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April 4, 2022


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Embracing digital transformation in physical security: “Using cyber security as the example to follow”

Peter Evans, CEO, Patriot One Technologies argues his belief that the physical security sector needs to take a leaf out of the cyber profession’s book, and embrace digital transformation techniques to ensure it keeps up with today’s more sophisticated threats.

Peter Evans, CEO, Patriot One Technologies

The cyber security world has continued to innovate over the past 10 years and has been a rapid adopter of new technologies and digital-based models to stay ahead of the constantly innovating hacker community. Think of cyber security’s use of artificial intelligence, authentication, behavioral analytics, blockchain, biometrics, cloud, deep learning and more, to advance the art of protection, and to shift to a pre-emptive security model.

Physical security is stuck in the past, using labor and 40-year-old metal detectors based on approaches that no longer address the current worlds societal needs. Much of physical security still uses analogue, labor-based solutions that can’t keep up with today’s complex and sophisticated security threats. It’s time for a change in the physical security world – it needs to embrace new digital transformation techniques the same way that the cyber world has.

Scaling up with digital (vs. analogue)

Many industries have improved their speed and efficiency and enhanced how they serve their customers with mass customisation through digitisation. Moving from an older, analogue- and labor-based model to a digital model opens a world of opportunities.

For example, think of automobile sales. Buying and selling cars has moved from the traditional, in-person, brick-and-mortar, dealer-based model to a digital approach that matches buyers and sellers online – instantly – from all over the country. The digital process provides better intelligence and more detailed and actionable information. This process accelerates car sales with quotes and purchases made online on a 24/7-hour basis, and significantly enhances the customer’s experience. Consumers are happier, and car dealers are less essential in this new digital process.

Within the digital world, the volume of transactions, and knowledge scales up exponentially. This is a big leap forward from the old-school, linear processes of the past. The digital world gives us better scale and better economics. In physical security, the older, analogue and labor-based model simply looked at broad numbers and assigned resources. That might mean providing “X” number of security guards for every “Y” number of stadium attendees. Basically, using a linear solution to solve an exponential problem, which isn’t effective.

Users of a digital-based model can leverage technology to scale up exponentially, such as scanning and monitoring more fans with the same number of security guards. Or enhancing the knowledge of those guards with digital insights. An AI-based, computer vision system can scan hundreds or thousands of patrons in minutes, keeping up with crowd flow as more people arrive for a game, concert or other event.

Moving to pre-emptive security (vs. reactive) with better technology

Another unfortunate outcome of the old analogue era of physical security is that the solution or response is focused on the “point of contact” when the incident occurs. The approach is to secure people physically, not logically. This is a reactive response that has its limitations. At the same time, the amount of societal unrest, security threats and incidents are rising exponentially, creating more risk at in-person events.

So, the issue becomes — you can’t solve an exponential problem with a linear answer. This is why a new approach is needed.


Image credit: IldarAbulkhanov/AlamyStock

With today’s advanced technology, patterns can be examined online that can help predict an incident before it occurs. Patron security and patron experience begin long before the individual enters the venue. As an example, certain online behavior patterns (e.g. comments on social media, prior history of buying, identity verification, etc.) can signal to cyber security solutions that a hacker may be at work. AI and machine learning can look at thousands of social media posts or other behaviors, correlate that information, and provide actionable insights and predict events based on detection patterns.

In the physical security world, cameras with AI can scan crowds approaching the stadium and look for unusual patterns or incidents of unrest in the parking lot, or alert on individuals that the AI engines have previous identified as risks or threats. Security guards and law enforcement can be alerted pro-actively – before people get to the gate.

A better “at the game” customer experience

Adding further complexity with the legacy approach to physical security is the poor customer experience that these labor-based processes cause. Fences, security wands, pat-downs by guards, and long lines and crowds or other old methods are considered an annoyance by many and can make going to a game or an event more of a hassle than a fun experience (that nowadays, people are paying big ticket prices for). The television experience has improved for sporting events, and as ticket prices continue to increase, a negative at-the-stadium (security) experience could be enough to keep people at home to watch the game in their living rooms.

A digital approach to physical security can help us to cover more area, and more threats – faster – with the same amount of security staff and a better customer experience. The same type of scale that other industries have seen with digitisation, including cyber security, can be realised in the physical security sector. We can get people in the doors faster – and safer – with a better overall experience.

It’s time to raise physical security’s game

In all, we’ve seen technology and digitisation drive important changes – and improvements – in many industries, and this has benefited both people and companies. Imagine if this same digitisation could be applied to physical security. We can make our stadiums and arenas safer and more efficient, while improving the patron experience, creating a “triple win” in a sector that needs to move away from its linear, labor-based approaches of the past.

About the author

Peter Evans is CEO of Patriot One Technologies, a provider of AI-based patron screening technology solutions. He has more than 20 years of executive experience in forming, developing, and managing businesses and teams, and driving aggressive business growth.


Register today for IFSEC 2023

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