3 Ways Coronavirus may Impact Security  

The coronavirus has had an immediate impact on the security industry; hospitals have demanded more security guards and corporate offices fewer. However, you’d be mistaken if you thought that was all that’s happening, less obvious changes are underway.

Some of these changes are simply an acceleration of history, a speeding up of new but existing behaviours. Others are totally new behaviours which we think are likely responses to the coronavirus. Think of these changes as a ‘repurposing’ of the security function.

    Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the industrial, scientific and medical radio bands, from 2.400 to 2.485 GHz, and building personal area networks (PANs).

    In this article we take a look at 3 ways Coronavirus may Impact Security, in brief they are:

    1. Tracking and Tracing in the Workplace: What a government tracking app may mean for security
    2. Policing Social Distancing: The role security may play in policing social distancing
    3. Seeing is Believing: Why the coronavirus is accelerating the adoption of digital tools

    1) Tracing and Tracking in the Workplace

    It’s likely the UK will in time introduce some form of tracing using mobile phone technology. This approach will help us track down and eliminate outbreaks of the virus. One of the best examples of this technology being widely used is in Singapore: https://www.gov.sg/article/help-speed-up-contact-tracing-with-tracetogether

      How it Works

      This solution relies on each user downloading an app that switches the phone’s Bluetooth technology on. Whenever the Bluetooth signal interacts with another phone’s signal (say within two metres) it records the other phone’s app identity. This provides an anonymous digital audit trail of all your social interactions.

      If someone is registered as having coronavirus then the app alerts all other apps it came into close proximity with in a given period, say the last seven days.


      Bluetooth technology has been around for some time. It was initially heralded by marketing communications departments as a means of sending targeted messages to people who are in an immediate area (see London’s Regents Street shoppers).

      The technology has failed to gain widespread adoption partly because of people’s privacy concerns and partly because of its drain on a phone’s battery.

      Over the next 12 months could we see workers switching on their Bluetooth functionality? What would this mean for security?

      Bluetooth in Security

      Presently, Bluetooth is rarely used in security. Organisations have traditionally used RFID (radio frequency identification) for tracking security guard movements, guard tours. More recently a phone’s inbuilt GPS (global positioning system) and NFC (near field communication) have been used for this function. With Bluetooth possibly being used by every employee could it replace NFC and GPS for security guard patrols?

      To be clear a government tracing app would not be of use to security patrols because it records social interactions, mobile app to mobile app. It would not record a security guard’s geographic position, which is what a security guard patrol tool must record. For Bluetooth to be used for patrols a new piece of hardware called iBeacons would be required.

      Should an entire organization start to use Bluetooth it’s possible the feature’s wider applications may attract company investment and therefore make an iBeacon infrastructure viable.

      What are iBeacons?

       iBeacons are small transmitters that broadcast their identity to nearby mobile devices.

      They can look like this:

      iBeacons can be placed on any surface; usually they’re affixed to a wall. From here they can send a signal up to 100 feet away. To accomplish this they require a source of power, either battery or mains.

      With iBeacons rolled out across a building a person’s location within that building can be approximated.

      Bluetooth’s Additional Application: Building Evaucations

      If all employees have their Bluetooth technology permanently switched on then organisations may start to think about Bluetooth’s additional uses. One possible function that could benefit from Bluetooth is building evacuations.

      Organisations will often use access control systems to determine who is in a building. Should an evacuation take place the access control log can be used as a register of who is in a building. However, owing to tail gating access control cannot be wholly be relied upon. Bluetooth technology and iBeacons would provide a higher level of assurance of who is still in a building after an evacuation has taken place and where they are located.

      Bluetooth & Guard Patrols

      Although iBeacons transmit only one signal a mobile phone can have multiple applications onboard which interpret that signal differently. This means one iBeacon can be used for marketing communications, evacuations and guard patrols.

      If security were to use Bluetooth with iBeacons for guard patrols it would have some advantages and disadvantages over existing guard patrol technology using NFC and GPS.

       Advantages of Bluetooth and iBeacons:

      • Bluetooth requires much less power than GPS
      • Security guards can move freely during their patrol. There’s no need for a security guard to frequently place their phone against NFC tags.
      • Less obvious. A giveaway to would be criminals that a security guard is ‘on patrol’ is their presenting their phone to various NFC tags. Bluetooth would free-up security guards making their patrols harder to spot.

       Disadvantages of Bluetooth and iBeacons

      • Cost of iBeacons infrastructure
      • Power requirement: An NFC tag is a passive electrical circuit and the power to read the NFC tag comes from the mobile phone. iBeacons on the other hand require their own power source to transmit their signal. This power could come from the mains circuit or a battery (which would last up to 12 months, available here). 

      Extending the use of NFC 

      The coronavirus may bring about an investment in Bluetooth iBeacons but it may also bring about a greater usage of NFC in the workplace as a means of proof of presence.

      At present in parts of China whenever a person enters a train carriage they are required to use their mobile phone to scan a QR code. Should someone register as having coronavirus the government can use its mobile phone technology to alert people who have recently used that carriage that they run the risk of having been infected by coronavirus and they should self-isolate.

      The same kind of tracking found in public transport in China could be deployed to the workplace in the UK.

      A combination of QR codes and NFC could be positioned at each room entrance and exit. Each employee would then be asked to scan either one whenever they pass through that area. Should an employee be found to have coronavirus the organization could then look back at who was occupying the room at the same time as the person with coronavirus.

      Such an approach would mean each employee would need to use a company phone app and apply the discipline of scanning the NFC tag or QR code.

      Two Advantages NFC/QR Code has over Bluetooth Solutions

      i) Cost: This option would be around 90% cheaper than rolling out a Bluetooth iBeacon infrastructure.

      ii) Accuracy: It would also offer an additional component to the government tracing app. Such an app would only measures social interactions. However, we know the coronavirus can be spread indirectly from person-to-surface-to-person. The coronavirus can be picked-up from droplets on surfaces for up to 3 days after an infected person has spread the virus. Knowing where an infected person has been in a building would provide greater accuracy for any infectious disease cleaning.

      2) Policing Social Distancing

      It’s reasonable to assume any resumption of operations in non-essential workplaces will be phased and it will involve some sort of social distancing.

      You’ll already see social distancing in financial services offices. Trading floors have employees operating at a minimum distance from one another.

      In China the government ensure social distancing is adhered to by entering buildings and performing inspections. The UK government does not have the human resource to perform such inspections.It’s plausible that security functions will be asked to police and inspect social distancing in the workplace.

      For this to be effective they will most likely need to provide evidence of inspections and violations, similar to the way they evidence guard patrols.

      3) Seeing is Believing

      Some facility service lines such as cleaners have a low profile; they often perform their tasks in the silent hours when most people are asleep. However, security guards ordinarily have a high profile visual presence, in front of staff and the client. What happens when an office is in lock down and the staff and client are no longer there?

      Witnessing security guards performing their duties form a large part of how clients measure them: a full compliment of guards at the front gate, patrols being performed outside. However, now that most of the world is WFH that method of measurement is defunct.

      Anyone that has performed any role in an organisation knows evidencing activity is your first line of defence against a P45 moment. Security guards have typically relied upon their Daily Occurrence Book (DOB) to evidence their activity. However, DOBs are usually paper based and therefore remote from the client.

      Digital solutions such as an ‘electronic DOB’, addresses this problem by allowing clients to view a DOB over the internet. It also frees up management from periodically traipsing across multiple sites to pick-up and replace completed DOBs, particularly valuable in this time of only essential travel.

      During the coronavirus we’ve seen an increase in the number of organisations adopting electronic DOBs and other digital tools.


      The coronavirus has led to an uncertain world from which few will emerge richer and most will be poorer. In this new world, in whatever you do, demonstrating your value will be more important than ever.

      With half the world working from home digital tools have become essential. Security functions that integrate digital solutions into new ways of working will be well placed to prosper.