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Part 3 – Physical Security: High Tech vs Low Tech

Getting Physical

In physical security someone has to be there. Someone needs to be physically present if you want to stop something from happening. That’s the difference between cyber and physical security. My two experiences with lost children were about as different as they could be. In both cases they ended with overwhelming relief and gratitude. On the other hand, one was very low tech as far as physical security goes,  and the other was dependent on centralized command and control.

Low Tech Physical Security

There wasn’t a lot of running around. It was all about engaging with the Walmart team. The team turned their attention from their normal duties to find my 2 year old, Part I – Lost Child . You could say it was ‘boots on the ground’ or ‘all hands on deck’. Whatever way one describes it, it relied on people and it was fast and efficient. It was also very low tech. No video, no video analytics, no dependence on video recordings. It was here and now, get it done. It was effective and efficient.

High Tech Physical Security, But Just Recording Evidence

When my 5 year old daughter disappeared at the Westin in New York Lost Child – Part II I had high expectations. I was in a luxury hotel, a chain that is represented worldwide and surely had sophisticated security. I was sure they had central command and control – which they did. And I was sure that they had a protocol for a lost child – which they didn’t. In fact, there was no real response.

The security operator barely answered me. He confirmed that he was the one in front of the wall of screens. He confirmed they had a VMS,  a video management system. But he didn’t use it. The operator didn’t coordinate with his team or with the hotel employees. He didn’t initiate any sort of lockdown. Nor did he take any steps to prevent my daughter from being removed from the hotel. Or even, as almost happened, leave the hotel by herself. He couldn’t help me locate my daughter despite the wall or screens nor the video recordings. I can’t speak to the Westin’s security strategy then or now but it fell short of expectations. There was no protocol in place to prevent the worst case scenario.

Technology Should Make our Lives Easier

Technology has the power to make our lives better in almost everything it touches. We need to use the power of But technology, thoughtfully and effectively, in order to bring about the results we want and need. When I compare the low tech Walmart approach to the high tech Westin Hotel approach, I’ll take low tech. Technology can be a powerful force multiplier for physical security but therein lies the ‘sting’. Security and safety, unlike its cyber cousin, relies on ‘physical’ presence at some end point. Unless we want to be satisfied with looking backwards, physical security and public safety solutions can’t rely entirely on people sitting in control rooms and video recordings . To actually help people, in real time, we need the ‘physical’ in physical security.