Does physical security still matter?

By 12th October 2015 General No Comments

It seems like the whole world is turning digital. We’re sure you have noticed all of the previously normal, everyday things that are becoming 100% automated. No matter where you are going – shopping, vacation, even on a night out in town – you’ll end up encountering a machine or two

So it stands to reason that physical security is on the way out. With so much technology, surely the number of security guards, doormen, and other security professionals is about to fall off a cliff. Well thankfully, that doesn’t look likely at all.

Despite what security tech companies may say, physical security is still vital. For most scenarios, a human heavy security system is a better choice than a fully automated one. We’ve gathered up a few reasons why physical security is going nowhere anytime soon.


The first argument fired at traditional security is that it is cheaper long term to install a security system. Why pay someone £25,000 a year when you could spend £55,000 once for a security system, knowing that it will pay for itself in a few years? On paper, this seems reasonable, but it leaves out two critical details. The first is that these systems require upkeep, which can be very costly. It also glosses over the fact that, at some point along the chain, a human will be needed to monitor the system.

As usual, the best approach is a balanced one. This article isn’t out to make security technology the devil – it is a very, very important part of the service. But it has to have a balance with the human side of things. Having a purely tech or purely human security system is flawed, so both work best in conjunction.

More personable

There are few things more unnerving than approaching an unmanned entrance security system at the front of a building. Although technology is more integrated into our lives than ever before, humanity still has an inherent distrust of new technologies. You worry that you’ll look a fool if you use it wrong, or even worse be accused of breaking it just because the machine isn’t working. Embarrassment and worry are rife.

A human fronted entry system however, can be a little more reassuring. Our empathy to help others avoid embarrassments means instead of sounding off a siren when something goes wrong, a security guard can subtly and quietly try to resolve the situation with you. Plus, a smile and a pleasant greeting is always a better start to the day than a green light that means you can enter the building.

More intimidating

Again, we’re not here to reinforce stereotypes, like security guards are brutish intimidators. But as much as they can be personable, security professionals also add an air of authority which, to the right eyes, inspires apprehension. Most security systems will rely on physical barriers like fences, razor wire, cameras and spotlights, but if all of that is fronted by a computer, some criminals may be less cautious. If a human stands between them and their objective, they may think twice.

A doorway protected by an electronic fob entry system, or other such systems, won’t necessarily prevent criminals from walking up to it. They can examine it, and perhaps tamper with it. This is much less likely to happen if a security guard is standing watch instead (or in conjunction with an electronic system).

“Reading a situation”

The biggest reason, above all others, that AI will never 100% replace on the ground security personnel is that computers can’t “read a situations”. Yes, they can scan retinas, check IDs, run credentials through databases, and many other things. But they can’t do the one job that matters most in security – looking past the obvious and the black & white.

Let’s say a doorman sees someone approach the entrance who is visibly angry. The doorman can stop them and address the situation, but a computer would let them in provided they have the right criteria to enter. Doormen and other security personnel are trained to spot non obvious signs of trouble, and deal with the situations. Computers can do many things, but they will always be unable to process these x-factors. And that is why physical security will never go away.

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