All eyes on the Security Expo…

6th March saw the start of UK Security Week and a focus of this was a major conference and expo at Olympia in London. This hosted both the Security & Counter Terror Expo alongside the World Counter Terror Congress.

As one of the UK’s leading security events, this expo and congress attracted over 10,000 senior security professionals from across the globe and just strolling around the exhibition made me feel very insignificant, many of the stands bristling with what were obviously ex-military personnel.  Not only UK and European companies were there, the US was also well represented as I discovered when I was greeted with a ‘Morning, Ma’am’ in a strong transatlantic drawl as I ventured on to one or two interesting exhibits.

However, it was all completely fascinating and very relevant to anyone involved in the world of facilities management.  In the wake of the 2017 terror attacks in London and Manchester, the security of crowded places has become one of the hottest topics. For FMs of office buildings, residential blocks, shopping centres and malls, entertainment and sports venues and indeed anywhere people gather in numbers, this topic has risen rapidly up their agenda. FM companies everywhere are beefing up their security offering to ensure employees, residents or visitors both feel and are as safe as possible.

Apart from small mechanised robots that were rolling up and down the various aisles, covered in all manner of strange gadgetry to investigate threatening items such as suspicious packages or abandoned vehicles, what the latest tech had to offer was quite mind boggling. There was the usual plethora of ultra sophisticated CCTV and cyber security companies which simply confirmed I am being watched wherever I go outside my front door, and as soon as I use my phone or go online. I saw demos of artificial intelligence and machine learning software where scientists have commercialised the spiking of neural networks, producing a type of neuromorphic computing which simulates the functionality of the human brain… If you want to know what that all means in simple terms, the company involved are marketing video analytics solutions that aid security people to rapidly search vast amounts of video footage for identifying objects or faces. Facial recognition tech was everywhere and so was crowd control and people movement analysis.

There were simple gadgets that enabled a room to be quickly and easily locked down and secured to protect those inside from ingress by attackers of any type, and flowering tubs will never be the same now I know what can be inside the most innocuous looking daffodil planters one sees outside buildings everywhere.  But if they stop cars or vans ramming into the front of an office building, or film who comes and goes, that’s what counts. Protective clothing isn’t what it used to be with anti-slash scarves, gloves and hoodies for security professionals. The gloves seemed particularly popular given the enormous increase in knife and street crime we have witnessed in recent years. Security isn’t just about potential bombers or terrorists. And for those more involved with building design and planning, there was a special workshop to explore how security can become more integrated at the design stage of new buildings and was of particular interest to architects and interior designers.

I eventually came out not sure if I felt totally paranoid or reassured. If FM providers take up even half of the security options available, follow recommended best practice, and act on the advice given by a number of senior security people, both from our larger PLCs and the security services, our buildings, malls and venues could be safer without the nuisance and too much obvious intrusion into our day to day comings and goings. It was definitely food for FM thought.

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Ben Keeley