How Your Security Technology Can Help End The Lockdown

Do you look after a building’s security? Do you have a guard patrol system in place? If the answer to both these questions is yes, repurposing your patrol system could help ease the lockdown. Below we examine how your existing and new security technology can help end the lockdown.

    Technical Terms

    NFCNear-field communication is a set of communication protocols for communication between two electronic devices over a distance of 4 cm or less. 

    Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances.

    GPS: Satellite navigation or satnav  system that uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. 

    1) How to Repurpose your Guard Patrol system

    If your guard patrol system uses NFC tags or QR codes then you have the basics of a tracking system. This system can be extended to everyone that enters your building. This means anyone with coronavirus would have their recent whereabouts recorded. This helps with:

    • Identifying areas that may need cleaning and disinfecting after an outbreak
    • Tracing employees that have shared a space with another employee diagnosed with coronavirus

    Three Steps to Extending Your Guard Patrol System

    1. Apply an NFC tags or QR code to each room entrance and exit.
    2. Extend the security mobile application to all employees.
    3. Train all employees to scan the tags or codes as they move around the building.


    In China, upon entering a train carriage people are required to use their mobile phone to scan a QR code or NFC tag. Should someone register as having coronavirus the government can use its mobile phone technology to alert people who have recently used that carriage.

     A repurposed guard patrol system would not provide an automated alert. It would however provide a similar audit trail.

    An alternative solution is to fix an access control reader at every entrance and exit. However, this is an expensive option. 

    2) Bluetooth and Beacons

    The UK will soon 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 is in Singapore:

    The mobile application in Singapore relies on Bluetooth rather than GPS, which means it raises fewer privacy concerns. (GPS tracks your location using satellites. Bluetooth only registers your proximity with other mobile phones.) 

    How it Works

    A Bluetooth tracing app switches on a phone’s Bluetooth technology. Whenever the phone’s Bluetooth signal interacts with another phone’s Bluetooth signal (say within two metres) it records the other phone’s app identity. This provides a digital audit trail of all ‘social interactions’. 

    If someone develops coronavirus then the mobile app alerts all other mobile apps it recently came into close proximity with.


    The Bluetooth Dilemma

    One problem with using Bluetooth is it leaks sensitive data. In other words, with it switched on there’s a risk other people can access your personal information.

    For this reason Bluetooth is only active when the app using it is active. Once the app and/or phone goes to sleep then Bluetooth switches off completely. Therefore, using Bluetooth for tracing means all phone users need to keep their phone and app awake. This is easy to do but hard to remember, especially over a prolonged period.

    In response Apple and Google have teamed-up to provide an interoperable Bluetooth solution. This solution allows Bluetooth to run in the background, no need to keep the app or phone awake. 

    However, there’s a dilemma. The solution offered by Apple and Google will not allow data to go beyond phone storage. Therefore, data cannot be sent to a central database. Their decentralised solution means the UK government could not harvest the data to understand more about the spread of coronavirus. 

    As a result, any government wishing to use a Bluetoooth tracing app will need to decide whether to:

    > Opt for the Apple and Google’s solution, which offers fewer insights but is likely to be more acceptable to people.

    > Or, ask people to keep their phone and Bluetooth app awake whenever not at home and, harvest useful data about the virus.

    What Bluetooth means to Security

    A government tracing app could not be used for security patrols as it only records mobile app interactions. However, once an organisation adopts a new technology it will often look for multiple use cases (‘innovation’). One such use case could be using Bluetooth with Beacons.

    Beacons Innovation

    Beacons have been around for 10 years. They are small transmitters that broadcast radio frequencies up to 100 feet away. They can be deployed as a network across a building to read a mobile phone’s Bluetooth signal. The network can then give an approximation of where someone is within a building.

    With Beacons rolled-out across a building a number of new use cases become viable:

    i) Guard Patrols 

    ii) Evacuations

    iii) Key and Asset Tracking

    i) Guard Patrols

    Guard patrols usually need NFC tags or QR codes placed around a building. A security guard uses a smartphone to read these tags. This provides ‘proof of presence’. 

    By using beacons a security guard would no longer need to scan NFC tags or QR Codes. Their phone’s Bluetooth would interact with Beacons which would in-turn identify their location.

    There’s two advantages of a guard patrol using Bluetooth and Beacons:

    1. No need for a security guard to repetitively scan hundreds of tags or codes
    2. Criminals would find it harder to identify a guard patrol being undertaken

    ii) Evacuations

    Organisations will often use an access control system’s log to determine who is in a building.

    However, owing to tail gating at turnstiles access control cannot be wholly relied upon. Using Bluetooth and Beacons 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.

    iii) Key and Asset tracking

    Instead of using a mobile phone’s Bluetooth signal to interact with Beacons, a small tag can do the same. Such tags are inexpensive, passive circuits that can be affixed to any asset. 

    A tag can be attached to a set of keys and a Beacon will be able to identify where it is in a building.


    All business functions are under pressure to justify their place in the new post coronavirus world. Those security providers that demonstrate an ability to help ease the lockdown will only strengthen their claim to being part of that new world.  


    About the author: Andrew is one of the founders of SIRV. He also serves as Behavioural Economist in Residence at the London College of Fashion and speaks about persuasion at London Business School, UCL School of Management and Cass Business School. He lectures on negotiation at Cass Business School and University of the Arts London. 

    Technical Terms

    QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode. It as first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.

    Bluetooth beacons are hardware transmitters that broadcast their identifier to nearby portable electronic devices. The technology enables smartphonestablets and other devices to perform actions when in close proximity to a beacon.