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Strategy Director, Security & Fire, Informa Markets EMEA

June 1, 2021


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Coronavirus and security

How the security industry is one of many unsung heroes in the battle against COVID

IFSEC International Event Director Gerry Dunphy looks at the role the security industry continues to play in the fight against COVID.

While much of the attention was focused on the healthcare workers and carers while standing on our doorsteps to clap during the pandemic, there were many, many other sectors also working hard to shore up the UK’s defences in the battle against COVID-19.

One of them was the security industry. Faced with desperate customers in need of immediate solutions, this industry has had to step up and be more innovative and resourceful than ever over the last 15 months. In that time, it has helped so many professionals in so many ways, including with what may seem like the most mundane of tasks: counting people.


Being able to use access control systems, security cameras and video analytics to perform this task means those who need to can monitor their locations, movements, dwell times, proximity to others, crowd density, entry and exit points: information that has been crucial for so many professional and sectors, including:

  • Building managers, allowing them to calculate optimal capacity, how many people are needed for cleaning and how often, how many hand sanitisers are required and where they should be located
  • The civil service and law enforcement, allowing them to watch, assess and respond accordingly to protests, marches, demonstrations, vigils, and illegal raves and parties over the last 12 months, ensuring social distancing is being respected and the public are kept safe
  • Those managing transport systems, train stations and airports, not only for capacity issues, but to track who is coming in and out of our country and cities to avoid the spread of infection
  • Healthcare providers, where keeping people out of building has proved even more critical than monitoring who’s coming in
  • Our schools and universities, which have thousands of students, teachers and ancillary staff moving in, out and between dispersed buildings and remote locations, including lecture halls, accommodation blocks and leisure facilities
  • Sports and music venues, especially now the UK is seeing the first test events taking place at the likes of Wembley and the O2. Thankfully, these pilots have been a success paving the way for the return of live events
  • In retail, where the more sophisticated players like the big grocers are using security systems to not only monitor and count customer numbers, but also assess and analyse, allowing them to send staff to disperse densely populated areas and always maintain social distancing

The security industry has also made huge leaps forward over the last year developing contactless systems and biometrics to reduce incidents of transmission and minimise the spread of infection. A great example of this was Genetec’s introduction of a contact tracing report, which could track where a contaminated individual had accessed doors and additional areas in a building.

Thermal imaging cameras, for example, have been a hugely important weapon in fighting COVID. They may be seen as somewhat new to us in the UK, but they are par for the course in countries like China and the Far East, where travellers are continually scanned in Beijing and Hong Kong airports.

Despite a minority voicing concerns relating to infringement of civil liberties, the majority is happy with the payoff of increased security and, when I speak to manufacturing and industry experts, the consensus is that the future of security in the UK will continue to be influenced by the existing approaches in the Far East for as long as COVID is with us. What’s more, there is no sign that innovation will slow down. Quite the opposite. We have a whole new range of solutions and products to look forward to, many of which focus on the integration of surveillance, access control and intruder alarms making things even better and safer for everyone.

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