Technology and public realm protection

by Mark Rowe

Steven Kenny, pictured, of the network video product firm Axis Communications looks at the proposed UK Protect Duty and the role that physical security technology must play to help change how publicly accessible spaces are protected.

The Protect Duty, also known to many as ‘Martyn’s Law’, refers to a proposal welcomed by many, not least the mother of Martyn Hett, one of the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack. The Duty concerns the protective and preparatory measures that should be considered to make the public safer at publicly accessible locations. Owners of such spaces have no obligation to act on advice from specialist counter-terrorism officers on how to reduce the risk of a terror attack.

The Duty looks set to spark a shift in the culture around such spaces and will most certainly lead to a significant change in how they are secured. When considering physical security requirements, many existing security provisions are uncoordinated and unregulated. This urgently needs to be addressed, with greater clarity around the responsibility of businesses to protect their spaces. This must surely include a drive towards the implementation of security technologies, which must play a central role in meeting the Protect Duty’s requirements.

Identify suspicious activity

It must be stated that we do not expect physical security systems to be a central requirement of the Protect Duty. But technology is a force multiplier to improve operational efficiency, accelerate decision making and demonstrate compliance; for security bollards alone will not enable predictive behaviour analytics nor offer forensic review to aid the prosecution process. While not a substitute for practical due diligence, a combined system of physical and behavioural interventions should be considered as best practice where a risk assessment deems a more sophisticated requirement is necessary.

Cloud connectivity, the internet of things (IoT) and advancements in network camera technology have transformed physical security into a smart, interconnected system of cameras and sensors. Such systems are now capable of collecting and processing data through an analytics engine to produce powerful insights, serving to inform security and operational decision making.

Terrorists are likely to undertake research and planning activity in preparation for an attack (hostile reconnaissance) to identify weaknesses in the security set up. Behavioural analytics can be used to identify random or seemingly unconnected activities, which in isolation may be of no consequence, but when repeated may provide clues to a pattern of behaviour that could be suggestive of a hostile act in the planning.

Automated response

Physical security technology provides an early warning system and a more accurate indicator of the nature of the evolving incident and its location. Network video cameras will help to keep track of an incident as it unfolds, with on-camera analytics capable of identifying left luggage/objects, explosions, gun shots and breaking glass. On-camera edge-based processing capabilities will allow video data to be packaged and sent to an alarm receiving centre (ARC), security and incident response teams (SIRTs) or the emergency services for immediate review. In addition, remote management means that an incident control room can be located away from any possible target location.

Supplied with accurate intelligence from the technology, security teams can make split-second decisions which could, critically, save many lives. As an example, triggering an automated sequence of security responses, delivered through a building’s management system would help to safely evacuate visitors from a location to safe zones using green-light pathways, while simultaneously restricting access to other areas (zonal lockdown). In addition, strobe lighting effects and the activation of smoke systems can be used to disorientate an attacker.

Forensic analysis

In the post-attack review phase, video from fixed and body-worn cameras, access control data gathered at entrance and exit points, and incident response documentation will help build up a picture of the type of attack, how it unfolded and its key characteristics. This insight and evidence can help the police identify and prosecute the perpetrators of crime more quickly. Further applications may include integration with third parties’ software which enable the tracking of a person’s movements across a city. This accelerates the investigative process and leads to faster prosecution.

Reviewing data to identify points of failure and staff responses will, in addition, prove invaluable to improve knowledge and understanding for training purposes to increase organisational preparedness for future threats. This must, in turn, feed back into practical due diligence processes around risk assessments to understand the threat, providing effective and appropriate training to respond to an incident, and developing a security culture to encourage vigilance and deter would-be attackers.

Acts of terrorism have a devastating and far-reaching impact on all concerned and on the community more broadly. Any new duty introduced must be proportional and not unduly onerous for those within its scope. While we await the findings of the consultation, it is right that we all in the security industry take the time to reflect and consider what more can be done to help protect local places. Physical security technology can play a significant part to support those involved in managing and securing publicly accessible spaces and help to create a smarter, safer world.

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About Steven Kenny, Industry Liaison, Architecture & Engineering, Axis Communications

Steven Kenny has spent 18 years in the security sector in roles in high-profile projects across vertical markets. For the past eight years Steven has focused on how security technologies can best support business security strategies, whilst driving the adoption and elevating the importance of cybersecurity and compliance for physical security practitioners. Steven leads Architect and Engineering managers across the EMEA region while supporting various industry associations and standards organisations. He sits on the EMEA Advisor Council as the emerging technology lead for TiNYg (Global Terrorism Information Network), and on various standards committees to support IoT security, as well as the BSI Private Security Management and Services.

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