Your Office May Be Beautiful, But Is It Safe?

By: Elizabeth Mixson

Organizations have an innate responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of anyone who enters their offices. Though security-related workplace incidents, such as violent crime and theft, are very rare, they do happen and are often widely under-reported. According to OSHA, about 2 million people each year report some type of workplace violence and, out of all mass shootings since 1966, 27% occurred at workplaces. In addition, these days, a single office can house millions of dollars worth of computers, office equipment, data, intellectual property and other highly valuable, even priceless, company assets that all need to be protected as well. In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that businesses lose 5% of their annual revenue to employee fraud/abuse and, in 2015 alone, over $52.4 billion worth of office equipment was stolen.   

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that companies are investing more than ever before in next gen physical security solutions. In fact, physical security related VC investments in 2018 amounted to around $561 million, a 75% increase from the previous year.

In this new era of security management, workplace and CRE leaders can no longer treat security as an after-thought. So, whether you are starting from scratch or looking to upgrade your existing security capabilities, scroll down to learn more about the 5 of the hottest, most talked about physical security solutions on the horizon. 

1. AI based Facial and Behavioral Recognition technology  

From “Smart” elevators to finger print scanners, AI based facial, biometrics and behavioral recognition technology is rapidly becoming the norm.  In a nutshell, there are 2 types of AI biometric identification solutions currently being deployed in the workplace. Physical biometric solutions use distinctive and measurable characteristics of particular parts of the human body, such as a person’s face, iris, DNA, vein, fingerprints, etc. to identify and verify the user. Behavioral biometrics recognize individuals based on physical characteristics such as voice, typing patterns, device usage, etc. Both types leverage sensors, video cameras and AI to capture and synthesize identification data. According to a study by Spiceworks, 57% of organizations currently use fingerprint scanning access control solutions, making it the most common type of biometric authentication.

In addition to protecting valuable digital assets and physical spaces, next gen access technology can also be used to track employee movements around the office, space usage and productivity. Once processed, the data these systems collect can be used to make better office design and real estate strategy decisions. 

2. Smart Sensors

Smart sensors do more than just collect data, they use built-in processors to perform more advanced functions such as:

  • analyzing sounds, such as breaking glass, to determine if a break-in or some other security incident is occurring 
  • send out mobile alerts to security personnel if unusual motion or activity is detected
  • automatically lock or unlock doors if an emergency, such as a fire or active shooter, is detected. 

Though video surveillance is still a core feature of any world-class building security strategy, VSSs can be incredible costly to deploy and, due to the sheer volume of data produced by these systems, pose numerous challenges when it comes to data management. Smart sensors have emerged as a more cost-effective alternative. Instead of running video surveillance 24/7, smart sensors can automatically activate these systems if and when suspicious motion or activity occurs. 

3. Security Robots

Though still in their infancy, it won’t be long before you see security bots roaming the hallways of your office. Programmed to detect potential threats such as fire, theft and break-ins. Slack, for example, has deployed 2 Cobalt robots to monitor their office to monitor their San Francisco office after-hours. Should the bot run into a potential problem or threat, a human “driver” will take over and asses/confront the threat via a video chat system embedded on the face of the robot.   

In addition to detecting security related anomalies such as intruders, these robots also run physical readiness checks on meeting rooms to ensure all AV systems have been shut off, chairs are in place, etc. and automatically send a readiness report to the facilities team. 

4. Secure Office Design

So your office is beautiful, comfortable and full of amenities, but is it secure? Unfortunately, many preferred workplace layouts, such as the open office design, hinder evacuation routes and offer employees few places to hide in the event of an active shooter. 

Increasingly, architects and office designers are designing for security from the get go. This means ensuring that there are multiple evacuation built into the design and numerous hidden enclaves around the office (I.e. private conference rooms that have opaque walls and lockable doors, safe rooms). Incorporating lockers and locking file cabinets/desk drawers is another way to ensure that your employee’s valuables (and the company’s as well) remain secure. 

5. Embracing the Cloud

By merging cloud, IP and smart devices, buildings are ushering a new era of security management. Forward-thinking organizations are already deploying intelligent building management platforms that integrate security management, facilities and employee experience tools. These integrated systems allow organizations the ability to collect and synthesize a massive amount of data that can be used to make better people management, environmental and security decisions. They can better identify what types of employee behaviors are normal and which should raise a red flag. Using a single app, employees can change the temperature of their office, dim lighting, request a meeting room or report a suspicious incident to intruders. Adoption of the cloud also enables multi-use sensors that can detect a wide range of incidents from temperature fluctuations to light to abnormal motion.