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The Changing World of Physical Security

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Imagine stepping back in time to the 1950s. Even a short trip back would almost immediately make clear how many things have changed, both sociologically and technologically, with changes in consumer products being perhaps the most obvious.

The clothes people wore and the cars they drove would stand out first, but it wouldn’t take you long to recognize the lack of cell phones, the boxy black-and-white televisions, and the functional smallness of the world caused by the inability to reach out to information or people electronically. But if you were able to move around in this world a bit longer, you would notice something else: The almost total absence of security. Outside of the occasional locked door, your movements would be generally unrestricted and unmonitored. No electronic screeners at store entrances. No security lines at airports. You could pack a loaded AK-47 in your overhead baggage, and nobody at the airport would ever know.

Fast-forward to today and it would seem almost nothing is unrestricted or unmonitored. The spread of electronics, together with the threat of terrorism and random gun violence, has made access security an inescapable part of our world. And yet, while basic electronics has continued to evolve into a sophisticated global hardware and software communications network, the security industry has been reluctant to advance. Although companies have spent a great deal of money on controlling computer access, what is called “logical security”, the security industry has been slow to recognize that physical access can in fact be controlled in the same way, using sophisticated IT-based technology.

Instead of depending upon a collection of wired circuit boards and proprietary control panels to control physical access, it can all be managed using flexible and scalable computer technology. The result is more security and flexibility for less money. Although half-hearted attempts have been made in the security industry to tack on computer technology to existing security platforms, it has become clear that a complete overhaul of the approach to security is needed, a change that is now beginning to be made.

A good example of a company leading the charge toward IT-based security is Viscount Systems Inc. (VSYS), a Canadian company that has developed a platform based upon an IP bridge that connects the physical access components of a company’s security system to an IP network for all control functions. The system can then use existing logical security technologies, such as Microsoft Active Directory, to manage and control all physical access. The need of public and private organizations to get more security bang for the buck has helped Viscount to land contracts for facilities around the world.

The company’s products have been installed in approximately 35,000 sites in over 30 countries, with installations including government facilities, multi-family high-rise’s, schools, prisons, hospitals, and corporate offices.

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