in every layer and every tier in each layer. Three tools come together in the PASS approach as outlined in the new 4th Edition of the PASS Guidelines (Figure 2) - the Layers are established and defined, a Checklist/Assessment breaks down each layer into tiered best practices which then tie into the guidelines where a narrative explains each best practice in more detail. Figure 2 Schools need not reinvent the wheel when it comes to school security planning. Following the best practices of Risk Assessments and Layered Security will ensure that every school building in a district will have a unique and comprehensive plan that is tailored to their individual needs.
In 1973, a brilliant economist named E.F. Schumacher wrote a seminal book titled ‘Small Is Beautiful:’ taking an opposing stance to the emergence of globalization and “bigger is better” industrialism. He described the advantages of smaller companies and smaller scales of production, highlighting the benefits of building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations. In almost every industry or market that exists in the world today, you're likely to find a difference in size between companies. Whether it’s a global retail chain versus a small family-owned store, a corporate restaurant chain versus a mom-and-pop diner or a small bed and breakfast versus a large hotel chain — each side of the coin presents unique characteristics and advantages in a number of areas. Disparity In Physical Security Industry Customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises as the big names typically imply stability This disparity very clearly exists in the physical security industry, and differences in the sizes of product manufacturers and service providers could have important implications for the quality and type of the products and services offered. All too often, customers are drawn to products and services from large enterprises, as the big names typically imply stability, extensive product offerings and global reach. And that's not to say that these considerations are unwarranted; one could argue that larger companies have more resources for product development and likely possess the combined expertise and experience to provide a wide range of products and services. But the value that a company’s products and services can bring isn’t necessarily directly related to or dependent on its size. In an age where the common wisdom is to scale up to be more efficient and profitable, it’s interesting to pause and think about some of the possible advantages of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Typically, “small” companies are defined as those with less than 100 employees and “medium” with less than 500. Providing Social Mobility Schumacher argued that smaller companies are important engines of economic growth. Indeed, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 36 member countries that promotes policies for economic and social well-being, SMBs account for 60 to 70 percent of jobs in most OECD countries. Importantly, SMBs provide resilience in that there are often large economic and social impacts when big companies fail. Smaller companies are better for regional economies in general, as earnings stay more local compared to big businesses, which in turn generates additional economic activity. SMBs are also better at providing social mobility for disadvantaged groups by giving them opportunities and enabling them to realize their potential. Smaller companies are often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions such as Cloud, analytics, AI, and IoT New Companies Introduce New Technologies There's no denying the role of start-ups when it comes to innovation. In the security industry, many new technologies (e.g. Cloud, analytics, AI, IoT) are first brought to the market by newer companies. In general, smaller companies’ products and services often have to be as good or better than others to be competitive in the marketplace. They are therefore often more innovative, bringing to the market novel technologies and solutions. And these companies are also more willing to try out other new B2B solutions, while larger companies tend to be more risk-averse. Customer Service Aside from the quality of products and services, arguably one of the most important components of a security company’s success is its ability to interact with and provide customers the support that they deserve. Smaller companies are able to excel and stand out to their customers in a number of ways: Customer service. Customers’ perceptions of a product’s quality are influenced by the quality of support, and smaller manufacturers often possess a strong, motivated customer service team that can be relatively more responsive to customers of all sizes, not just the large ones. A superior level of support generally translates into high marks on customer satisfaction, since customers’ issues with products can be resolved promptly. Flexibility. SMBs have a greater capacity to detect and satisfy small market niches. While large companies generally create products and services for large markets, smaller companies deal more directly with their customers, enabling them to meet their needs and offer customized products and services. And this translates to adaptability, as SMBs become responsive to new market trends. By having a pulse on the market, smaller companies have much more flexibility in their supply chain and can adjust much faster in response to changing demand. Decision-making. Smaller companies are much more agile in decision-making, while larger enterprises often suffer from complex, tedious and lengthy decision-making processes. Communication is easier throughout SMBs, as smaller teams enable new ideas to flow and can solve problems faster. Job Satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction Employees working for SMBs connect more directly with the company's goals and objectives, which in turn increases motivation and job satisfaction. SMBs are also generally more connected to local communities and participation in community activities leads to a greater sense of purpose. Additionally, SMBs have a much smaller impact on the environment, which is increasingly becoming an important consideration for today’s employees and customers. Though Schumacher's book takes a much deeper dive into the large global effects of scale on people and profitability, the general impact of a company’s size on its products and services is clear. It’s important for all players in the security industry to remember that the commitment and dedication to product quality can be found in businesses of all sizes. Ensuring Safety Of People, Property And Assets Large manufacturers may catch your eye, but small business shouldn’t be forgotten, as they can offer end users a robust set of attributes and benefits. While all security companies are aiming to achieve a common goal of providing safety for people, property and assets, smaller businesses can provide extensive value when it comes to driving the economy, innovating in the industry, providing quality employment and offering superior customer service.
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