Imagine the following scenario. You work at a hospital and your IT department gets a message that the HVAC systems, the electrical system (including the backup generators), and the elevators have been taken over by an external bad actor who is going to raise the temperature by 10 degrees an hour until a ransom is paid.

You have 2,000 patients in your facility who will face grave danger and will need immediate evacuation. But you can’t use the elevators – they've been disabled. And worse, brownouts or blackouts threaten the reliability of all the machinery being used for monitoring patients and keeping the lights on.

You are under siege. You must evacuate now.

That might sound like the plot of a Tom Clancy novel or maybe a case study for high-level cybersecurity personnel. In fact, it's the kind of reality that building managers, security specialists, and senior managements have to face as smart buildings and the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) become the norm.

(Find out why We Need a Global Standard Governing the Internet of Things and the Connected Workforce.)

How Many People Come and Go at Your Facility?

Every day, hundreds of thousands of businesses, warehouses, and other types of facilities worldwide welcome visitors in the form of contractors, inspectors, consultants, vendors, and customers.

No enterprise can expect to function without the presence of these people. Yet they are all outsiders and, as such, pose a security and safety risk simply by being there.

At the same time, your organization’s own people are moving around, fulfilling their job duties. But some of them might end up in the wrong area or might see things they legally should not see. They might go AWOL – stuck in an overly long external meeting with a dead cellphone, for example.

External people are vital to the safe and successful operation of your enterprise, but their actions present all types of risk. Even with tight security, including enhanced sign-in and vetting procedures, location specific pass cards, lots of cameras, and in-person chaperoning, it would be easy for a bad actor to discreetly insert an infected USB stick into a company computer, or take unauthorized video of confidential documents or processes.

In an emergency situation that requires evacuation to a muster point, accurate headcounts and status reports are vital, for health and safety, as well as compliance and liability issues. This becomes an enormous problem in the case of a siegeware incident, an act of violence/terrorism (on-scene or nearby), or an environmental hazard situation.

Today’s Threats Are Larger and More Far-Ranging

People have been working hard to safeguard their property for all of human history. But the threats today are larger and more far-ranging. The good news is that location management and visitor management technologies have come a long way in the last few years.

Using data, mobile technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is easier and more accurate than ever to screen and track employees and visitors to your locations, and not just for the time-being – you can gather data on habits, time spent in certain sectors, and foot-travel heat maps. You can even use facial recognition and gesture recognition to build profiles, or identify actions that may require closer scrutiny.

(Find out How Machine Learning Will Reduce Workplace Accidents.)

Just one simple example: An IT contractor or consultant looks up and around to see if there are any cameras watching before inserting a USB stick into a drive. This may go unnoticed by a guard who is watching 20 screens simultaneously. But a gesture recognition app may flag this as a suspicious action.

Pass cards do quite a good job at only allowing authorized people into specific areas of a facility. But what happens when a visitor pretends to fumble through their pockets or briefcase, allowing a kindhearted individual to hold the door open for them? This happens all the time.

And even if you can prove zero incidences of this happening on your premises, that may be irrelevant if you are connected to a company where this actually has happened. What is your policy for extending your own visitor management standards to your suppliers?

Conclusion

Maintaining the safety of people and the security of the physical elements within an enterprise, large or small, is a never-ending, and ever-evolving science. New threats and techniques emerge by the minute.

(Learn more in Straight from the Experts: How Will AI Fit into Health and Safety in the Workplace?)

Knowing where people are, where they should be, and where they shouldn’t is vital not only for running your business efficiently, but for safety and security in cases of emergency.

Property and security managers must make sure they regularly check in with their peers and professional associations to keep tabs on new developments, threats, and solutions. The technology is there to help in ways that were inconceivable even five years ago. But the time to get started (if you haven’t already) is now.