2020 was the year that catapulted the concept of healthy buildings to the top of end-customer priority lists. A recent Johnson Controls survey of 400 businesses in the US and Canada showed that 83 percent of the respondents are dedicating their resources to create healthy workspaces to which their employees can return. This would include optimized space utilization, people counting, social distancing, personal protective equipment, etc.
This presents an essential role for security integrators (SI) as their solutions can help businesses achieve their goal of healthy buildings. For instance, solutions for people counting and crowd management have already been an integral part of security systems in many places. Recent developments have also prompted video analytic companies to offer solutions that help ensure social distancing, people counting, mask compliance, etc.
“While some firms cite budget limitations or have already reached their goals, 57 percent plan to invest more resources in healthy buildings initiatives,” the Johnson Controls report said. “This is especially important in industries and companies where workers have been temporarily working from home, but a long-term approach is needed to get people safely back to their physical place of work.”
There are opportunities in four major areas for SIs and security companies – touchless access control, social distance/mas compliance analytics, people counting, and thermal cameras for elevated temperature detection. Here we examine each in detail.
Touchless access control
Ever since the beginning of COVID-19 in 2020, the security market has seen an increase in demand for touchless systems, especially for access control. Initially, facial recognition-based access control came up as the best alternative to fingerprint readers. The use of mobile credentials also gained interest later, along with an integrated approach for maximum protection.
Honeywell Buildings Solutions explains on its website that facial recognition, biometric and Bluetooth readers, passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors, and touch-free request to exit buttons all help reduce physical contact with frequently touched surfaces.
“Eliminating physical access cards or keypads at entryways and exits and replacing it with contactless technology can help minimize the risk of exposure to contagions, improve the occupant experience and maintain a high level of security in the building,” Honeywell explains.
Video analytics for social distancing and mask compliance
Although video analytics to ensure social distancing might have been a significant development in the early stages of the pandemic, its use was limited. A major concern was how to use the data that is captured. For example, what do you do if you find people not maintaining social distance? Would you communicate with them through a speaker system?
But now we know that social distance monitoring is not just for instant action. If businesses need to conduct contact tracing once a case is reported, a record of social distancing helps. Analytics can also detect people who are not wearing masks so that operators can warn them instantly.
People counting was popular in sectors like retail and event venues even before the pandemic struck. But as COVID-19 forced businesses to reduce possibilities of people crowding together, people counting solutions are becoming popular.
“With the help of a bi-directional people counting feature supported with strategically placed overhead cameras, video analytics can provide accurate occupancy numbers at any given instant for a specific location,” explains Honeywell on its website. “Even in a parking lot or structure, video analytics can count vehicles going in or coming out, to provide real-time parking slot occupancy statistics—by section, by floor-level, or even for the complete parking lot.”
The sudden need to detect people with elevated body temperature had increased the demand for thermal cameras last year. This did lead to some controversies as well because the accuracy levels of many cameras were questionable. But thermal cameras may continue to remain a popular device as businesses reopen. Some companies have also highlighted the need for using AI-enabled thermal cameras to increase accuracy.
Ensuring the safety and security of employees and customers is a priority for businesses as they reopen after the pandemic. The concept of healthy buildings provides a comprehensive framework for this. For security systems integrators, this offers an excellent opportunity as customers would require many of the solutions they can offer.