building security

There is a Chinese proverb that says: “If you want to know what water is like, don’t ask a fish.”

Applying this to business, we can get so accustomed to our environment and the like-minded individuals in our network, that we lose perspective. It is the whole groupthink – miss the forest because of the tree dilemma. So when it came time for me to explore and understand the potential value of location technology (aka GIS) in the corporate security space, I decided to avoid the “fish” in my network. Instead of going to fellow GIS professionals, I am asking you, the security professional for your advice and insight.

I am not a security professional. I spent 10 years in the military, but I have had no formal law enforcement, threat assessment, security, or countermeasure training. With that said, I think location information is vitally important for just about all physical security and risk assessment activities. It is important to understand and take action based on the locations of: the employee, the threat, the asset, the vulnerability, the trends, etc. And the importance of location is not limited to the outdoors…it includes indoor locations too.

This is my first assumption about your business…that location information is critical to physical security. Am I correct? If I am way off base with this assumption, then stop reading. Everything below is based on the assumption that location matters. If location isn’t all that important, then the rest of this article will be of little to no value to you or any security professional.

If location is important to you, then here is what I can tell you about location technology. A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a technology platform designed specifically to manage, visualize, analyze, and share location-based data. GIS is an ideal platform for integrating data from disparate systems and sources. It is often the underpinnings of data fusion centers, control rooms for geographically dispersed assets, and incident management systems.

The interface for a GIS application is a map, and a well done map can communicate immense amounts of information to the individual very quickly. You might say that a map is a universal language.

In addition to being a great way to manage and communicate information, there is power in analyzing data based on its spatial component. GIS is the natural platform for building applications for performing spatial analytics.

Here are some areas where I think GIS-based applications can augment existing Executive Protection and Building Security Systems and bring value to the Corporate Security Officer, and this is where I need your advice and insight.

Employee Protection – Building Apps For That

Avoiding dangers when traveling globally and getting help when it is needed are location-centric challenges. GIS is an excellent platform for building robust and easy to use security applications for the traveler and the security team alike. Apps for the traveler can be utilized on consumer-based smart phones and tablets. When cellular based communications are not existent or the reliability is in question, hardware that utilizes satellite communications can be utilized. Here are some specific ways to use GIS applications for employee protection...

Know Where Your People Are

Security Teams can monitor the location and the status of employees while they are traveling in near real time. These GIS applications are ideal for developing automatic alerts when the traveler ventures into territory that is known to be dangerous, flagging odd mobility patterns, knowing the battery life of the device, pushing geographically relevant information to the traveler, and receiving geo-referenced pictures.

Stay out of Trouble

For travelers, the smart phone and satellite applications can be integrated with internal corporate and 3rd party sources to provide useful information as a function of location. Through the use of geo-fencing capabilities, a traveler can get answers to: How many known incidents have occurred within a close proximity of my current location? How close am I to a high risk area? Who do I call for help based on where I am at right now? Where is the closest fellow employee?

Geo-triggers permit an application to actively alert travelers based on their location. Alerts might include: “Approaching High Risk Area”, “Seek Shelter” or “Nearby SOS”

Get Help

If an employee finds themselves in a bad situation, the applications can have an SOS button to summon help. These SOS can automatically contact the people most able to help based on location.

Collect Data

Security managers may also want employees to collect security related data for refinement of risk classifications. These would be big-button, simple to use apps that provide travelers the opportunity to report back what they see or experience while traveling internationally.

Physical Security – Building Apps For That Too

GIS and new indoor and campus tracking technologies can enhance existing building security processes and tools.

Anonymous tracking of movements is accomplished with sensors that detect Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signals generated by smart phones. This provides security personnel with statistics and visualizations on indoor or campus mobility patterns. Tracking is anonymous (in most cases) and no application is required to be installed on the smart phone. Building inhabitants may or may not be carrying a smart phone or other wireless device. For this reason, mobility statistics are generated from a sample size of the total number of inhabitants.

To identify individuals by name, an application can be installed on the smart phone. This ties a name to each individual dot on the map. To gain 100% tracking, all building and campus inhabitants would be required to carry a signaling device such as an RFID tag, a smart phone, or some other type of wireless device.

Indoor and Campus mapping can provide and additional level of security confidence. Examples include...

Validate Authorization to Enter with Location Analysis

Prevent unauthorized entrance by comparing the location of a card reader to the location of the wireless device assigned to the person. For example, if Mary’s access card was swiped at a known location for entrance to the data center but Mary’s smart phone is located in the break room, something is wrong and entrance should be denied.

For sensitive areas that require extensive perimeter security actions, indoor and campus mapping technologies can be used to add an additional layer of confidence in identifying individuals approaching the perimeter.

Indoor Navigation Tools for Inhabitants during an Emergency

With an app on a smart phone, building inhabitants can find safe rooms or be navigated away from an unauthorized intrusion event.

Better Response to Intrusion Events

An adversary sequence diagram is often used to identify possible points of entry and paths for exit that an intruder could take to and from his or her target. With indoor navigation applications installed on a smart phone, corporate security and public law enforcement personnel can understand their location as compared to the adversary sequence diagram

Validate, Visualize and add Value to Existing Security Patrols

With indoor tracking, security patrol paths can be visualized on an indoor map. This combined with patrol durations and time of day information can be used to validate that security patrol processes are being followed.

Security patrol event logs can be turned into a smartphone application. With the application installed on a mobile phone or tablet, security events can be captured and geo-referenced based on the indoor or campus location. Pictures and voice recordings can be stored against the location as well. This is a vast improvement over the traditional paper log in terms of ease of data collection and the quality of the data.

Once the data is collected, building and campus vulnerabilities can be better understood through map-based visualization. By simply viewing the number of security events recorded over a period of time based on location, vulnerabilities can be identified and acted upon.

Summing it Up

GIS is the ideal platform for bringing together disparate information sources, such as data from mobile phones, sensors, internal data, and 3rd party data. With today’s spatial technology, simple but powerful applications can be stood up quickly. This could be done alongside or within existing personnel protection and building security systems.

My company has years of success stories where we formed partnerships with customers in multiple industries. Our customers bring the industry domain expertise and we bring the GIS expertise. Together we have built powerful applications that, in some cases, have been game changers for our clients. I think there is an opportunity to do the same in the corporate security space…

...But I admit, I am a fish and location technology is my water. I have jumped out of my bowl and have attempted to look at things from a corporate security perspective. I am not sure if I got it right.

What do you think? Feel free to email me directly:


Image Credit: Some rights reserved by tango.mceffrie

Topics: GIS, Uncategorized

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