Data-Driven Facilities Management: Realising Enhanced Security

Trevor Ball

Trevor Ball

Ever since the inception of the Internet, data has been used to improve processes across the globe. Since the turn of the millennium in particular, the storage and use of data has expanded considerably, writes Trevor Ball. A 2018 report by IBM found that 90% of the data in the world (at the time of the report’s compilation) was created in the previous two years alone. As technologies develop and new devices become available to new users – the collection and analysis of data is unlikely to slow down.

This is no different for facility management. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to change the landscape, tech-driven solutions that adopt a data-driven approach offer new ways in which to manage buildings. From healthcare facilities through to commercial properties, these intelligent devices can offer added security and a host of other benefits. In the years to come, and as access control becomes more IT-led, how do we use data to improve security? 

Despite new technologies being made available to market, the future of the construction industry and its adaptation to digital tech is a topic that’s often hotly debated. Intelligent access control, such as cloud-based systems, can track a host of useful metrics, all with the potential to improve both security and processes in general. Once integrated, these systems track both users and access points, collecting and storing what’s known as Big Data on information including approved access, declined access and lockdown instances.

Collecting and using this information can present facilities with myriad security improvements. At a basic level, knowing which (and, more importantly, when) access points of a building are being used helps to determine whether those areas are being used correctly.

Take the healthcare sector as an example. Most healthcare environments are designed to house open plan areas, but all contain ‘off-limits’ areas that house confidential medical records, equipment and pharmacuticals. Some of these areas, such as medicine cabinets, require stringent security. By collecting data on medicine cabinets access, a facility can detect any instances of declined access or wrongful access (think unusual after-hours activity). This information can then be used as the rationale for changing or revoking access rights, thereby adding an extra layer of security when it’s most needed.

A facility’s physical environment can also be optimised with this approach, from process efficiencies to budgeting. Collecting and analysing data on footfall, for example, allows a facility to understand more about the flow of movement within the building and then necessary adjustments can be made based on data trends. Optimising these areas can not only positively impact processes, but also provide a knock-on effect for both patient and staff satisfaction and outcomes. That’s not to mention the potential of driving positive financial results. 

Lacking information on data

Understandably, we must then question why more facilities are not using data as a key component in their security efforts. If data-driven facilities management can enhance security and processes, why are we not witnessing its widespread use?

Well, it’s fair to say that the integration of Big Data analytics comes with its challenges. Until recently, the UK has been slow to move on the use of data in facilities management, meaning that information has sometimes been limited, even for those interested in adopting the practice. The lack of information has created a hovering ambiguity over the topic, leaving both installers and end users unclear as to how data-driven management could be helping their facilities.

Accountability is also a potential issue for those who do implement it within their systems, with IT teams and facility managers needing to agree on a system that works for everyone.

With this in mind, it becomes transparent as to why many are reluctant to adapt to these moving technologies. Without a clear understanding of intelligent systems and how to use data, decision-makers are reluctant to leave their comfort zones. For some, the old mantra rings true – ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’.

However, this stance could be seen as an example of backwards thinking. While it’s true that this approach may not be beneficial to each and every facility right now, it seems that this progressive trend could one day leave them in the dark. Is it not better to be more proactive than reactive when it comes to security?

Right now, sectors such as healthcare and education could be taking advantage of tailored and intelligent access control systems. Those that are under security pressures or otherwise subject to budget issues could benefit in both the short and longer term by adopting a data-driven approach.

The bigger picture

Data-driven facilities management provides us with a new-look method when ensuring our facilities are secure. We can no longer afford to use intuition or wait for potentially serious incidents to push us into making the correct security decisions. Instead, the use of data now presents us with a structured and strategic option for securing facilities with the use of analytics and evidence.

Education is the key. Where required, certified training days could help to provide a clearer understanding of these systems and their possibilities. Highlighting what’s available, how to integrate these systems and the end user benefits to be had from doing so will widen the horizon of access control options for installers and, subsequently, the facility managers who adopt them.

Trevor Ball is Business Development Manager for the UK & Ireland at Allegion UK

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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