The 'new normal'
for security post Covid-19

Yannick de Smet, G4S Belgium

Businesses around the world are planning for tomorrow, and considering what the ‘new normal’ will be.  The central question for security professionals is ‘How will our industry change in a post Covid-19 world?’

To begin answering such a big question we first need to look at how society has adapted and changed during the Covid-19 pandemic and which of those changes will continue to be perceived as normal, even when Covid-19 is no longer a clear and present danger.

In other words, what are the habits, impacts and trends of the Covid-19 crisis, and can we identify which of these are likely to remain in the future? These new normals will be the foundation upon which future security will be built. As part of the G4S Academy, we have created a guide that looks in detail at these new habits, impacts and trends, and predicts how they will influence the security solutions that become the ‘new normal’.

The most significant changes as a result of Covid-19 can be categorised into three groups; societal habits, economic impacts and security trends.

Societal habits

We have seen, and will continue to see, a huge change in our societal habits, for example an increased focus on health protection and social awareness, plus a dramatic reduction in travel, and we expect this to continue to some degree in the post Covid-19 world.

There will be continued attention on infection prevention and control. We expect to see more fever detection and screening systems, and a faster deployment and wider acceptance of personal protective measures, both with physical distancing and the use of PPE.

Remote working, remote shopping, remote sporting, remote entertainment, everything has turned remote and the most surprising fact, for many, is that it is working. People adapted to the obligation of keeping a safe distance and have adopted the remote technology that was already present in their lives. For example, remote monitoring by virtual security checks as an alternative to physical officers’ rounds has been in high demand and this will probably remain so.

The most significant changes as a result of Covid-19 can be categorised into three groups; societal habits, economic impacts and security trends.
Yannick de Smet, Strategic Solutions Manager, G4S Belgium

Economic Impacts

Covid-19 has had financial implications for many, and the OECD has reported a sharp contraction in household spending. Most leisure and culture sectors were at a stand still for many weeks. With less or no revenue coming in and production halted, companies have started cutting costs. Security activities are being rationalised and it will be more important than ever to provide solutions that are lean and efficient.  This will require security professionals to be more agile, meaning they will need to have the ability to put new operating models in place (internal or external), supported by the right processes and governance. It is important for customers to know the quality of what they are purchasing when it comes to security, not just the cost. Solutions that are agile are not always the cheapest, but will be able to flex and adapt to challenges quickly and without compromising the assets they seek to protect.

Other significant economic impacts of the pandemic will be seen from increased unemployment, and the potential resulting increase in crime. The International Labour Organisation estimated that in the second quarter of 2020, worldwide working hours have declined by 6.7%, which is equivalent to 195 million full-time workers losing their jobs globally. This increased unemployment is all the more alarming when considered alongside scientific research conducted in the UK and Italy, which found that in those countries up to 80,000 additional monetary crimes were committed each year for every percentage point that the unemployment rate increases.

Another economic factor to consider is the movement of goods and services across borders. As the virus spread, borders closed and countries went into lockdown, and sourcing products locally sometimes became the only solution.  The repercussions of this trend could be seen when companies are forced to depend on local products as supply from beyond country borders may be limited.  If supply streams come under pressure, the importance of securing them will increase.

Security Trends

Since the start of the pandemic, global messaging has consistently purported the benefits of staying home, avoiding crowded places and, particularly, the need to minimise physical contact. This has unsurprisingly led to a rise in interest for technology by which processes or procedures are performed with minimal human contact, especially “contactless technology”.

We can expect a lasting impact in security trends in this area, for example automated customer counting and flow control (to comply with social distancing rules in shops), facial recognition, integrated fever screening and detection, remote monitoring systems, robotics and drones etc.

However, automation must be carefully managed. We always stress to our customers that automation does not mean the replacement of people. Far from it. For an automated system to be effective, it becomes even more important to have reliable and accurate human input in order to respond if something goes wrong. People are less involved, but their involvement becomes more critical.

Perhaps one of the most notable consequences of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has given the digital transformation an immense boost. At the root of this boost is the remote everything habit that it has been necessary to adopt. We believe that digitisation will continue, including in security, where Risk Operations Centres (ROCs) will play a central role. They will be the hub where the digitised information is centralised and where smart operators (people supported by artificial intelligence) will act upon the information received as agreed with the customer.

What next?

New threats may emerge following the pandemic, making it more important than ever that threat and risk analysis is a part of every company’s continuous improvement plan.  Gathering intelligence, and processing it, will become an essential activity of every security professional.  Similarly, companies will have to consider their security needs and with more people working remotely, the need to protect ‘just’ an office building is extended to employees’ homes.

No-one has a crystal ball to look into the future, but by analysing the current impact, trends and habits formed during the pandemic, we can glimpse what the new normal for security might be.

To find out more about how these ‘new normals’ will impact your security needs, please download the full report which was developed as a result of a global collaboration by G4S Academy specialists.

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