Physical Security: Join the 21st Century


On April 3, 2018, a young woman entered YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno, California through a parking garage, crossing to a courtyard where employees were enjoying a quiet lunch. She opened fire with a handgun, leaving three people seriously wounded before killing herself. In the aftermath, many people have rightly asked how an armed woman was able to easily gain access to a high-tech giant in Silicon Valley, an area that defines cutting-edge technology for our time.

Even for high-tech businesses, protecting employees and property usually involves an ad hoc and outdated system of surveillance cameras, badge scanners, alarms, and security patrols; typically, all provided by different vendors with varying capabilities. But in an age when cloud computing is changing nearly every other aspect of how business is done, is it reasonable for security to remain stuck in the 20th century?

Not only are legacy security systems inefficient, they’re costly to maintain. Typical expenses include:

• Alarm and video monitoring personnel

• Analog video systems (wiring and trenching costs)

• Encoders, fiber transceivers, and VCR-DVR-NVR

Beyond the costs of maintaining legacy security, the age of those systems makes them more susceptible to malware and other threats. Older systems are more difficult to patch, and are sometimes customized to such as extent that upgrading can require rebuilding from the ground up. Chances are, your business has already embraced new digital technologies, such as cloud computing, next-generation mobile devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to achieve greater flexibility, intelligence, and automation; so why not leverage new technology for your security as well? 

Unlike outdated wired security systems, Physical-Security-as-a-Service (PSaaS) empowers you to integrate and simplify your security measures. As cloud computing architecture, PSaaS frees your business to manage all kinds of applications without requiring dedicated resources for building and maintaining your own security infrastructure. And PSaaS has the advantage of scalability; meaning, it can automatically accommodate your changing security needs (without purchasing and installing expensive upgrades yourself), as well as provide automatic data storage and backup.

By employing “edge computing” — an optimized form of cloud computing that moves control of applications to the device that’s in contact with the physical world — security cameras, gunshot detectors, license-plate readers and other devices can transmit alerts in real-time directly to security staff or first responders. With analytics processed at the edge, a camera or acoustic sensor becomes a networked component that any designated user can access via a simple smartphone app.

The benefits of PSaaS security keep adding up:

• No dedicated staff needed and therefore easily scalable

• Centralized reporting with SMS, email notification, and automatic data backups

• Real-time access from iOS or Android devices for first-responders

If switching to PSaaS for surveillance and access control seems too great an expense, compare it to the human costs of maintaining static, outdated security measures. Apart from the headline-grabbing mass shootings that have become all too common, nearly two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year, and many more cases go unreported. Many of those crimes result in lawsuits against employers and facilities providers. Because PSaaS security allows for real-time surveillance and alerts, along with automatic data backup to the cloud, employers have a secure, time-stamped record to defend themselves as well.

It’s not a question of whether maintaining legacy security systems will cost you, but how much. It’s time employers started treating physical security with the same sense of urgency and bold thinking we direct at preventing cyber threats.

Data can be backed up; human beings cannot.