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The 8 most significant ways physical security has evolved

Grant Hatchimonji | Jan. 22, 2014
Physical security has come a long way since the advent of the lock and key. But for all of its changes, the greatest aspect of the evolution of physical security is how it has begun to mesh with our digital world.

2. Video surveillance
Video surveillance has been around for quite some time now, but it has improved drastically since its inception. Video surveillance is now sophisticated enough to incorporate facial recognition (see #8 on this list), and higher quality cameras are creating footage that is sharper than ever. "HD is now standard, and getting above HD is now becoming mainstream," says Jay Hauhn, CTO and vice president of industry relations for Tyco Integrated Security. "Megapixel cameras on the video security side give you great picture."

But with that comes the major challenge of streaming such high-quality footage over the network. "Bandwidth is not your friend when you're dealing with video," says Hauhn. "So we're also taking advantage of the tech breakthroughs in the consumer world and using them to push more video down the pipe."

3. Perimeter security systems
No longer do we need to rely solely on walls or fences for guarding a facility's perimeter, thanks to the advances in perimeter monitoring systems. Some systems now use microwaves or radio waves to establish a perimeter and can alert security teams when the protected area is being encroached upon. "So you can see who's outside the area and be alerted beforehand," says Nickerson. "It's a huge advancement for the early warning side of things."

4. Iris recognition
Striking a balance between being both accurate and non-invasive, iris recognition now allows security teams to identify people based solely on the pattern of their eye. "I'm a huge fan of iris recognition, since the patterns are more unique than DNA," says Hauhn. "Irises are really good for being captured by a high resolution camera at a distance."

Like facial recognition, it's possible to bypass iris recognition technology with a still photo of someone else's eye, but Hauhn maintains that it's not as easily fooled. After all, as Hauhn points out, "Try to get a good picture of an eye and do that."

5. Security guards and photo ID badges

There's something to be said for a good, old-fashioned pair of eyes. With the use of RFID cards and outsourced access systems, the human element of security is being lost. Knowing who has been coming into the building for years or perhaps noticing that a person is using someone else's photo ID badge simply because their face isn't the one on the card are things a machine can't do, but a human can.

"That relationship to the environment is what you're losing," says Nickerson. "Let's say I've been working at the front desk for 10 years. I know your face. I may even be able to tell that you're not supposed to be there even based on a feeling. A lot of that is being lost."


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