Concerned about enabling social distancing in your buildings

Concerned about enabling social distancing in your buildings?

By: Rich Reidy, Senior Director Security Solutions & Services, Siemens Infrastructure USA  

Leverage your existing security technologies so you can come back with confidence

As states continue their phased reopening, we’re hearing from many organizations that they too are ready to reopen their facilities and welcome their employees back into the physical office. There’s been no shortage of about what needs to be done; for example, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance at the end of May that includes rearranging seating in common areas, marking the floor with tape to establish six-foot distances, repositioning workstations, and isolating workers who begin to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.


These certainly represent a range of low-tech actions virtually all organizations can implement with relative ease. Your company, however, may not believe these are enough, or may view them as sometimes easy to forget as personnel go about their day—and that’s where you can begin to leverage your existing security solutions and technologies to implement further measures. Many organizations have begun to consider FDA-approved thermal-imaging cameras that may help detect elevated skin temperature, which can indicate a fever—a potential sign of illness—as one way to limit access to the building. But in this article, I want to focus specifically on how your existing security technologies can cost-effectively enable social-distancing best practices with only minor modifications.

Consider an example: A company follows the guidance from OSHA and rearranges the seating in a common area to establish six-foot distances. But as employees find their way in for coffee, the size of the group begins to grow and overcrowd the area. Although the seating was properly spaced, that didn’t necessarily prevent human beings from doing what comes naturally: gather together and connect with each other.


If this organization had a video-surveillance system for security purposes, it would be relatively simple to add analytics that would alert your building operators to this type of gathering—that there are too many people in a given space for too long and/or that people are too close together.


Those same analytics could be applied for a variety of other purposes, such as face coverings. Intelligence layered on top of your current video-management system can help ensure that anyone in the facility complies with face-covering requirements, creating an alert for non-compliant behavior.


People counting is another area where video analytics can play a key role. If an organization has limited its building capacity, these technologies can count the number of people in the building at a given time, alerting operators when the target number is in sight. Likewise, your building’s access-control system can calculate the number of people in your space to work within capacity limits. This can be accomplished simply by adding both read-in and read-out capabilities throughout the building, harnessing the power of a solution you likely already have in your building to solve for new challenges.


In both cases, a building’s existing system may already be configured for these capabilities—or you may need to add a few more cameras and card readers to the system to expand your reach. The good news is that these technologies have been with us for many years. They’ve already been proven to help organizations create safer, more secure workplaces. We’re now in a time when we can apply new use cases to adapt to a changed world so that people can return to the workplace with confidence.


Published: August 4, 2020